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Ring ring ring ring Solanaphone

Welcome back to Chain Reaction.

Last week, we talked about the NFT community being down bad but still down to party. This week, we're looking at the desperation of web3 startups for a post-Apple tech industry.

If you want to get this in your inbox every Thursday, you can subscribe on TechCrunch’s newsletter page.


crypto wants its own iPhone

There are few consumer companies with a better reputation among users than Apple, there are also few “web2” companies that are more despised by crypto startups than Apple.

We've talked a bit about Apple's reputation in the crypto space over time. The App Store's rules are pretty hostile to crypto and NFT startups, but it's not the least understandable move for Apple which banks money on taking cuts of in-app transactions and justifies its monopoly by saying that they're protecting users from scams and malware. Well, no one can argue that it's simple to avoid scams in the crypto space these days, but life under Apple's mobile empire is still frustrating for legit crypto apps that have to be content with being desktop-first in an overwhelmingly mobile world.

As a result, it's not so shocking that the crypto world is showing interest in building a world without Apple. A task that doesn't sound all that straightforward…

This week, Solana Labs, creators of the Solana blockchain which has had a dazzling rise and pretty dramatic fall in token price in recent months, has announced their own blockchain smartphone. If you've read TechCrunch over the years, this should be a bit eyebrow-raising. It's nearly impossible to build a smartphone business as a startup, many have tried and few have achieved anything even closely resembling success.

The Solana phone, called Saga, runs on Android and rocks its own blockchain-centric features including a baked-in hardware wallet which basically gives users a more secure path towards holding and trading crypto or NFTs on their smartphone. There is an audience for this phone in crypto world I'm sure, but this is far from ideal launch timing for a niche device that will likely have an even tighter niche of an audience next year when the phone actually launches.

Web3 has gotten a surprising amount of buy-in from web2 giants, but there has been notably less of a warm reception from the companies that own mobile hardware. Apple's users are hardly likely to rise up and demand more access to mobile app NFT purchases, so for now the company's mobile stranglehold will be a frustration that web3 developers are tasked with almost hopelessly building their way out of.


the latest pod

This week, my co-host Anita was off on vacation so our colleague Jacquie joined us to dive into the week's web3 happenings. We dove deeper onto the topic of the Solana Saga phone, we discussed FTX's alleged interest in buying up Robinhood, we also chatted about some of the crypto financial firms that are currently in deep… trouble.

For our guest this week, I chatted with Julian Holguin, the CEO of Doodles. Doodles is a very popular NFT project that has done just over $500 million in total sales volume. Holguin was previously a big exec at Billboard and has taken on the task of scaling the Doodles brand into an intellectual property powerhouse. The firm just banked its first round of venture funding from Alexis Ohanian and is gearing up for some big new NFT launches as it looks to keep the party going even amid a crypto downturn.

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple, Spotify or your alternative podcast platform of choice to keep up with us every week.


follow the money

Where startup money is moving in the crypto world:

  1. Entrepreneur First raises $158 million from Collison brothers to build a startup school with web3 programming
  2. No-code crypto games platform Soba raises $13.5 million led by Lightspeed
  3. Move-to-earn fitness startup Fitmint nabs $1.6 million from General Catalyst
  4. Web3 game Stella Fantasy gets $5 million from Animoca Brands
  5. NFTs for kids platform Cryptoys scores $23 million from a16z
  6. NFT curation app EyesFi raises $2 million from Multicoin Capital
  7. Blockchain startup Linera gets $6 million from a16z
  8. Financial security startup PolySign scores $53 million from Cowen Digital, others
  9. Wallet login startup Dynamic nabs $7.5 million from a16z
  10. NFTs for good startup R Labs gets $5 million from Softbank

TC+ analysis

Here's some of this week's crypto analysis you can read on our subscription service TC+ (written by TC's Jacquelyn Melinek): 

This crypto winter may be long, but builders remain bullish
Even though the top digital assets in the crypto market are still down significantly year to date, some market participants are shrugging it off and focusing on the long game. The crypto world is working on building human experiences beyond throwing money at each other, Evin McMullen, CEO of metaverse-focused Disco.xyz, said. “Now that we are no longer looking at green candles to keep us occupied, we have an opportunity to explore what other kinds of fun we can have,” McMullen said. “What other kinds of coordination games can we solve together that are not just based on token prices but are based on our activities as human beings?”

Blockchain gaming unfazed by crypto volatility as gamers ‘seek out entertainment’
The web3 gaming industry is one of the few sectors seemingly unaffected by current crypto market conditions, with capital continuing to pool into the space — and some industry players say it’s for good reason. The number of active web3 game users “has nothing to do with the market,” because even when the economy is down, people will still seek out entertainment, Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands, said. 


Thanks for reading, and again, if you want to get this in your inbox every Thursday, you can subscribe on TechCrunch’s newsletter page. See you next week!

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