By Elizabeth Stark, CEO and Co-Founder
Six years ago today, I was geeking out with a friend about bitcoin, and one of my biggest takeaways was that while this technology had the potential to be game-changing, no one had built the application layer yet. I promptly tweeted about it:
Fast forward to 2016, when I started Lightning Labs. I saw that bitcoin could fulfill this vision of making it far easier to send and receive money on the internet, and had seen firsthand how difficult it was with the legacy system. Try paying $1 for a song? Various intermediaries will take 50%. Want to send $20 to a friend in Argentina? Good luck doing that with fiat. I knew that Lightning would enable instant, high volume transactions on bitcoin, and this sparked my imagination. It wasn’t just the existing use cases that drew me in, but the whole world of possibilities that I could foresee emerging.
That’s why today I’m excited to announce a major milestone for Lightning Labs — we’ve raised a $10M Series A to further develop our Lightning payments technology and scale the developer ecosystem. We at Lightning Labs see this as not an accomplishment in and of itself, but a means to achieving our goal of bringing instant bitcoin transactions to millions of people.
We’re also announcing a major product release today: the beta of Lightning Loop, our first paid product. Loop helps startups, node operators, and end users send and receive on Lightning more efficiently. With Loop, users can move funds between the bitcoin blockchain and the Lightning Network in a non-custodial manner. Loop opens up a world of Lightning-native financial products, and this is the first of several “blue sky” Lightning products we’re building.
Less than two years ago, we released the first beta version of lnd for bitcoin mainnet. Since then we’ve seen an explosion of growth among startups and companies integrating Lightning. If you had told me we would have seen all the progress and excitement that has happened since beta, I wouldn’t have believed it. We’ve seen over 30 companies integrate lnd thus far, with many more in progress, and we’ve had more than 4000 developers and testers contribute to our community. Lightning has opened up use cases as crazy as paying one Satoshi per pixel on Satoshi’s Place to feeding chickens on Pollofeed (yes, they are real).
We’ve also witnessed the rise of the Lightning startup. There are too many to name here, but it’s been amazing to see the startup community grow around Lightning. There have been many great wallets built on lnd: Zap, Breez, Bluewallet, Muun, Wallet of Satoshi; startups that help you buy things with Lightning: Bitrefill, Fold, OpenNode, Moon; startups that help you earn money with Lightning: Stak, Tippin, Bottlepay; video game companies: Zebedee, Satoshi’s Games, Donnerlab; financial and trading products: Sparkswap, River, Radar Ion, Escher, HodlHodl, and many more.
Further, I’m thankful to the broader bitcoin and Lightning community. We have worked diligently with other protocol developers and implementations such as c-lightning and Eclair to ensure interoperability, and together we’ve moved the Lightning spec process forward. We’ve seen community projects emerge such as Joule, Raspiblitz, BTCPay Server, Ride the Lightning, Nodl, Polar, and many more. We were also proud co-organizers of The Lightning Conference in Berlin this past fall, which brought together 500 Lightning developers and enthusiasts from around the world. It provided a first-hand glimpse into a future where you could use Lightning to order cocktails from a machine, buy a beer with an automated beer tap, play video games, and even pay for a Tesla coil to spark.
Today at Lightning Labs we have a team of brilliant people around the world, and I’m grateful for all of their hard work, through the ups and downs. I’m especially thankful to our CTO and Co-Founder Laolu Osuntokun for his unending passion and technical fortitude. There is only one roasbeef (just ask people who’ve heard him speak!)
I’m thankful for our awesome investors, as we have partnered with genuinely great people. Craft Ventures is leading our round, and Brian Murray, who has become a true Lightning expert, is joining our board. We’re lucky to have Ribbit Capital, experts in fintech, RRE, with their deep knowledge of payments, M13, with their consumer and developer expertise, and Slow, with their cryptocurrency prowess on board. We’ve brought on a great group of angel investors and funds including Ross Stevens (CEO and Founder of Stone Ridge), John Pfeffer (Pfeffer Capital), David B. Heller (former co-Head of Securities at Goldman Sachs), Howard Morgan (Founder of First Round Capital), Avichal Garg (Founder of Electric Capital), Proof of Capital, StillMark, CMT Digital, Goldcrest, Abstract, and others.
When I tweeted my vision to create the application layer for bitcoin in 2014, it was a pipe dream. Today we’re making it a reality. I can’t wait for the next decade of Lightning, as I know we’ll empower people to create things that we can’t even imagine today. We’re just at the beginning of building the internet of money, and it’s going to be a wild ride. Stay tuned! 🔮