Nillion, a web3 startup looking to build a non-blockchain decentralized network, closed a more than $20 million underwriting round, the company told ExamPaper exclusively.
“Nillion is a deep technology infrastructure project,” Andrew Yeoh, the company’s founding chief marketing officer, told ExamPaper. “As blockchains decentralize finance, Nillion wants to decentralize everything else and the rest of the data.”
The startup aims to provide a new internet infrastructure for securing storage and data computation. “Companies and competitors can work together without disclosing important information,” said Yeoh.
The decentralized network uses Nil Message Compute (NMC), a mathematical development developed by the team’s lead scientist, Miguel de Vega. (In its white paper, the company calls NMC a “new cryptographic primitive,” which loosely translates to “new way to store and secure things.”)
While Nillion’s model is not blockchain-based, it does have a decentralized component, meaning it falls under the larger web3 banner, according to ExamPaper. It can be seen as a way to provide decentralized computing power more generally; the group’s early writings indicate that it will have a token in the future.
“Nillion enables very fast calculations of secure data and storage of that data that you can’t do with the blockchain,” Yeoh said. “We view it as opening up a whole new universe of web3 use cases that significantly expand the ecosystem.”
The startup was founded in November 2021 and has so far run bootstrap operations, with more than 40 employees and no upfront funding. Founders include ex-employees of Uber, Indiegogo and Hedera Hashgraph, as well as executives from Coinbase and Nike.
The round was led by Distributed Global. Other investors include AU21, Big Brain Holdings, Chapter One, GSR, HashKey, OP Crypto, and SALT Fund. There were more than 150 investors who participated in the increase, in a “conscious decision” to avoid concentrated ownership, Nillion CEO Alex Page said in a statement.
“We were in a position where we could have funded this internally for decades, but we wanted to bring in strong strategic investors and a pool of people who could grow this thing a lot,” Yeoh said. “We were able to raise quite a significant amount in the middle of a bear market. Most of our checks and commitment came in after FTX, which is interesting, and we did it without a deck, which is also interesting.”
In the wake of the crypto bear market and the collapse of the FTX, Yeoh believes this capital raise points to industry interest in web3 infrastructure and real-world use cases. “We are building infrastructure that is inevitable. It’s impossible for web3 or anything else to hit the mainstream if they can’t handle private data.
The capital will be used to build technology on the network and hire technical talent, Yeoh said. To date, Nillion has signed more than 30 letters of intent, he added.
“We have spoken with decentralized exchanges and applications, as well as a few layer 1 [blockchains] interested in handling private data on the blockchains,” Yeoh said. “On the Web2 side, we’ve talked to AI machine learning companies, been invited to speak at Amazon, and interestingly, we’ve gotten some outreach from legal and healthcare companies because they handle a lot of sensitive data.”
In the short term, Nillion plans to focus on building out and supporting real use cases as it launches its network alongside its first line of products.
“It’s like having an iPhone in 2007, which was great, but only had the camera app, the mail app, and the messaging app,” Yeoh said at the time.
In two weeks, the startup will have an end-to-end prototype. It will become a public network in 2023 and launch late next year, Yeoh said. The long-term plan is to “not lose sight” of its mission to solve societal problems and build use cases.