Arianee, an Ethereum-based project for tracking the provenance of luxury brands, has completed a $9.5 million seed funding round, raised from a mixture of equity and token sales.

Notable investors include Bpifrance; the French Public Investment Bank, which is linked to the French government; and ISAI fund, France’s leading seed investment company.

It turns out blockchain-based watermarks, or digital passports, to verify the authenticity of luxury items like high-value watches are a solid use case for the technology, often using the concept of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that are currently very much in vogue. 

Arianee, which recently partnered with watchmaker Breitling, and whose technology is being used by Switzerland-based luxury brands conglomerate Richemont Group, did not come down with the last shower of NFTs, and has been working on its product for years. Also quietly exploring NFTs as proof of authenticity is LVMH, the French firm that owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior and Tiffany.

The Arianee seed round will help create a track-and-trace, software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Previously, the startup did a token sale in 2018 and raised a little over 300 bitcoin, according to Arianee co-founder Luc Jodet. (The bitcoin raise is worth $17.1 million at current prices, though some has surely been spent.)

“It’s significant that an entity such as Bpifrance, which is partly funded by the government and also public savings, has touched tokens,” Jodet told CoinDesk in an interview. “Finally, a French public entity is recognizing the fact that tokens are something that you can invest in.” 

Other investors included Cygni Labs, Noia Capital and a clutch of French tech entrepreneurs. All investors in the round are exposed to the ARIA20 utility token in addition to equity, said Jodet.

“Arianee is reinventing the customer relationship with fashion and luxury goods players through a unique value proposition based on the digital identity of an item,” Bpifrance’s Guillaume Simonaire said in a statement. “Bpifrance is very proud to support this French solution which will contribute to the acceleration of the digital and ecological transformation of our industry.”

NFTs, which seem to be at the heart of crypto’s latest retail renaissance, are a key part of the Arianee architecture, which the firm built some four years ago. 

Jodet said Arianee is exploring some test demos around NFTs and digital fashion, but for the most part, the focus remains firmly on the company’s provenance-tracking use case.

“Hype cycles will come and go,” Jodet said. “We have seen this before on other bull runs with ICOs, for instance, and I think the NFT sphere is in crazy land at the moment.”

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