(Photo by Tyler Woods)
Monday night at the Greenpoint coworking space Pencil Works, an Israeli dating app startup pitched a roomful of interested, if skeptical, potential investors. It could have been any tech event anywhere, except that in this case the startup is being built on the blockchain, the audience were all blockchain enthusiasts, and the founder wasn’t trying to raise the money in dollars, but in the Ethereum blockchain token Ether.
Along with the formation of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance last week — a partnership between major Wall Street banks and the blockchain community — including Brooklyn blockchain dev shop ConsenSys, the event served, at least for the uninitiated outsider, as a demonstration of the rising legitimacy of a technology that has sometimes been disregarded as a system of pretend money in a libertarian male fringe.
Presenting was Yonathan Ben Shimon, the founder and CEO of Matchpool.
“It’s a matchmaking platform where everyone can open a group based on shared interests,” Ben Shimon explained. “Every group has an admin who can make matches of people in the group. It’s not a dating site, it’s a platform to enable you to make your own dating site. Every group is mini Tinder.”
— Matchpool (@matchpool) March 7, 2017
Ben Shimon explained that the problem with Tinder is that there are too many people on it, and the user is likely to really have little in common with a match. On Matchpool, users can enter one or several interest focused groups where the admin will get a micropayment for every successful match.
"The question is: can these apps actually compete in real markets?"
“Initially this is for romantic matches because I think it’s a more realistic way to meet new people than swiping strangers and afterward it can be used for other cases, like recruitment or meeting freelancers,” he said. “If you have trust with someone, that’s the first way of working with them.”
One of the interesting things Ben Shimon is doing is that he’s raising all his money on the Ethereum blockchain.
“Watching Yonathan present on Matchpool, you’re at the cutting edge of blockchain innovation,” explained Jake Brukhman, the cofounder of cryptocurrency investors CoinFund, and an advisor to Matchpool. “These guys are funding in a completely blockchain-based way which can change the model of VC funding. The question is: can these apps actually compete in real markets? I really want to see these guys help pioneer that model of fundraising cause it democratizes startup capital for someone like Jonathan who might not otherwise have access to that money.”
Brukhman is referring specifically to the fact that startups raising money on the blockchain don’t need to be accredited investors: anyone can invest Ether tokens in a startup. That means that founders could skip the venture capital circuit and appeal directly to the people, often their early adopters. That system is made possible because the government doesn’t count Ether tokens as real money: people are also free to buy Monopoly money and send it to a startup in return for equity, if that works for everyone.
Others were there simply out of curiosity about the blockchain world and meet the people in it.
“I’m here to learn about new technologies. I’m looking to see if blockchain is really gonna change the security landscape of enterprise technology,” said Frank McLaughlin, the director of professional services at Brooklyn-based Virtue Security. “I think 2017 is the year of proof of concept, 2018 is the year of implementation. It’s going to change a lot, but only if it’s done right.”
Nathan Windsor is the manager of Pencil Works (Technical.ly Brooklyn’s office, fyi), but also a blockchain believer with an idea to create a neighborhood blockchain token. When asked why he’d offered the space for the event he responded, “Because this is going to empower the community to understand the use-case scenario for blockchain.”