An Australian startup hoping to become a blockchain-fuelled version of Amazon for the sharing economy has completed a $3.8 million seed round ahead of attempting a massive $62 million initial coin offering (ICO) in May.
What’s more, the startup, ShareRing, launched barely more than a year ago, when it was born out of founders Tim Bos, Rohan Le Page, Peter David and Neville Christie’s dream to create a platform for companies to share anything.
ShareRing is developing a platform that will allow companies like AirBnB or Hertz, or even smaller wedding dress rental services, to plug their services into the platform and have access to a community of customers — essentially white-labelling a product or service and loading it into a sharing economy marketplace.
“We haven’t gone out and said we’re the Amazon of the sharing economy, but it’s an apt description of what we’re doing. We want there to be one ecosystem to operate in for everything from payment processing to ID checks,” Bos tells StartupSmart.
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Three of the four founders come from another startup, Keaz, which provides white label car-sharing services for companies around the world. Bos explains Keaz was initially meant to be what ShareRing is hoping to be, but the founders had to refocus on the “low-hanging fruit” of car sharing after legal and logistical issues made the initial vision too difficult.
That was until the rise of blockchain technology made facilitating the sharing of an object between two parties much easier.
“The engine of the platform is the blockchain, with things like smart contracts easily facilitating contractual relationships between two parties. It also lets you automate things like escrow processes or insurance companies doing just-in-time insurance,” he says.
“It also adds a level of security and finality to transactions, along with a level of trust as companies can see the renter’s past transactions all stored on the blockchain.”
These numerous benefits have allowed the team to pursue their dream of an on-demand sharing services platform, and the $3.8 million seed round has given the startup the resources to start development on the platform. The raise was contributed to by mostly friends and family, but Bos says there were a few large-scale crypto investors who also got on board.
“Everyone we accepted money from we had known for at least a year,” he says.
Team confident of completing full $62 million ICO
ShareRing will be starting its $US48 million ($62 million) ICO in May, when it will commence selling four billion of its SHR tokens. It is currently undergoing an expression of interest period for a pre-sale, which Bos says has attracted $14 million in pledged funds from keen investors.
Successfully raising the full $62 million would put ShareRing ahead of any other Australian ICO, beating Havven’s $39 million effort earlier this month, as well as Power Ledger‘s $34 million ICO in October 2017. It would also likely be one of the highest raises for a startup in 2018; the only raise of 2017 to beat that amount was PEXA’s $64.7 million raise.
“Based on the breadth of the interest in the platform I’d say we’re not going to have too much problem raising that amount,” says Bos, who mentions the company’s PR cycle only kicked off today.
“We’ve set our minimum amount at $15 million, which gives us enough to build and grow the ecosystem. We also want to set aside 30% of the tokens to establish a fund that directly invests in startups in the sharing economy to help get people involved.
“The bigger companies and standard rental businesses are not going to really build the community and ecosystem, so we want to give an opportunity for startups to get involved and help us build a sustainable business.”
Startups should let blockchain “fade into the background”
ShareRing’s token will initially be issued on the popular Ethereum blockchain, but the company has says it is also building its own blockchain called ShareLedger, which the tokens will be converted over to at a later time.
Bos says he’s been interested in blockchain technology for a number of years now, and wonders why so many blockchain startups put a heavy focus on the technology when pushing the concept at users.
“ShareRing customers won’t even know it’s a blockchain project — that would be like going to Amazon and asking what type of database they use,” he says.
“I don’t know why a lot of blockchain projects are telling everyone it’s a blockchain or crypto project. For us, it’s important it fades into the background.”