Startups

CyberConnect raises $15M Series A to put data back in the hands of users

Comment

Social media portraits combined with zooming pillars creates a big data and social media concept photo.
Image Credits: John Lund (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

One of the promises made by web3 entrepreneurs is putting data back in the hands of owners through decentralization. Palo Alto-based CyberConnect is among a handful of blockchain startups working to fulfill this vision, and it has recently closed a Series A financing round totaling $15 million.

The lead co-investor of the round is Animoca Brands, the Hong Kong-based company that has in recent years risen from an underdog in game development to an investment juggernaut in the web3 world. The other co-investor is Sky9 Capital, a Shanghai-based venture capital firm founded by Ron Cao, who is known for helping Lightspeed Venture Partners set up shop in China back in the day.

“In web2, companies with the largest social network own users’ social graphs and build walls around them to stem competition and advance corporate interests,” says CyberConnect CEO and co-founder Wilson Wei.

As such, Wei and his team are building a social graph “protocol,” the underlying rules that allow data to be shared between computers, for applications, and in web3’s case, without a centralized agent like Facebook. The end goal is that users can travel across web3 platforms with their followings and followers.

An app experience powered by CyberConnect will look like this: Users connect their crypto wallet — which has become a universal gateway to any web3 app — to a social platform, upon which they will be shown all their existing connections. They will get recommended user addresses to follow, which is based on CyberConnect’s indexing. Once they follow someone, that piece of information will be added to CyberConnect’s network and become “portable and self-sovereign.”

To date, CyberConnect has supported 23 projects including Project Galaxy and Mask Network, reaching a total of 710,000 users.

Other companies are building similar infrastructure to allow follower interoperability, such as Lens, which is operated by Aave, a decentralized lending protocol backed by Blockchain Capital.

CyberConnect’s solution, Wei tells TechCrunch, consists of two components. Similar to Lens, it offers a software development kit (SDK), a piece of software for developers to create custom apps that let end users manage their social graphs and a “social data network” that aggregates users’ behavior in web3, such as what tokens and NFTs they bought.

Rather than using smart contracts like Lens, CyberConnect’s SDK is built on top of InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a peer to peer data storing and sharing network, and Ceramic, a network that manages mutable data without centralized servers, which Wei claims is a more “economic and gas-efficient solution.” Smart contracts are computer programs that execute automatically according to the terms of contracts and incur “gas fees,” the payments made by users to compensate for the computing power required to process transactions.

“Smart contract-based protocols are creating value from scarce items while any data stored on-chain costs a nontrivial amount of gas fee. There are only 10,000 NFTs in one collection and a limited amount of bitcoins,” Wei explains.

“In contrast, social context welcomes data abundance. There’s only an ever-increasing number of new users, new connections, and new content and that data will be by nature dynamic and need constant updates.”

CyberConnect plans to generate revenues through the social data network, which include different participants like data contributors, indexers and recommenders, curators and users. The network will be permissionless, meaning anyone can join, and include incentive mechanisms revolving around query fees, according to Wei.

The startup, headquartered in Palo Alto, operates with a team of 27 across the U.S., China, Canada and Europe.

Several venture investment firms, including Dragonfly, have recently warned web3 startups to brace for a cooling industry in the wake of the recent crypto market crash and wider macroeconomic complications. Wei is undeterred, saying “bear markets are a great time for us to focus on building.”

“As a serial entrepreneurial team, with more than seven years in social, web3 and blockchain, previous experiences taught us that it is crucial to keep building during the downturns,” he says. “It will also be easier for truly visionary and value-creating projects to be properly recognized as the noise will die down together with the market hype.”

Corrected location of CyberConnect’s headquarters.

More TechCrunch

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

2 days ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’