Exclusive: Privy, the crypto startup powering buzzy consumer tools, raises $18 million

When Asta Li and Henri Stern decided to launch a Web3 startup, they decided to take a different approach than many others: create things that consumers actually want to use. The result was Privy, a portfolio tool powering models like Blackbird—a popular new catering service Featured in the New York Times—as well as sports card site Courtyard.

Privy’s approach, which Stern describes as combining the modularity and privacy benefits of Web3 with the easy-to-use interface of companies like Facebook, it’s about connecting with consumers but also with investors. On Tuesday, the startup revealed that it had raised an $18 million Series A round led by Paradigm and with participation from previous investors including Sequoia Capital.

Privy works with traditional businesses to create blockchain-based services to complement their operations. In the case of Blackbird, launched by the founder of reservation service Resy, independent restaurants use Privy’s portfolio tools to stay in touch with customers and offer perks and rewards to regulars.

While digital loyalty programs are not a new idea, Blackbird’s app leverages cutting-edge cryptography technology like private keys to integrate the best features of Web3, including the ability to control access to data, in familiar, easy-to-use app designs. This includes, the blockchain-based social media app that innovated by allowing users to access Web3 features using their existing Twitter login.

“Mainstream crypto is here, enabled by cheap base layer fees and an emerging software stack, and we’re excited to support Privy as a critical part of that stack,” said Paradigm founder, Matt Huang, via email. “My partner Caitlin Pintavorn has seen the power of Privy in her work with FriendTech, and we can’t wait to see what creativity Privy can help unleash in the crypto ecosystem.”

Privy also announced Tuesday that Huang, a former partner at Sequoia Capital and board member of Bandjoins the startup’s board of directors.

An alternative to the “Mad Max” crypto experience

Stern says the idea for Privy came in part from his frustration with the existing Web3 user experience, which typically requires users to jump through various hoops, such as purchasing “packaged” versions of digital assets. This, however, raises the question of how exactly Privy plans to improve this experience while preserving crypto functionality.

According to Li, Privy’s main goal is to provide tools that will allow customers to connect their users to the blockchain, regardless of the device or browser they use, and then let customers decide which features to style. crypto to add.

In Blackbird’s case, the “FLY” tokens provided by the restaurant app as rewards are managed on an internal system, making them more like Starbucks-style points than a crypto product. Stern suggested this could change, citing a document by Blackbird which suggests plans to make FLY tradable on Ethereum or another blockchain in the future.

Stern acknowledges that companies using Privy are building “walled garden” experiences isolated from the broader crypto world. But he says that’s not necessarily a bad thing given that the wider Web3 world is still full of predatory scammers.

“We talk a lot about walled gardens. But what is the universe beyond the garden? The image that comes to mind is the desert of Mad Max Fury Routehe says, referring to the post-apocalyptic hellscape of the famous film franchise.

As an intermediate step between a walled garden and a full-scale crypto hellscape, Stern says Privy offers features that will allow users to “peek over the hedges” and, if they choose, use their ability to control their wallet’s private keys as a means. explore. In practice, this could mean eventually spending the tokens they collect from brands selling everything from ice cream to sneakers.

For now, Privy is still in its early stages and it remains to be seen whether it will be able to build on the early niches created to help Web3 break into the mainstream. But for now, the focus on easy-to-use apps appears to be paying off as the startup claims to have more than 500,000 average monthly users moving hundreds of millions of dollars into its wallets.

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