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This Venture for America alum is growing his own startup through the program’s accelerator

The idea for Mamadou Ndiaye's company RE:LINK started when he was a fellow. Now as an alumnus, he's participating in VFA's accelerator to take the company to the next level.

The RE:LINK team. (Courtesy photo)

Mamadou Ndiaye met the cofounder of his company, Derek Gauthier, through the Venture for America program in 2018. At the time, the pair were fellows working at tech companies, and they started having conversations about how creatives often don’t profit from the resale of their work, especially for physical art pieces.

They eventually landed on the idea for RE:LINK, their tech platform that uses blockchain and AI technology to verify the original creator of a work and ensures they get automatic royalty payouts.

Venture for America continues to be a part of Ndiaye and Gauthier’s entrepreneurial story as RE:LINK was accepted into the org’s annual accelerator, a three-month program exclusively for VFA alumni.

West Philadelphia-based Ndiaye, who previously worked at Conshohocken software company Jornaya as a Venture for America fellow, said he applied for the program because he thought it would be the right step to continue RE:LINK’s growth.

“My team and I have been working diligently in growing our business. And we see ourselves at the inflection point where we can truly become the next generation-defining venture,” Ndiaye told Technical.ly. “We just need the right team and network to get us to that point, and that’s how the VFA Accelerator will help.”

The company started in 2019, but at the end of 2021, the founders pivoted to the current iteration with their online marketplace, Timbuktoo. How the platform works: If an artist creates a painting, they scan it with AI to create a “digital fingerprint” of it. That fingerprint is used to create an NFT, or nonfungible token, that acts as a certificate of authenticity for the painting. The NFT is also a pass for the buyer to enter the artist’s community on Timbuktoo where they can communicate with each other.

Andrew Albert, VP of venture growth at Venture for America, said RE:LINK was chosen for the accelerator because of how focused and flexible the team is.

“I want us to be in that same category of companies that have made such an enormous impact to the billions across this planet.”Mamadou Ndiaye RE:LINK

“Building companies in the Web3 space requires not only keen insight into technology, but also a deep understanding of community building,” Albert said via email. “We believe that what they are working on has the ability to significantly contribute to the future of what Web3 companies ought to be.”

Generally, the companies who find the most success through the accelerator are curious, focused and self-aware; Albert said Ndiaye and Gauthier have all these qualities.

The program started the first week of August, and Ndiaye said the VFA team has been supportive and accommodating. So far, he’s been working on his storytelling skills and fine-tuning what makes his company valuable, he said.

Albert said the best candidates can prove they have traction, have worked through their business model, have a strong team and are willing to contribute to the whole accelerator cohort.

“Our aim is to respond to the following question, ‘what does it look like for VFA to serve as the friends and family round for those that do not have one,’” the VP said. “This is done by ensuring an equitable and inclusive allocation of financial, social, and intellectual capital.”

Participants in the accelerator receive a $2,500-per-month living stipend, support through VFA’s network of advisors, and coaching through entrepreneur-in-residence pairings.

As for Ndiaye, the founder hopes this experience puts his team in a better position to tell RE:LINK’s story so more people join the community and follow their journey. Short term, Ndiaye said his goal is to host an in-person event at Art Basel in Miami at the end of the year, and engage the creatives they work with in person more.

“Long term, I want us to be this generation-defining venture. We have a few for every generation, like your Apples, your Microsofts, what have you,” Ndiaye said. “So I want us to be in that same category of companies that have made such an enormous impact to the billions across this planet.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Venture for America

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