Introducing IDEO CoLab’s Distributed Web Investing Program

Ian Lee
Ian Lee
Feb 5, 2019 · 5 min read

From designing the first consumer mouse for Apple to helping incubate PillPack, IDEO has been at the forefront of bringing new ideas, innovations, and technologies to the mainstream through design. Today, IDEO CoLab announces the launch of a program to invest in and co-create with early-stage distributed web startups to help them ship new products and protocols.

Building on IDEO’s history of helping new technologies reach the mainstream through design, we’re excited to announce the launch of IDEO CoLab’s investing and co-creation program for founders of early-stage distributed web startups and protocols.

By partnering with world-class entrepreneurs and developers, we help bring users and their needs to the center of the problem-solving and venture-building process — with the ultimate goal of making distributed web technologies such as crypto-assets and blockchain networks more usable, adopted, and valuable to people and the world.

Why We’re Investing in the Distributed Web

Ten years ago, Bitcoin introduced the world to crypto-assets and blockchain networks, which for the first time, enabled human trust, incentives, and governance to be encoded into software run by distributed peer-to-peer networks.

Over the last four years, we’ve been actively building with the technology, contributing to open source communities, and co-creating with founders on IPFS, ZeppelinOS, Augur, Zcash, Handshake, and Grin, among many other protocols. Our hands-on work helped us develop a deep understanding and strong conviction in early 2016 that crypto-assets and blockchain networks would ultimately lead to the creation of a new type of internet: a more open and distributed web that will give users greater access, ownership, and control.

Crypto-assets and blockchain networks are driving the development of a more open and distributed web

Like other technological innovations — computing, the Internet, mobile, artificial intelligence — distributed web technologies will introduce fundamentally new experiences, services, and business models to our world. They’ll eventually change people’s lives, and we’re already seeing early glimpses of what’s possible: Globally accessible, programmable, peer-to-peer digital money; open financial platforms and services; user-owned marketplaces and digital assets. All of these represent billion — or even trillion — dollar opportunities to reshape how people transact, communicate, work, live, and play.

The industry is now at a critical moment in its development. While distributed web technologies are still highly unusable for the average person, the fundamental need for more open, free, and equitable systems for human coordination and cooperation is higher than ever, as trust in the world’s centralized institutions is falling. We’re seeing more talent and experienced entrepreneurs flowing into distributed web startups in response. Opportunities for radical improvements to usability, interactions, wallets, key management, custody, identity, non-fungible assets, distribution mechanisms, and many other areas, are wide open. For all of these reasons, we’re more excited than ever about the future potential of the distributed web and believe now is the best time to build and invest in it.

We Invest through Co-Creation, Capital & Community

IDEO CoLab has made six initial investments into ZeppelinOS, Messari, Rare Bits, Handshake, Freelance Labs, and a new stealth gaming company.

  • We’re driven by our mission, values, and community. As active participants and contributors to open protocols for the last 4+ years, we care deeply about the distributed web, its responsible design and development to positively impact our world, and the people who are and will be part of this growing community.
  • We’re long-term investors who deeply co-create with startups. We not only make early-stage venture investments but also co-create with the startups in which we invest. Our team of over 20 people at IDEO CoLab helps startups harness IDEO’s collective expertise, resources, and networks to build product, ship to users, get market traction, and scale.
  • We help entrepreneurs ship. Getting things into the world that solve real problems is the only way to create long-term, sustainable value. Using our multidisciplinary and collaborative approach, we work with world-class teams to get to product-market fit and deliver on their promise.

If you’re an entrepreneur or developer working on a distributed web project, please reach out. We’d love to meet, see if we can help, and welcome you into our collaborative community.


The information included here is for general information purposes only. Nothing should be construed as, or relied upon as, investment, financial, legal, regulatory, accounting, tax or similar advice. Nothing should be construed as a solicitation to invest in any security, future, or other financial product, and nothing herein should be construed as a recommendation to engage in any investment strategy or transaction. You should consult your own investment, legal, tax and, or similar professionals regarding your specific situation and any specific decisions.

An investment in any strategy involves a high degree of risk. There is the possibility of loss and all investment involves risk including the loss of principal. The description herein of any approach, targets, and strategy is based on current expectations and should not be considered definitive or a guarantee that any approach, target, strategy, and investment portfolio will, in fact, possess these characteristics. The holdings identified do not represent all of the investments purchased, sold, or recommended by IDEO CoLab Ventures LLC (“IDEO CoLab”). Any projections, forecasts and estimates are speculative in nature. No representations or warranties are made as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of any statements. All information is provided “as is”, without any warranty of any kind. Certain links, including links to other websites, are provided in this post. These links are provided as a convenience and do not imply IDEO CoLab’s sponsorship or approval of any of these websites or their content. If you access any third-party website through this post, you do so at your own risk. All statements herein are the opinions of IDEO CoLab, unless otherwise specified.