Libra Minus Facebook: Why Celo Is 2020’s Buzzy Token Project

Celo is the new black.  Investors from Silicon Valley to Switzerland are whispering about it. The team behind that project, cLabs, is combining the ethereum and Libra models with a $30 million war chest from the likes of Polychain Capital and Andreesen Horowitz (a16z).

And with their stablecoins and reserve baskets, the shared backing of a16z isn’t the only similarity between the two projects.

“The Celo mobile app, bringing stable payments and remittances to the unbanked, has a chance to bring broad swaths of people to the world of blockchain technology and crypto, but to also level up the economic well-being of those most in need across the globe,” said Polychain President Joe Eagan.

Polychain CEO Olaf Carlson-Wee said in a Reddit AMA: “In the best case, Celo is Whatsapp for money.”

To that end, cLabs enlisted the makers of Libracamp to launch a Celo Camp incubator. Starting in April, the eight-week program will match up to 30 teams with mentors including Jane Lippencott of Winklevoss Capital and a16z’s newest hire, Arianna Simpson.

“Hopefully, people will build interesting stuff and we can guide them and offer support along the way,” cLabs founder Rene Reinsberg said. “We see Celo Camp as a way to test the curriculum and the concept of a virtual bootcamp to make this technology a lot more accessible.”

Five teams will earn prizes from cLabs, including $10,000 and a travel budget for the winning team. Incubator organizer Tomer Weiss said his goal is to be “a significant player in finding the product-market fit.”

“We are not doing anything related to the token sale,” Weiss said, referencing the not-yet-launched Celo Gold token sale. “But we are putting our skin in the game, our compensation will be paid in Celo Gold.”

Celo Camp will follow the model established by the Israel-based Libracamp incubator, which yielded tepid results. Since Libracamp wasn’t endorsed by Facebook, the initial goal was to connect investors with unaffiliated teams able to build products and services that leveraged Facebook’s open source Libra project. The $2,000 prize went to the Thailand-based startup Kulap, which made a crypto wallet for daily commerce.

“We are sharing our Libra library and documentary for everyone who wants to learn and implement,” Dighton-Mason said. “We have a real sample merchant to test this project, and we also connect with retailers and restaurants that are interested in Libra. Meanwhile, we plan to launch a digital wallet this year, which Libra will also list as a beta version.” 

As far as Weiss knows, none of the teams raised funds related to their work in the bootcamp yet (though Dighton-Mason said Kulap is currently seeking venture capital and is in talks with prospective investors).

“The investment wasn’t mandatory. We decided not to invest in any teams in Libracamp,” Weiss said. 

Regardless of whether the Celo Camp teams are able to launch venture-backed businesses, Reinsberg hopes participants will make financial products and services that help Celo find a use case. The startup will offer support to these teams throughout the incubator. Plans for a mainnet launch are penciled in for April 2020, said Reinsberg, laughing at how often he’s fielded that question since raising last year.

“By this time early next year we hope to see that many people have built applications and big organizations have launched use cases on Celo,” he said. As part of the plan, the project will also conduct a token sale in 2020.

Libra Minus Facebook: Why Celo Is 2020’s Buzzy Token Project
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