Announcing DFINITY Fundraising Plans, and a Massive Welcome to Polychain Capital and Andreessen Horowitz
The DFINITY team is honored by the activity within our community, including the growing talk about our fundraising plans on social media. It’s humbling to see so much inbound interest to contribute to the project and we are committed to responding to everyone that has reached out. For some time we promised news on what we have been doing, and what our future plans are, and today we’re finally ready to release more information.
First, a bit of history. DFINITY was not a project that was dreamt up to capitalize on the ICO explosion of 2017. In fact, the project dates back to early 2015, being born out of ideas about how randomness created by cryptography could be used to create a blockchain computer with potentially unlimited capacity and incredible performance. At first the ideas were dismissed, but over time support for the project grew and we created a not-for-profit Swiss foundation in the Fall of 2016, followed by a distributed “Seed” fundraise using Ethereum technology in February 2017, shortly before the ICO craze began.
Our Seed round was open to the public, but advertised with little more than a tweet. We soft-capped the round at 1M CHF (Swiss francs) and received monies primarily from enthusiasts who followed the project. By the time the systems shut down a few hours after the soft cap was reached we had collected 3.9M CHF (~$4.2M). Much of the funds were received in BTC and ETH, and although we liquidated this rather too quickly being mindful of what happened to the Ethereum Foundation (which received $18M in BTC that shortly after depreciated to $9M), we ended up with approximately $40M in traditional fiat cash and crypto assets.
Originally, we had promised Seed participants that we would soon after run a subsequent “Main” fundraising round, which would have more closely resembled an ICO. We promised that this would be hard-capped at 20M CHF, a figure that we later realized was far too low — this would hardly satisfy a single large player now, and it’s clear our years in the crypto trenches had left us completely unprepared for the explosion in scale of the crypto industry. We decided to change the funding model, but to ensure the position of Seed participants remained constant vis-a-vis token dilution. This means Seed participants will receive 24.72% of the network tokens that will exist at Genesis — the same as if 20M CHF was received in the Main round as originally planned — however much future funding is now raised.
We also decided that before going any further, we would raise a “Strategic” fundraising round that would bring in key partners who could help accelerate progress of our project. Polychain Capital — a successful and now famous crypto hedge fund backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia, USV, Founders Fund and many other notable LPs — contacted us during the summer of 2017, while we were still only an “aficionado’s” project not many people knew about, and we found we worked extremely well with them. They are distinguished by bullish optimism about what our industry can achieve balanced by realism and operational smarts.
It was decided that Polychain would lead a relatively small round, and also help establish a substantial “DFINITY Ecosystem Venture Fund” that will now fund projects building on the DFINITY Internet Computer or otherwise supporting it. Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s preeminent venture capital funds joined the round too, who are also well known for their forward thinking and the support they provide to investee projects. Today it was announced that, with the DFINITY Ecosystem Venture Fund, total funding for our project will exceed $100M. With this, you can expect DFINITY to begin to emerge from the dark.
We think this institutional funding round will prove very beneficial for the project, but remain philosophically committed to enabling widespread participation in DFINITY for two reasons: first, our ambitions with regard to the size of our team and the “NASA for decentralization” we are building involves considerable expenses best funded by a diverse participant base; and second, we believe the original Ethereum ICO demonstrated a positive and more democratic vision of the future.
What we find important is that many people were able to support a hugely exciting technology project from the earliest stages. This contrasts strongly with the prevailing model used to fund companies, where public participation in projects such as Uber only becomes possible after IPO, once billions have already been invested. Nonetheless, the excitement over Ethereum’s subsequent success generated huge demand for more ICOs that proved unexpectedly undiscriminating.
While some ICOs were undoubtedly supporting great projects, undiscriminating demand drew many unscrupulous projects into the fold, some of whose primary aim was in fact simply to collect monies from people seeking a quick buck or to launch a dubious token that speculators would send to the moon so that the founders could cash out. There were also plenty of projects where the founders probably believed large amounts of money would enable them to deliver on the dreams they advertised, even though in practice their chances of success were minimal because their plans were unrealistic or their team lacked the requisite skills. This contrasts with our aim to create value through launching a network that provides tremendous real utility for the world to use.
The state of the ICO market creates some challenges for DFINITY. The lack of discrimination between good and bad projects means there is very poor price discovery and, if we run a traditional ICO we might also become guilty by association in many eyes. Furthermore, we fear that a legal and regulatory hornets’ nest has been created, and we don’t want to have our project — which has an important purpose and involves a distinguished team of senior researchers and engineers — distracted by legal problems.
Notwithstanding all the foregoing, we aim to stay true to our beliefs and proceed with two funding rounds that will enable wider participation if we can continue working through the challenges successfully. The first would be a “Presale” round and involve contributors who can pass stringent KYC and AML procedures described by FINMA, the Swiss financial regulator, with some possible geographical restrictions.
The second round may or may not happen, and will be termed the “ICO”. We would like this to be run by regulated traditional exchanges at the moment the network goes live, setting a new milestone in the sale of utility tokens powering decentralized networks.
We are hoping to open KYC and AML (anti-money-laundering) procedures soon and begin preparing our early community for the dfinity token Presale. If you are interested in getting involved, stay tuned!