Mask Network, the protocol that allows users to send encrypted messages, cryptocurrencies and even dapps over Twitter and Facebook, announced a $2 million funding round Tuesday co-led by HashKey and Hash Global.
Other participants included Alameda Research, Sino Global and personal investors including Balaji Srinivasan, who touted the network back in September.
“Yes, you’re using Twitter, Facebook or eventually Reddit, but you’ll realize your picture and your file never existed on those platforms,” Mask Network founder Suji Yan told CoinDesk in an interview, translated from Mandarin.
The company recently engaged its Twitter community with random draws of 538 election-themed non-fungible tokens (NFTs). (The number of Trump and Biden cards issued mirrors the number of Electoral College votes each U.S. presidential candidate ended up winning.)
“We got into this election NFT game to prove to more users that Web 3.0 can be used on Web 2.0,” Yan told CoinDesk.
The protocol currently has over 800,000 downloads across its product suite but only 30,000 active users. Yan says that’s because only crypto-native experts really understand the product.
Mask Network currently partners with companies such as Arweave to send encrypted files and MakerDAO for users to send DAI via Twitter “red envelopes,” which founder Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin took advantage of this Chinese New Year.
Yan told CoinDesk the funding round will help the company to decentralize and partner with other companies to add more functions over the next two quarters.
“Imagine how powerful it would be if Square built their function on Twitter through MetaMask,” Yan said. “When we’re fully decentralized, they won’t need us to build that.”
Becoming a fully decentralized company would also enable the Shanghai-based startup to attract more Chinese users, by building MetaMask’s current features onto Chinese social media apps like WeChat or Weibo.
“Our current centralized operating model is very dangerous in China,” Yan told CoinDesk. Through a future launch of a governance token, the Mask team hopes to ease the risk of being deplatformed.
“They can kill us but they can’t kill a DAO or a file on Arweave,” Yan said.
This current funding round also included many Chinese investors. Yan said the reason for that may be because “U.S. VCs seem to be afraid that Facebook is involved.”
The company also has plans to launch “Initial Twitter Offerings” before the end of this year. It will allow users to discover new token launches and purchase the tokens – all without leaving Twitter.
Lead investor HashKey said via Telegram, “We firmly believe that the Mask team will keep this amazing world by pursuing liberty of encryption and privacy.”
Indeed, Yan said the company’s ultimate goal is to achieve a declaration of independence in cyberspace.
“Today in 2020, we finally saw an awakened need for independence of governance on social media,” Yan said. “The only thing that’s missing is a portal to a new, open internet.”