July 16, 2024
Initia raises $7.5M seed round to simplify blockchain development

It’s hard to keep track of crypto’s technical development, but one thing hasn’t changed much: blockchain applications are notoriously hard to build. This stems in part from their decentralized nature, resulting in a lack of uniform standards across different infrastructure pieces.

Initia, founded by a group of developers in their late 20s, is trying to bring more interoperability to multichain networks and simplify the process of creating app-specific blockchains, or app chains. Popular household blockchains like Ethereum and Bitcoin have captured most users’ attention, but app chains have emerged in recent times to provide developers with more freedom over customization, such as economic and governance structures.

This fragmentation of the blockchain landscape creates a great deal of friction for users, who have to deal with different types of gas fees (imagine having to pay in JPY, USD and EUR just to use different features in an app), wallets (imagine being asked to connect your PayPal, Apple Pay and WeChat Pay to one app), and explorers (and imagine opening Firefox, Safari and Chrome for different tasks within the same app).

“This gets 10x worse when you move assets between blockchains,” Initia’s co-founder Ezaan Mangalji, who goes by “Zon,” told TechCrunch in an interview.

For example, the stablecoin USDC can have different versions on the same chain, such as bUSDC, USDCet and USDCso, because it’s been “transferred to that chain over X, Y, Z different paths or bridges,” Mangalji explained. “One of the great parts about Initia is across the multichain world all assets are fungible, such that in this example there would only be one type of USDC across potentially thousands of app-specific blockchains.”

Developers similarly have to jump many hoops as they build across chains. While there have been efforts like roll-ups that work to improve efficiency and scalability in blockchains by removing validator sets, the method can “exacerbate fragmentation and are rigid or inflexible for developers,” said Mangalji.

Meanwhile, Cosmos, another solution tackling blockchain’s scaling problem, is “very flexible” but not easy to run. “Each Cosmos chain is a Layer 1 blockchain that requires a validator set and requires teams to pay for security by giving rewards to these validators,” the founder noted.

Initia, according to Mangalji, helps overcome both of these challenges by providing a Layer 1 blockchain network built specifically to enable a system of L2 rollups, where these rollups can reach scale and sovereignty easily and each has the Cosmos SDK underneath for full flexibility.

In layman’s speak, Initia is abstracting away app chains’ technical complexity, aiming to make them more friendly to both end users and app developers.

“I think the ultimate goal is to have thousands and tens of thousands of applications being built on crypto, in web3, as well as specifically on Initia, without knowing that this is a crypto project,” said Initia’s other co-founder Stan Liu. “What we want to do is provide the Apple App Store so thousands of users should have really easy access to these applications.”

Initia recently raised $7.5 million in seed financing to work on its testnet launch. Led by Delphi Ventures and HackVC, the investment marks a sizable seed-round injection amid the current slowdown of crypto fundraising. Other investors from the round include Nascent, Figment Capital, Big Brain and A.Capital.

When Liu and Mangalji decided to build a crypto startup together in 2022, they set out in a different direction: decentralized finance, or DeFi. They paused the project after the FTX implosion and eventually changed tack to work on blockchain infrastructure. Mangalji explained the motive behind the pivot:

“We realized that during all these downturns, the problems with current blockchains, given that we had been trying to make one ourselves, [was] with the fragmentation that occurs for both users and also the developer complexity,” he said. “So we essentially teamed back up to build out this vision of Initia now, which is doing a lot of these parts in-house by building the right glue that pieces the modular stacks together.”

Headquartered in Singapore, Initia operates a team of 20 people around the world. The startup plans to spend its new funding on growing its ecosystem, further developing its chain and platform and supporting Layer 2 applications.

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