Building an organisation to empower my brand.
I posted recently about shifting my focus from Mondoir as my personal identity and brand to an organisation. I was thinking back to when I was a hardware engineer in Iran, around the turn of the century, going to homes and installing broadband internet for people. The Internet had just arrived in Iran. We would go and install modems, and often help people set up their Yahoo email. One woman asked me to set up the handle mondo and the name stuck with me. I liked it. I went home and created my own handle, @mondo_ir, adding ir as for Iran.
This post isn’t an auto-biography, so fast forward some time; I had expanded my online presence to more platforms and spaces, and eventually assumed “@Mondoir”. This became my identity as I began to collect physical art and ultimately stayed as I ventured into collecting art on the blockchain, before diving into NFTs.
As a collector, both in physical and digital works, one of the greatest challenges is the pursuit of finding a piece you deem worth collecting. There are multiple mechanisms and mediums you can use and explore to do this. The technological rate of change associated with digital art: blockchain, marketplaces, smart contracts and creator tools, was unlike anything I saw in my life. Maybe the only parallel example is the introduction of the internet in Iran. As I think about it now, installing the internet in someone’s home, in those days, was giving them a conduit to unlimited potential and opportunities. It could be life changing, but there was a dependency on the individual’s ability to understand this technology. How effectively someone uses a tool is directly proportional to how impactful that tool is for them. This is analogous to artists and their relationship and understanding of blockchain and Web3. I understood as a collector the subject matter expertise required to efficiently and exhaustively discover a piece for my collection. I started to think about this from the artists’ perspective..they are probably relying on best intentions, a bit of luck, and hope, more than mechanisms and established processes to be discovered, and ultimately find success in the space.
This spurred a growth cycle for me as an individual; both in terms of expanding my technical knowledge but also expanding my impact in the space. I ventured into the social media landscape to build meaningful connections with artists. I started to listen to their pain points and it was evident that the process of discovering and collecting the right works for a collector is not dissimilar to the collector’s problem. I had my first aha moment: the same tool might improve life for both sides; it was a two way door.
For the next two years I shared knowledge with the community I built, largely artists, and used scrappy solutions to advance the pursuit of discovery for them. This culminated with NFT Liverpool last year, where over 4000 artists submitted their work to my open call and my friends Paris Hilton, Keith Grossman, and Farokh Sarmad, amongst others, curated a collection that we showed at Adelia.
I felt like this was a win. I had translated my knowledge about the NFT space, the struggle of artists and their pain points, and used my resources and network to create a tangible result: a platform for discovery and hopefully monetisation for artists. But this didn’t feel like a triumph. It felt like it was just the beginning.
I started to think about how to continue this pursuit of progress on behalf of artists and the community. I remember speaking to Keith Grossman (then President of Time) about his endeavours across multiple global sectors. Some of the things that stood out to me was his perspective about leadership and building solutions that scale.
Keith taught me about the balance that effective leaders have between being in the day -to- day , or weeds as they call it, or taking a step back and seeing around corners. He used the analogy of RIM and the glory days of Blackberry. They delivered a high functioning solution with email and chat, sure. But they entirely missed the opportunity to ‘see around the corner’ and invent on behalf of their customers. That inspired me. Invent on behalf of customers (or in my situation, community).
For the past nine months, I have been obsessing about this. How can I make a step level change and really disrupt the status quo of this space ; for artists. The answer, after months of research, consultations and brainstorming with some of the most successful people in art, business and technology that I know, lies in building the right organisation. By that I mean, an organisation that is founded on the core tenets of adding long term value, focusing (in fact obsessing ) over community needs , and attracting top tier and diverse talent to solve well defined problems.
But creating in this space is not without risk. I’ll be brutally honest, there is a strong cancel culture. There’s this Persian anecdote: “an unwritten essay has no mistakes.” I think this space would benefit from adopting a mindset of assuming positive intent, and attacking processes, not people, when mistakes are made. I know so many people that don’t even start building in this space because of this. I really think it’s a limiting factor to the pace of delivery that real solutions and tooling has seen in the last two years.
My friend Farokh Sarmad, who founded Rug Radio, offers a good case study in this. He opened himself up to the critique of the community, and his ability to translate all the FUD and criticism (criticism is different from constructive criticism, I will say) to improve and deliver a product that is a benchmark of what good looks like in our culture is an inspiration for me.
My motivation and intention is to bring solutions that add value for my community. For all communities in NFTs. For artists. And choosing to become a founder means I will be able to keep my hands on the wheel in defining and steering the direction of my organisation. I commit to being a hands-on founder, who holds my team accountable to the values, mission statement and operating standards that I define, and that represent me as a human being. In this way, Mondoir as an organisation is simply an extension of the track record and reputation that I have established and worked so hard for as an individual over the past 10 years.
I have spent my time over the past nine months attracting and hiring the right people to execute a robust vision. And we’ll do it from a place that represents the intersection of innovation and opportunity; that represents the future. I’m ready and proud to announce my evolution into the President and Founder of Mondoir. And we’ll be changing the world from right here in Dubai.
My mission remains the same. For the love of art, culture and community.