The maker of ad-blocking browser Brave has raised $4.5m to expand its effort to let users voluntarily send bitcoin micropayments to their favorite websites in exchange for an ad-free experience.
When Brave Software first unveiled a version of the browser earlier this year, members of the media signed what has been called a cease-and-desist letter addressed to Brave. Signed by some of the biggest publishers in the world, the letter described what they perceived as the browser’s "blatantly illegal" blocking of their ad revenue.
Since then, the company’s founder has been engaging with those media outlets one-on-one in an effort to explain that Brave isn’t meant just to prevent Internet users from having their data mined, but to give media organizations a way to recover revenue from those who are already blocking ads.
In conversation with CoinDesk, Brave Software founder and CEO Brendan Eich said he intends to use the money to double the company's employees from 10 to 20 people and continue to help bridge the gap between content creators and users.
"We want win-win for users and publishers. We put users first, but we want publishers to earn a better share than what they receive with traditional ad blocking."
Participating in the round are Founders Fund's FF Angel, Propel Venture Partners, Pantera Capital, Foundation Capital, and Digital Currency Group.
With a total of $7m now raised, the San Francisco-based firm plans to invest the money in adding new features to the platform and hiring additional staff with a special focus on quality assurance as part of its growth strategy.
The value proposition
Dan Morehead, CEO of Pantera Capital, which invested $1m in this most recent round, told CoinDesk it is exactly this ability to navigate the space between content creators and consumers that first "resonated" with his firm.
Morehead points to a history of seemingly dominant browsers including Netscape and Internet Explorer being disrupted by innovative new services as evidence of the place he sees Brave filling in the market today.
In Brave’s case, that innovation is a business model that empowers users by protecting their identity and gives media companies a way to generate the revenue.
"Right now you have the two extremes. The annoying ad and subscription models and the annoying ad blocking," said Morehead, adding:
"Brave is this middle ground between the crazy ad system we currently have and where all ads are blocked and no content is produced."
Bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin
Brave is currently partnering with wallet providers BitGo and Coinbase to provide bitcoin wallets and purchasing tools and Eich says he hopes to partner in the future with wallet provider Blockchain.info.
But he added that while support for diverse wallets is a high priority, Brave has no plans to add support for ethereum or its new cryptocurrency cousin, Ethereum Classic.
"We’re just sticking with bitcoin because we need something frictionless under the hood," he said.
"We’re still excited about using bitcoin."
Going forward, Eich says one of the company’s top priorities will be to design identity-protection services that do a better job of preventing identifiable information from "leaking through" where marketers can access it.
Brave is currently available for download for iOS and Android mobile devices and several desktop platforms. The version currently available is a developer version, with a 1.0 release scheduled for September 2016.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Brave.
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