Media Startup Civil Shuts Down, Team Absorbed Into Decentralized ID Efforts at ConsenSys

Blockchain media startup Civil is shutting down after three years, with its team pivoting to building decentralized identity tools at parent firm ConsenSys.

AccessTimeIconJun 2, 2020 at 8:07 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 10, 2024 at 2:20 a.m. UTC
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Blockchain journalism startup Civil is shutting down, with its team moving to the employ of parent company ConsenSys, Poynter reported Tuesday.

Co-founder Matthew Iles announced the shutdown in a blog post, writing, "It's with a heavy heart that I announce the end of Civil." Iles, who told CoinDesk he had no further comment after the publication of this article, wrote that the company, which had previously inked partnerships with Forbes and AP, had not been able to find a path to sustainability.

The startup sought to let readers directly support journalists, and help journalists collaborate to build their own publications, receiving $5 million from ConsenSys in 2017 to support this mission. However, it later failed to raise $8 million in a token sale, and had to refund investors the funds it did raise (ConsenSys was the largest backer of this token sale).

Civil tried again in February 2019, offering 34 million CVL tokens for sale.

Last year, the company finally began distributing token compensation packages to newsroom employees and Civil Media partners. Regarding these partners, Iles wrote that "newsrooms on Civil have always operated independently, and therefore will remain unaffected."

The Civil Registry, CVL tokens and other work products are open-source, and while they will remain available, the company will no longer develop or manage any of these projects. The Civil Foundation, which at one point was run by former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller and provided grants, support and educational tools to newsrooms, "is effectively in hibernation," Iles wrote.

"Civil was a great first step in realizing the promise of fully distributed blockchain technology as a safeguard of press freedom and speech rights. I'm very grateful to Matthew Iles, Joe Lubin and everyone at Civil and Consensys for starting so many great ideas rolling, and for founding so many great publications, Popula included," said Maria Bustillos, editor at Popula.

Popula received a grant from Civil, and used its tools and IPFS to store a news article on the Ethereum blockchain.

Civil's employees will now work on identity solutions for Ethereum, Iles said, building on work the team had already been conducting.

Civil began building decentralized identity and advertising products "several months ago," which drew interest from enterprises, he said.

"This pivot led to closer coordination with ConsenSys and the team building solutions for identity and provenance tracking, which in turn started conversations about a strategic merger," he wrote.

A ConsenSys spokesperson confirmed the move, telling CoinDesk that both the team and Civil's tech would be joining the Ethereum startup incubator.

Daniel Kuhn contributed reporting.


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