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Balthazar Secures $3m to Achieve NFT Gaming Platform Growth

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Balthazar John Stefanidis

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The sum of $3 million has been raised by an NTF gaming platform, Balthazar, through the sale of tokens, with Animoca Brands emerging as the lead purchaser.

Other token purchasers were Finder Group (through Hive Empire Capital, which is led by Fred Schebesta), Zip co-founder Larry Diamond, Digital Asset Capital Management (DACM), Fantom, ZED Run, Darling Ventures, Pluto Digital, San Francisco-based VC Side Door Ventures, Algorand, and Three Arrows Capital’s TPS Capital.

With the new development, Animoca Brands, a global leader in gamification and blockchain with a large portfolio of over 150 investments in NFT-related companies and decentralised projects, will provide advisory services to Balthazar, which aims to be the leading NFT gaming platform in the metaverse.

Balthazar, which commenced operations in 2021, wants to be the largest decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) in the play-to-earn space.

The company is a community-focused platform, removing the barrier to entry for gamers to access play-to-earn games through its scholarship program with no upfront costs.

Balthazar is more than a guild, with plans to develop its tech platform, its rent-to-earn lending model, and to scale up its community.

Prior to the token sale, Balthazar deployed 1,100 scholars into several NFT games including Axie Infinity, Splinterlands and Thetan Arena, with a further 30,000 people on its waitlist, and a community of more than 70,000 people in its Discord channel.

“We are so thrilled to be backed by Animoca Brands and all of our supporters in helping to shape the metaverse and to continue assisting and expanding our community.

“This support means we can fulfil our vision of empowering the biggest community of gamers to create a self-sustaining, wealth-building ecosystem.

“We are developing the most incredible platform that will bring together gamers, crypto holders and individuals through our own NFT games, valuable tokenomic strategies and gaming partnerships.

“I’m excited about the future of the play-to-earn space, in particular how it’s spreading earning opportunities to those who need it most, as well as providing a new use-case for cryptocurrency,” the CEO of Balthazar, John Stefanidis, stated.

Also commenting, the Executive Chairman and co-founder of Animoca Brands, Yat Siu, stated that, “Balthazar has a thriving and fast-growing community, offering opportunities for all people to be involved in the NFT gaming space, including gamers, game companies, and crypto holders.

“With its dynamic leadership, we believe that Balthazar will be able to tap growth for NFT-based gaming in new markets, and we are excited to be part of its journey.”

Balthazar has opened a private token sale round, with plans to sell $8 million of tokens at a token cap valuation of $150 million by February 2022.

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Airtel Touching Lives Season 7 Positioned to Achieve Sustainability Agenda

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Airtel Touching Lives Season 7

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Airtel Touching Lives Season 7 would be used to achieve the ambitious sustainability agenda announced in 2021 by Airtel Africa, the parent company of Airtel Nigeria, the chief executive of the subsidiary firm, Mr Surendran Chemmenkotil, has said.

Airtel Touching Lives is the flagship corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiative of Airtel Nigeria. It is a platform the organisation uses to empower and uplift underprivileged people across the communities where it operates.

Airtel Touching Lives takes a reality television show format, allowing the public to nominate causes, communities, and underprivileged persons/people with special needs.

The leading GSM network provider then evaluates and selects the causes to support. The activities are filmed and broadcasted on terrestrial and satellite television stations to inspire other corporate organizations and well-meaning individuals to support the weak across society.

On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, Mr Chemmenkotil had a chat with newsmen in Lagos to announce the commencement of the programme, currently in its seventh edition.

“Last year, Airtel Africa announced an ambitious sustainability agenda with a strong focus on providing access to digital learning for underprivileged children, working closely with the government to uplift the standard of primary education through the adoption of schools and providing access via financial inclusion to the underbanked and unbanked,” he said.

According to him, to implement this agenda, Airtel Nigeria, through Season 7 of the Airtel Touching Lives programme, will mostly seek causes and opportunities that speak broadly and primarily to digital and financial inclusion as well as the adoption of schools.

Recounting the previous season, the CEO noted, “In the last season of the programme, one of the biggest projects we embarked on was the adoption of Government Day Nursery and Primary school in Gombe State under our Adopt-a-School programme, bringing our adopted schools in Nigeria to a total of 7.

“With the adoption of the school in Gombe, we renovated 37 classrooms, renovated two teachers’ offices, renovated, and modernized the toilet facilities in the school, reactivated the borehole facilities with clean pipe borne water and provided furniture for the teachers’ offices as well as educational supplies for the students.”

Other past projects highlighted by the CEO include the renovation of the Ward A block in Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH); The refurbishment of the Library for Blind people and rehabilitation of an IDP Camp clinic facility in season 5, and the provision of an ultra-modern public water system for a large community in Ajah in season 4, among others.

“I am excited, and I look forward to the nominations and the projects that will be implemented, and I also wish to assure you all that, as always, Season 7 will not be different from past editions as we will continue to focus on the vision and philosophy of Airtel Touching Lives,” he said.

Airtel officially invites the public to nominate individuals or communities by dialling 367 or sending an SMS to the shortcode 367. Entries can also be sent via email to touchinglives@ng.airtel.com.

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Nigerian Advertising Regulator Slams N30bn Suit on Meta 

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Meta FG ARCON

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) says it has lodged a lawsuit against Meta Platforms Incorporated (owners of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms) and its agent, AT3 Resources Limited, at the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division.

According to a statement on Tuesday by the apex regulatory body for Nigeria’s advertising ecosystem, ARCON is seeking a declaration, among others, that the continued publication and exposure of various advertisements directed at the Nigerian market through Facebook and Instagram platforms by Meta Platforms Incorporated without ensuring the same is vetted and approved before exposure is illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising law in Nigeria.

ARCON stated that Meta Platforms Incorporated’s continued exposure of unvetted adverts had also led to the loss of revenue to the federal government.

ARCON is seeking N30 billion in sanctions for violating the advertising laws and loss of revenue due to Meta Incorporated’s continued exposure of unapproved adverts on its platforms.

“ARCON reiterates that it would not permit unethical and irresponsible advertising on Nigeria’s advertising space,” the statement read in part.

According to ARCON, it is not regulating the online media space. Rather, its focus is on advertising and marketing communications on the online platforms in line with its establishment Act.

Social media giants are coming after increased pressure from governments and regulators, which are identifying loopholes and issues.

Meta reached a $37.5 million settlement of a lawsuit in the US in August after accusations that the parent of Facebook violates users’ privacy by tracking their movements through their smartphones without permission.

Meta is also seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Sweden-headquartered royalty-free soundtrack provider Epidemic Sound about three months ago over the alleged copyright infringement.

Epidemic Sound, which owns a catalogue of about 35,000 royalty-free tracks and 90,000 sound effects, sued Meta in July, alleging that the social media giant “knowingly, intentionally and brazenly” stole music created by hundreds of musicians, songwriters, producers and vocalists.

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Biometrics Player iiDENTIFii Secures $15m to Fund Expansion

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iiDENTIFii

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The goal of an innovative biometrics tech firm, iiDENTIFii, to expand its operations across Africa is coming to fruition as it has obtained a funding package worth $15 million for this purpose.

iiDENTIFii is a world leader in biometric authentication. Its advanced face authentication technology securely authenticates users within seconds via their cellphones or PCs.

The company operates across several industry verticals and its services are used by the largest pan-African banks, insurers and mining houses for customer and employee authentication.

Its customers include Standard Bank, ABSA Bank, and Investec Bank. Investors in the round alongside Arise are growth-stage private equity firm Sanari Capital and veteran US tech entrepreneur Bill Spruill.

The major contributor of the new $15 million injection was an African investment company, Arise, whose cornerstone investors include Rabobank Partnerships, Norfund, NorFinance and FMO.

In a statement, iiDENTIFii said it would use this investment to fund its expansion across Africa, especially at a time cybercrime within the financial sector is a growing threat to the continent.

The consequences of attackers exploiting security vulnerabilities are particularly severe for financial services and banking apps that process sensitive financial information.

The use of iiDENTIFii’s biometric authentication to protect access to this sensitive financial information makes iiDENTIFii’s solution an integral part of financial inclusion, digital inclusion, and identity inclusion on the continent.

“I’m incredibly proud of our engineering team and our growth as a company over the past three years,” says iiDENTIFii Founder and CEO, Gur Geva. “This investment validates our central business thesis that we are the preferred partner for enterprise-grade identity in Africa. We’re excited to put the investment to work as we close in on our goal of authenticating every face in Africa. With this new funding and the networks of Arise, Sanari, and Bill – we confidently continue our mission of stopping identity theft in Africa.”

“In addition to complementing Arise’s portfolio of bank investments across Sub-Saharan Africa, this investment heralds our foray into the African fintech market,” says Arise CEO Gavin Tipper. “We are excited about our partnership with iiDENTIFii, which will allow us to offer their unique technology to banks in Sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening digital anti-money laundering practices and advancing financial inclusion.”

“At Sanari, we place a strong emphasis on digital and human enablement to unlock business potential,” says Sihle Gumede of Sanari Capital. “iiDENTIFii is, therefore, a great addition to our investment portfolio and we look forward to being part of its ongoing growth journey. We are excited about co-creating a scalable and sustainable pan-African biometrics business.”

“As an entrepreneur and investor, I’ve had a significant amount of experience with transformative technology,” says Bill Spruill “The work being done by iiDENTIFii is particularly exciting and I am excited to see the impact it has on the African continent.”

iiDENTIFii recently won KPMG’s Tech Innovator in Africa award and will compete for the global title in Lisbon, Portugal in November 2022.  It has previously, amongst other awards, won MTN App of the Year and Microsoft Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner of the Year.

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