SMU Team bags US$100,000 in seed funding to develop NFT platform in international hackathon

Explorie started as a passion project by SMU students Weng Haishi (School of Social Sciences), Jonathan Chow (School of Computing and Information Systems) and Slevin Chua (Yong Pung How School of Law). It is a Non-fungible Token (NFT) platform that serves as a marketing tool for Small and Medium Enterprises, with similar workings as the viral game “Pokémon GO”. Businesses can issue geo-tagged NFTs to attract consumers to their store, and NFTs can be in the form of vouchers, collectibles, and digital art. The idea came about when the team realised that many businesses were struggling through the pandemic.

In July this year, the team took part in Hack Cardano, a hackathon organised by the launchpad, Cardstarter which aims to incubate innovative projects built on the Cardano blockchain. Teams of all sizes, nationalities and experience competed for the grand prize of US$100,000 in seed funding, as well as an opportunity to be incubated in the Cardstarter accelerator program. Over 50 teams participated in the event, with finalists from the United States, Europe, South East Asia and Africa.

Team member, Weng Haishi said, “We decided to take part in this event because the team are long term believers of the Cardano blockchain. Its ethos of “making the world work better for all” resonates with the team.”

The judging process consisted of three phases, the first being ideation. The team presented a pitch deck detailing their business idea, implementation process, finance and marketing plans. The top eleven teams proceeded to the second stage; technical implementation. They submitted a whitepaper detailing the technical architecture, minting process of NFTs as well as smart contract details. Six finalist teams were selected for the final stage where they presented their projects to the judges and answered technical questions.

After an intense month of coding, presenting and writing, Explorie emerged the champion of Hack Cardano 2021.

Haishi said, “We believe that our win can be attributed to the novelty of the idea, technical knowledge of the team, as well as sound marketing and finance plans. Throughout the process, we were able to apply knowledge gained in SMU to craft our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). One important module would be MGMT218: Entrepreneurship and Business Creation. We learnt key theories such as the “bird in hand” principle as well as steps to creating a viable business plan. In MKTG 207: Marketing Strategy, we learnt the steps to creating a synergistic marketing plan.”

Moving forward, the team is conducting market research and has rebranded “Explorie” to “Catch”. They are also liaising with Cardstarter to raise a further US$1.2 million through private and public sales. The funds raised would be used to refine their MVP, initiate marketing campaigns as well as provide liquidity during Decentralised Exchange (DEX) listing. The “Catch” app is scheduled to be released in Q1 2022.