Web3 startup Towns raises $25.5M to transform online communication

Web3 social startup Towns announced yesterday that it had raised $25.5 million in funding to build decentralized “digital town squares” to revolutionize online communication.

The social startup presents unique solutions to the limitations of Web2 platforms, such as Twitter, Discord and Facebook. These social media usually take advantage of their users by selling data to advertisers.

“The problem communities face is coordinating and collaborating and unlocking their collective mind share. The tools we’re using are, for the most part, owned by other organizations, whether it’s Discord, WhatsApp, or Telegram,” Ben Rubin, co-founder of Towns’ developer Here Not There Labs, said.

Here Not There Labs aims to create a social platform without “walled gardens owned by landlords who are not us.” The startup plans to provide a chat protocol and application designed for users to customize and communicate at their own will, all made possible through Web3’s decentralized and encrypted technology.

The team behind Towns

Here Not There Labs has notable talents onboard, headed by co-founders Rubin and Brian Meek.

Rubin is known for helping run and create HouseParty and Meerkat, both social networking applications with in-depth video streaming functions. Meanwhile, Meek has worked as CTO at Stanford University’s Sports Training in Virtual Reality (STRIVR) Labs and as General Manager of Engineering at Skype.

The two visualize Towns as a protocol and application designed to form “hometowns” in online social communities. The company will also put these towns on the Ethereum blockchain via contracts, letting users interact, play games and trade assets like NFTs on the blockchain.

“It’s an evolution of what you can do with the ideas behind any blockchain technology. You start with storing value, then you move into computation, now it’s entering this idea of how can you secure coordination and collaboration,” Rubin said.

The system operates under the concept of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). The “smart contracts” used to tie group chats into the blockchain are controlled and owned by the community.

Community members can use tokens within the DAO system to propose and vote on actions. Considering the flexible nature of the technology, these contracts can exist on any platform. However, Web2 social platforms like Discord often restrict these implementations through their terms and services.

Towns promises to give users full ownership of their communities once the application completes its initial testing period. Community members on the DAO will decide the group chat protocol’s future development, possible upgrades, and treasury – without interruption from any company policies.

Rubin describes how the company’s vision is to one day create online connections owned by online communities and their unique creations rather than the corporations that run their platforms.

About the funding round

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, better known as A16z, led the Series A funding round, which also saw several other backers join Andreessen Horowitz, including Framework Ventures and Benchmark.

A16z General Partner Sriram Krishnan showed optimism in the company’s investment, praising the Towns team and their reimagining of online communications in the future, where Web3 and metaverse technologies are expected to dominate.

“The team’s vision for creating a digital town square where members can define the borders, set the rules, and build the world they want is an ambitious goal that is uniquely achievable through the promise of decentralization and web3,” Krishnan said.