While a world of internet users skeptically grapples with the rise of multimillion-dollar JPGs and crypto exchanges bankrolling celebrity-packed Super Bowl spots, a network of blockchain startups is trying to build friendlier consumer onramps into its vision of the crypto internet.
Investors are betting that Ethereum will grow out of its wild west routes — with high transaction fees rampant and scammers often running amok — into a network where everyday users can transact safely. Rainbow, a crypto startup building a mobile wallet app that allows users to interact with decentralized applications on the Ethereum blockchain, wants to be the app users download to tap into that future.
Rainbow feels more like the crypto wallet app that a Snap or TikTok would design with rainbow gradient buttons, emojis galore and overall a much less sterile feel than reigning competitor MetaMask, which announced back in November that it had more than 21 million monthly active users up from 1 million just over a year before. Rainbow’s emphasis on design doesn’t mean it’s shying away from the crypto ecosystem’s complexities; the app allows users to connect to decentralized apps and invest in tokens through decentralized exchanges like Uniswap.
Rainbow’s goal is to abstract away as much of the technical know-how from the process and make things like buying or selling a multithousand-dollar NFT as straightforward as tasks like ordering an Uber.
“We’re trying to be the app on everyone’s home screens.” Rainbow co-founder Mike Demarais told TechCrunch in an interview. “Since the beginning, we’ve been super design-centric, and what that’s really meant is that we fundamentally started from scratch and designed the wallet for our needs as builders and users, but really what’s that turned into is a departure from previous wallets, which have for a long time have been this super utilitarian, quasi-developer tool.”
The startup tells TechCrunch it closed an $18 million Series A led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s venture firm Seven Seven Six. The round closed this past October and followed a $1.5 million seed round.
The central challenge for the new wave of consumer-friendly wallets like Rainbow or Solana-based competitor Phantom, among others, is building a consumer gateway where users not only feel comfortable buying tokens in-app but are empowered to poke around the unknown without feeling like they need to dial an engineer who can read an EVM smart contract.
“We’re at this weird point as an industry, where even today it’s not ready for the mainstream,” Demarais says. “In 2017, you had all of the engineers at tech companies getting into crypto, but now it’s really like the broader tech savvy audience getting into crypto… There’s still a lot of work to be done to make everything super accessible to somebody who has never heard of most of this stuff.”
The startup is still early in that quest but is making strides to bring more users onboard. The company recently launched a public beta of the Rainbow app for Android after a lengthy period as an iOS exclusive experience. The startup is focusing heavily on the mobile experience where MetaMask holds less of a presence, though they also have a desktop integration in the works.
“None of us would be here without MetaMask… we love MetaMask for moving the space forward, but fundamentally the name of the game is being the app on people’s home screens,” Demarais says. “You’re not going to walk into a coffee shop and pay with MetaMask, that experience sounds nightmarish, like… kill me.”