Cardano Center Cape Town Progress Update #1: Lessons in Perseverance
Most of the first few months were spent sorting out the rental agreement payments, bank accounts, and local company registration in South Africa. This all had to be sorted out before we could progress to actually building anything.
The lease negotiations took over three months with several parties involved. Ultimately, our determination paid off, and we negotiated the lease for the 270 square meters location, down from R130 to R90 per square meter. The caveat was that we needed to sign a two-year lease and pay the rent upfront. This wasn’t in our Catalyst milestone payment deliverable for the first milestone, which meant we needed to pay from other resources. It’s a commitment we didn’t hesitate to make, and we’re now signed into a two-year lease agreement at Unit A5, Salt Orchard, 12 Briar Road, Salt River, Cape Town, 7925.
Compliance with international tax regulations, incoming funds, and crypto, in general, is very regulated and hard to navigate in South Africa and has taken an inordinate amount of time, bank visits, and research to figure out. The government and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) want to regulate the industry, but nobody knows how to do that, so they over-regulate everything and pass you from one department to the next. It’s been an absolute test of will and patience. I’ve calculated that I’ve been on over 100 calls to get the bank account sorted and company registration legalized.
We employed an accountant with experience in the crypto industry to assist us with company registration and banking. I had to resubmit Corporate Justice Documentation for tax compliance over 40 times and finally gave up when the bank threatened to freeze our account because we were “not compliant.” I went to the bank personally eight times. The last visit insisted they print out the forms (all 28 pages of it), fill them in right there, and have them scan each page and send it to the respective department at the bank. After two and a half hours at the bank and after all that, I was put on a phone call with the department that then told me the documents didn’t make sense to them and the account would be frozen in due time. When I asked what needed to change, they couldn’t answer me.
I approached another bank to open yet another account and submit certified copies of passports, proof of residence, utility bills, proof of residence for business, and much more which proved to be even more difficult than our first bank of choice, and thus not a viable option. .
Luckily, this wasn’t restricting us from trading. But, I had to move operation funds out of the account to another business account so we wouldn’t have to deal with a frozen account. It seems that anything with the words “foreign” attached to it gives the authorities the heeby jeebies.
In the end, I was forced to approach the Ombudsman, and I took legal action against the bank. This was the only thing that got their attention, and after another 30 or 40 calls, I received confirmation that it was their system that was faulty and that we had done nothing wrong. I insisted on a formal apology and confirmation in writing, which we received. Nearly three months of fighting to get an account functional!
Bear market or not, this is an excellent example of why crypto will come out ahead one day and replace this seriously outdated system.
While banking and rental were being sorted, we started working on the actual space to clear the previous tenant’s clutter and to get the lights and water on. Shop fitting, renovations, design, business models, training materials, business listings, web build, social setups, and networking were up next.
Electricity & Water
Getting the electricity and water switched on at the Center was particularly difficult. In this region of Cape Town, you have prepaid electricity and water, but water and electricity run on separate meters and accounts. We managed to get the electricity on after two weeks of struggling and threatening calls to building management, but not the water. Centre management was of no use, so I reached out to the service provider directly to sort out the problem. Ultimately, I had to locate the water meter myself by breaking open a section of the back wall and climbing in there to find the dead water meter. I phoned Ontec (electricity and water supplier) once again. They were so familiar with me at that point that when I reached the Ontec switchboard, the staff could identify my voice and take on a neutral tone not dissimilar to that of a hostage negotiator.
We finally had a new water meter installed three months after taking occupancy and finally got the water running water and electricity on 10 March 2023.
Renovation, Design & Outfitting
In the spirit of speed and efficiency, we contacted several professional shop fitters to come and look at the space and quote for the design and layout we had in mind for the Cardano Center. We decided to work with a shop fitter that had tons of experience and could get things moving in no time. Everything looked fine until we got to the part where we wanted to rework and seal the industrial-style concrete floor.
We were quoted R270 per square meter for the repairs to part of the concrete that needed to be ripped up and repaired with new screed. R150 per square meter for the sealer and four days of labor at R5,500 daily. The ground floor is 178 square meters.
R270 x 178 = R48,060
R150 x 178 = R26,700
R5,500 x 4 = R22,000
I phoned an old contractor friend up North and asked for advice on the best sealer on the market. I did my calculations on labor and got to work. I bought all the materials myself, including the commercial floor sealer, directly from the factory. I employed a concrete expert, a single worker for three days of labor. We reworked and patched the floor and let it dry for two days. After the cement dried, we degreased the entire floor and let that dry for a day. Three of us then set to work and sealed the floor on the 9th of March.
Labor - R1,670
Materials - R6,455.65
Total Cost: R8125,65
We don’t have a shop fitter anymore.
We employed a shop designer to take the measurements and render our vision of the center into a 3d design to share with the community and visualize what it would look like. The initial work was brilliant, but we had many changes to make as the idea evolved. When I asked the designer for detailed measurements of the location that he’d already taken, he quoted us R4000 to draw up the measurements.
We don’t need a designer anymore. We managed to get all the measurements in place ourselves with minimal effort.
We needed to close off a section that could be used as a scullery and preparation section, a staff area that closed off. There will be a steel prep station, scullery, fridges, and freezers in there. The shop fitter was going to do this, but we went another route and found a better independent contractor to do the work. Unsurprisingly, the rates were also much better.
The team wasted no time and finished the construction in one week.
We commissioned a company to install a security gate with a buzzer for the center.
Premier Security installed our security system and will be the security company for the center.
It’s tough to get insurance for an empty space, but luckily it’s filling up quickly. We opted to get liability insurance covered first, and we can add to the policy as we move along. This was a seamless process, at least, because I have a track record with the insurer and don’t need credit checks and the like. The Cardano Center is currently covered for liability as per the contract requirements for the lease and business license requirements.
Website, Logos & Socials
We’ve set up the following for the CCC:
We worked through many iterations of the logo for the Cardano Center and left it to the community to vote for their favorite version on Twitter. The winner:
Attending Events As CCC
We’ve been attending blockchain and crypto-related events representing the Cardano Center and have been very warmly received. An example of these events is Retail & Insurance for the Next Era of the Internet. We were invited by members of the IOHK team in South Africa to attend the event and hear Don Tapscott speak. We got to meet many fellow Web3 enthusiasts and could speak about the Cardano Center in detail. Events like these are confirmation that what we’re setting out to do with the Center is much needed.
We’ve conducted several live radio interviews about the Cardano Center in Cape Town. Here is a sample of one live interview we did.
The Cardano Center Cape Town Project Update #1 is a testament to the unwavering determination and resilience displayed by the team behind it. Despite numerous hurdles, including complex lease negotiations, overwhelming banking regulations, and infrastructure challenges, the team has made significant progress in bringing the vision of the Cardano Center to life. Through resourceful and cost-effective solutions, the team has managed to save money, achieve their goals, and set up an online presence through a website, social media accounts, and a logo.
Furthermore, the Cardano Center has started gaining traction and recognition in the crypto and blockchain community through event attendance, radio interviews, and social media engagement. As the project moves forward, the team's unwavering commitment to creating an innovative hub for the Cardano ecosystem in Cape Town is evident.
With the Cardano Center's physical establishment, it is set to play an essential role in the wider adoption of blockchain technology, paving the way for a better, decentralized future. The successes and challenges faced by the team thus far serve as a powerful reminder of the potential for crypto to disrupt and transform the current financial system for the better.