Keybase, a cryptographic message and verification startup, has raised US$10.8 million in a Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz and including angel investors and entrepreneurs such as Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis and Chain.com CEO Adam Ludwin.
Keybase was founded last year as a hobby project of OKCupid co-founders Max Krohn and Chris Coyne, who sold the dating site to Match.com for US$50 million. With this venture, Krohn and Coyne hope to help people obtain public cryptography keys to encrypt and secure information sent via email. The founders said in a blog post earlier this week:
“We’ve gotten more ambitious. We have a new goal: to bring public key crypto to everyone in the world, even people who don’t understand it.”
– Keybase founders Chris Coyne and Max Krohn. Image: Jennie Tarr Coyne/Keybase
The project originally started as a record of PGP keys to handle sending and receiving secure messages. From there, it developed over time into offering safer sharing and collaboration and safer backup software for encrypting personal data.
The startup is similar to Bitrated in that it uses a web of trust and user scoring to create a reputation system for bitcoin addresses. Bitrated “analyzes each user’s social standing, including the weight of positive or negative reviews written by community members who ‘vouch’ for them on their profile.” However, Bitrated focuses on the scoring system, unlike Keybase, which provides users a more intuitive way of bootstrapping public keys (which could including those of bitcoin).
The Keybase team explains:
“The goal of Keybase is to let any security software be powered by usernames instead of offline key exchanges.”
If a username from a social media platform like Twitter, for example, is searched directly in any keybase command, the client confirms that the public key is owned by that username, and therefore verifies his or her identity. Then, users can send encrypted messages signed by public keys in an easy and safe way.
With the new funding round, the Keybase team plans to develop and launch Android and iOS apps in a year, while hosting a “bug bounty” program to reward developers who find problems in the software. Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon have also joined Keybase as board members.
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