Blockchain Integration Firm Helps Businesses Prepare for Web 3.0 | Business Observer
Founders: Gabe Higgins and Rosa Shores
Founded year: 2017
Investors/investment: To date, BlockSpaces has landed $7.25 million in investment capital. After securing backing from a few angel investors, Leadout Capital led its first round of institutional funding, attracting backing from Mark Pincus, the founder of mobile app company Zynga, known for games like “Angry Birds,” “Farmville” and “Words.” With friends.” Other investors include GTMfund, Tampa-based Druid Ventures and Tony DiBenedetto, one of Tampa’s early tech entrepreneurs — he founded Tribridge and led it for 19 years of incredible growth, selling the firm in 2017 to DXC Technology.
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“We feel very fortunate,” says co-founder and CEO Rosa Shores. “We got participation from San Franciso [investors] as well as some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Tampa. I love our history as far as who is involved in our support.”
BlockSpace’s mission is to demystify blockchains and help businesses connect to next-generation digital ledgers, which are a key component of Web 3.0 – a decentralized evolution of the Internet that includes innovations such as augmented reality, cryptocurrency and the metaverse. Shores says she and Higgins have been operating in the blockchain space since the early days, all the way back to 2012. They saw a need for a blockchain integration platform that would allow enterprise customers to more easily foster connectivity between their legacy, or Web 2.0, applications and the Web 3.0 tools and programs.
“We don’t focus on any particular industry or use case,” says Shores. “We feel that blockchain, as the underlying infrastructure of Web 3.0, will impact every industry and every kind of use case where data needs to be transferred over the internet. Blockchain will be the foundational technology that allows that to happen.”
Blockchain essentially transfers control over internet communication from governments and companies to individual users, and therefore there is a need for an independent, transparent and immutable ledger of transactions, as well as a redundant storage of user data.
“When we think of data hacking where someone steals an identity,” says Shores, “it’s always because the data is centralized in a single repository that’s easy to be hacked. Blockchain opens the door to what we call self-sovereign identity. Digital identity is able to be secured on the user side, and in a world where blockchain allows individuals to keep their own identity, it’s pretty much un-hackable.”
BlockSpaces operates using a software-as-a-service business model, charging a flat fee and then additional fees based on consumption — “how often they ping chains or use chains,” says Shores. The company refuses to disclose its revenue, but she says sales have “tripled in the last 12 months.”
A sometimes negative public perception surrounding cryptocurrency is a threat to BlockSpaces, as is what Shores calls “widespread confusion about blockchain.” She says there is much more to blockchain than cryptocurrency; In fact, Bitcoin and its brethren are simply “the incentive mechanism to participate in a blockchain network.”
The collapse in early November of FTX, the world’s third-largest cryptocurrency exchange, was a setback from an optical standpoint, says Shores, “but from a technical perspective, there are no concerns for us at all. Blockchain continues to move forward. And I think it depends on which cryptocurrency you are talking about. For example, this does not affect Bitcoin in the slightest, except that public sentiments are disturbed whenever such a thing happens.”
Shores compares the FTX fiasco to the aftermath of the Lehman Bros. collapse during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.
“We talk to investors, companies and other people all the time who see this for what it was, which is a very bad actor,” she says. “It has nothing to do with blockchain or the technology, just a serious lack of corporate controls and complete mismanagement of funds.”
BlockSpaces, headquartered at Embarc Collective in downtown Tampa, has 21 employees and Shores expects an aggressive hiring push in 2023, regardless of a downturn in the economy. That’s partly thanks to how the pandemic affected the global workforce, but also because of a new round of capital raising that’s expected to wrap up after the first quarter.
“There is so much talent in the market compared to a year ago,” she says. “There are so many opportunities for companies that are building and growing aggressively. It’s (not) so much a challenging time; it’s an opportune time.”