• The new funds will be used to further develop the product and educational content necessary to acclimate people to using cryptocurrencies.
  • A handful of other companies announced new funding today, including Fireblocks, Ero, Saber Labs and Hedgehog Markets

Open-source blockchain ecosystem Celo announced its digital wallet Valora will now operate as an independent company amidst the close of a $20 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

Celo focuses on making decentralized financial (DeFi) systems and tools accessible to anyone with a smartphone. The mobile-based digital wallet Valora will now be a standalone company on the Celo Platform, which provides users the ability to quickly save, send and spend cryptocurrencies.

The wallet will enable payments in seconds with near zero fees, Arianna Simpson, a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz said in a tweet.

Additional investors in the round include Polychain Capital, SV Angel, Nima Capital, NFX and Valor Capital, among others.

Valora publicly launched in February 2021 and has grown to more than 200,000 users with a balance and 53,000 monthly active users in over 100 countries, the company said.  

The new funds will be used to further develop the product and educational content necessary to acclimate people to using cryptocurrencies. 

Similarly, analysts said digital payments companies such as Square are in a position to steal major market share from traditional banks over the next decade, as crypto services are driving engagement for such businesses, Blockworks recently reported.

Cash App, a service developed by Square, could become the “money center bank of the future,” according to research by Mizuho Securities.

“Consumer awareness of crypto has never been higher, and yet many people remain on the sidelines, either due to skepticism or lack of access,” said Jackie Bona, who is taking on the role of CEO of Valora after serving as head of consumer growth of cLabs, Inc. (cLabs).

As it stands, Valora gives users the ability to send funds to virtually any mobile phone number globally using any smartphone — even with low internet connectivity — which eliminates the need for reliance on a computer or high-speed internet. 

Additionally, users can participate without traditional bank accounts, have full control over their funds and pay for transaction fees with the stable token instead of needing to hold two separate digital assets, the company said. 

“Valora is lowering the barrier to entry into crypto and DeFi. We believe in a world in which each individual has access to the wealth and opportunity created by this new global financial system, and Valora will strive to continue to provide greater access and build bridges to a better and more inclusive future,” Bona said. 

Other companies also have plans to launch new wallets to help fix the digital wallet space. In September, crypto venture studio Thesis plans to launch its fifth studio project, a Web3 wallet, to the public, CEO Matt Luongo said to Blockworks. The project began because Thesis saw a gap in wallet experiences and wanted to create a better experience and infrastructure for crypto-based wallets.

“The wallet ecosystem is a wreck. This has been a theme since 2014,” he said. People want a cross-chain experience that makes sense with decentralized finance across their wallets, so they don’t have to constantly work with a bunch of applications to do basic single wallet activity, Luongo said.

Crypto fundraising continues

The Valora funding news arrives during a busy day in the crypto fundraising space as a handful of other companies, including Fireblocks, Eco and Saber Labs, announced new funding, Blockworks reported

In addition to those companies above, Hedgehog Markets closed a $3.5 million seed funding round today with investors including Reciprocal Ventures, Republic Labs, Alameda Research, Divergence Ventures, MGNR and Manna. The company also received a $100,000 grant from the Solana Foundation earlier this year. 

Hedgehog Markets is a decentralized prediction market platform built on the Solana blockchain that allows users to generate passive yield on their funds while participating in markets, it said. Markets can be a range of topics from politics and economics to decentralized finance and so on. The trades are instant via smart contracts and allow users to complete transactions without a central intermediary. 

“We believe conditions are ripe for innovation in this space,” said Srikar Varadaraj, Partner at e^{i} Ventures, the venture studio behind Hedgehog. “Users are seeking alternative ways to engage with decentralized applications beyond simply moving assets around for yield. Prediction markets stand to become an increasingly popular product for users with the rise of DeFi, as financial assets move at the speed of information in a permissionless world.”

The funding will be used to propel its mainnet launch, which is currently in open beta, before Q4, bring on additional talent, and continue toward development milestones. Once launched, it will be the first prediction markets platform on Solana mainnet, according to the company. 

With the completion of its seed round, Hedgehog will be able to accelerate team growth, product development and go-to-market, said the company’s founder George Yu. 

“We are building, and have always built, with the long-term in mind; we aim to be the most user-friendly platform not just for crypto users, but also for non-crypto users, and drive mainstream adoption of Hedgehog. The next step on that journey is our mainnet launch,” Yu said.

  • Jacquelyn Melinek is a Houston-based reporter covering digital asset funds and markets. She previously reported on energy markets for S&P Global Platts and Bloomberg News and is published in over 65 news outlets. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Media and Journalism.