Ex-Meta Coders Raising $200M to Bring Diem Blockchain to Life: Sources

Aptos is eyeing a $2 billion valuation for its bid to bring the Diem blockchain into users’ hands, sources tell CoinDesk.

AccessTimeIconFeb 24, 2022 at 2:06 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:12 p.m. UTC

A team with intimate knowledge of the Facebook-initiated Libra stablecoin project announced plans to bring the network into the wild – albeit under a different name and seemingly with a different focus.

Fresh on the heels of the Diem Association’s confirmed winddown, a new team called Aptos said in a blog post on Thursday that it was taking another shot at bringing the ill-fated Diem blockchain to life.

According to two sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, Aptos is raising $200 million at a $2 billion valuation to do so. The people with knowledge of the deal said Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and several other crypto venture capital firms were involved.

Should Aptos find its footing, it would be a stunning reversal for Diem – a project that was much ballyhooed in 2019 but was fatally crippled by regulatory blowback in the subsequent two and a half years. Notably, the blog post makes no mention of the proposed stablecoins that riled lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad.

“We are not starting from scratch,” Aptos wrote in its “genesis” blog post, describing plans to launch the “safest and most production-ready blockchain in the world.”

“We are the original creators, researchers, designers and builders of Diem, the blockchain that was first built to serve this purpose,” they added. “While the world never got to see what we built, our work is far from over.”

The post doesn’t mention the team’s fundraising efforts.

One source with knowledge of the project said the Aptos team was building its new layer 1 blockchain based on the original Libra white paper. The pitch to prospective investors was “Libra without Facebook,” the source said. Unlike with Libra, however, the initial focus won’t be on cross-border payments but on non-fungible tokens, they added. General-purpose blockchains like Ethereum, Solana, Flow and now Aptos are built to support multiple applications.

Aptos is being led by Avery Ching and Mo Shaikh, according to the Thursday blog post. Ching previously worked at Meta’s Novi crypto subsidiary and is credited with co-creating the Diem blockchain’s DiemBFT consensus protocol.

Shaikh is also formerly of Novi, but previously spent nearly three years as a director of strategy at ConsenSys, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Ethereum venture studio.

Much of the work undertaken by Diem-affiliated teams – be it by Calibra (now Novi) or the Libra Association (now Diem Association) – was placed under open-source licenses, and so the intellectual property can be used as the foundation of a new company.

The team applied for the Aptos Blockchain trademark last week, according to public records.

According to the blog post, Aptos believes new leadership can finally get Diem’s technology over the finish line.

“Since departing Meta (formerly Facebook) we have been able to put our ideas into motion, ditch bureaucratic red tape and build an entirely new network from the ground up that brings them to fruition,” they wrote.

UPDATE (Feb. 24, 14:28 UTC): Adds line on general-purpose blockchains supporting various applications.

CORRECTION (Feb. 25, 23:09 UTC): The Diem Association’s assets were sold and its operations were wound down, not Novi’s. The Diem Association is independent from Meta though Meta was one of the Association’s members.


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Zack Seward

Zack Seward is CoinDesk’s contributing editor-at-large.