Tech pioneer Prerna Gupta discusses launching an NFT Music Platform and connecting with her desi roots
We caught up with Prerna to map her fascinating journey and discuss how Mysterious will be instrumental in helping talented South Asian artists to bring their art to global audiences.
Gone are the days when musicians struggled to seek credit for their art in a world rife with plagiarism disputes and substantial similarity. The advent of music NFTs has ensured that artists can maintain rightful ownership of their work or even sell and set up royalties, sans any exploitation. At the helm of this music revolution is Prerna Gupta, the dynamic entrepreneur who took Silicon Valley by storm by founding exciting ventures in tech and entertainment like the storytelling app Hooked.
Interestingly, Gupta who is launching Mysterious, the music NFT platform was born to Indian-American immigrants in the conservative town of Shawnee, Oklahoma. We caught up with Prerna to map her fascinating journey and discuss how Mysterious will be instrumental in helping talented South Asian artists bring their art to global audiences. Read on…
Tell us about some childhood memories of growing up in Shawnee, OK and how you went from tasting early success in pageantry as Miss Asia Oklahoma to studying economics at Stanford.
My fondest childhood memories are of learning Hindi film songs and performing them on stage at Diwali functions. We had a small but vibrant Indian community in Oklahoma, and I loved connecting with my roots while steeping myself in the Indian arts. Learning how to sing and dance in front of diverse audiences, and ultimately winning the title of Miss Asia Oklahoma, helped give me the confidence to pursue entrepreneurship.
When I arrived at Stanford, I realized that I might one day be able to combine my passion for technology and art by starting my own business. Studying economics and computer science at Stanford gave me the skills I needed to become a businesswoman in Silicon Valley. I launched my first startup soon after graduating, with a mission to use technology to impact culture, and I’ve never looked back!
Does being born to successful Indian-American immigrants, give you a unique perspective on life? How do your core values influence who you are today?
Watching my parents navigate immigrant life, especially in the small, conservative town of Shawnee, Oklahoma in the 80’s and 90’s, taught me the most important lessons of entrepreneurship: be persistent, work hard, believe in yourself, commit to growth and self-improvement, be open to others who are different from you, and above all, stay calm and focused through all of life’s ups and downs.
In the course of your travels from Costa Rica to Sri Lanka, India and the Alps; could you share a memory of an incident that altered your outlook on life?
When we were traveling around Sri Lanka, we stayed for six weeks at a charming guesthouse by a beautiful surf beach in Arugam Bay. The guesthouse was run by a Sri Lankan-Dutch woman and her two sons who were in their twenties and had recently graduated from university in Melbourne. Rather than taking high-paying desk jobs in Melbourne, they had chosen to return to this small backpacker town to start a hipster café at the guesthouse. Their dream was to bring the experience of drinking world-class coffee to Arugam Bay. They were just opening the café when we arrived.
I had the honor of sipping their first cup of coffee the day they opened for business. Over the course of six weeks, I watched the café grow into a vibrant drinking hole for backpackers from around the world, as the two young men turned their dream into reality. They certainly weren’t rich, but they had started a successful business that was bringing joy into people’s lives. It was an important reminder to always have courage to follow your dreams, and not let the fear of failure get in your way.
To this day, the best coffee I’ve ever had was a perfectly crafted cup of pour over in Arugam Bay.
In your view, what are some of the roadblocks South Asian artists face while attempting to break into mainstream content? And, do you believe empowering new artists via NFTs on Mysterious will bring diverse art to mass audiences?
I believe the world is ready for Indian art at a mass scale – our culture is so rich and deep, and we have something unique to offer humanity. Yet, the ad-optimizing algorithms of web2 platforms like Instagram and TikTok have built a culture where only a handful of creators who amass billions of followers reap all the rewards. That means the only type of content that is financially viable is lowest-common denominator content that appeals to mass audiences. That has led to a monoculture – where only a few voices, a few faces – are what everyone hears and sees. Take a look at any of your social feeds today – Instagram, Twitter, TikTok – and you’ll notice that you’ll just keep seeing the same handful of people again and again, posting the same type of anodyne content again and again.
NFTs will flip this model on its head, by lifting up creators from diverse backgrounds, with uncommon voices and aesthetics, and giving them the ability to build tight-knit communities of true fans who value their art enough to pay for it. Web3 will be a paradigm shift in culture and will give rise to a new social media that celebrates diversity and elevates unique art. NFTs will empower the world’s most talented South Asian artists to bring their art to global audiences.
What exactly is Mysterious?
Mysterious is an NFT-powered social media app, focused on cultivating meaningful conversation within micro-communities. We believe our social interactions should bring us joy, by celebrating the beauty and mysteries of life. The Mysterious mobile app is “token gated”, which means you must hold a Mysterious NFT in your digital wallet to access the app. Your NFT is your ticket into a specific community within the app. The app was inspired by speakeasy culture, before the Internet and mobile phones, when musicians and fans used to congregate in underground clubs to share music and inspire each other in intimate group settings.
We have designed a new social mechanic within the app to facilitate deeper conversations within authentic communities. Our mission is to fix the broken web2 social media landscape and usher in a new era of virtual socialization that is healthy and nourishing to our souls. We are launching initially with one community – Mysterious Founding Artists and the people who purchase their music video NFTs. Over time, we will expand into a variety of communities representing a diverse array of passions and interests.
What is a typical day like for you these days?
It’s a constant juggle between working with my product and engineering teams on developing our app, getting on calls with investors and business partners, responding to emails and Slack messages, doing podcasts and press interviews, writing my own articles and books, feeding my two young children, managing my household and carving out time for self-care with healthy meals, exercise, music and meditation. It seems there’s never enough time in a day to get everything done! But I focus on what’s most important each day and do the best I can.
What can we expect from Alam Khan and Avani Rai’s NFT Drops on Mysterious at the end of the month?
Inspired by the elements and the state of the planet, Alam Khan’s “Akash” is a sonic journey into an elemental loop-based landscape. Set to powerful visuals by visionary photographer and filmaker Avani Rai, the duo creates a shimmering vision of light, shadow, and the cyclical nature of being. For me personally, it is an incredibly moving artwork that encapsulates, in 60 seconds, the deep and expansive beauty of India. Alam and Avani are the future of Indian art, and “Akash,” their first NFT drop, will blow you away.
Tell us a little about intriguing new facets like intimate music gatherings, firesides with musicians and secret drops that fans can experience when they purchase an artist’s music video NFT.
Your Mysterious NFT is your key into a thriving, exclusive community of world-renowned experimental artists and their closest fans. The community will gather both online and offline to engage in deep, meaningful conversations about life’s greatest mysteries, listen to music together and co-create the art of the future.
Knowing what you know now, having founded so many exciting companies in tech and entertainment; is there anything you would have done differently when you first started out?
The most important lesson I have learned over nearly two decades of entrepreneurship is how to build a “minimum viable product”. A product is never perfect when it first launches. It’s better to release an imperfect version of your product today and start getting user feedback, so you can see what’s actually resonating and iterate until you find product-market fit. If you wait until the product is perfect, the opportunity will have passed you by. As they say, “ship early, ship often”.
The greatest piece of advice you got from your parents that really stuck with you?
The greatest lesson my parents instilled in me is the importance of maintaining peace within oneself, of learning to be still even as the world around us erupts in chaos, of taking both good times and bad in stride, never letting oneself feel too elated in the midst of success or too deflated when faced with failure. This lesson has served me well throughout my career, and I still strive to attain this ideal every day of my life.
If you had a magic wand, which are the 3 things you would change in the world?
I would reverse global warming, eradicate poverty, and flip a switch in every human that makes them choose love over war.
Did you ever end up switching up your black Sonata for a Tesla?
HAHA no! That dusty old Sonata is still going strong.
A voracious reader and animal lover, Aditi is currently exploring the mysterious world of Astro sciences to decode th...Read more