Armed with $9.1 million CAD ($7 million USD) in initial seed funding, newly launched Montréal-based software startup Lighthouse Labs plans to ramp up its efforts to build what it describes as “the open metaverse navigation engine” for blockchain-based virtual worlds.
The round comes just over four months after Lighthouse Labs—not to be confused with the Canadian coding school of the same name—was founded by CEO Jonathan Brun and CTO Justine Massicotte. Prior to launching Lighthouse Labs, Brun worked at New York investment firm White Star Capital, while Massicotte spent time as a machine learning developer for fellow Québec-based, search-focused company Coveo.
“We’re super early. We’re the first one with that angle on navigation, and hopefully we’ll move fast enough to stay ahead.”
In an interview with BetaKit, Brun acknowledged that while interest in the metaverse has “exploded” over the past six months, its development remains in the very early stages. According to Brun, this is part of the reason why Lighthouse Labs sees so much potential, claiming that this evolving environment makes it easier for the startup to propose standards and establish structure across virtual worlds.
Amid a wave of hype and companies announcing metaverse-related strategies and pivots, Brun believes there is an opportunity for Lighthouse Labs to provide the nascent, as-of-yet speculative space—which today is being used mostly to snap up digital real estate—with “the long-term infrastructure” necessary to support its growth. “We have to be early to power search,” he said.
“We’re super early,” said Brun. “We’re the first one with that angle on navigation, and hopefully we’ll move fast enough to stay ahead.”
Planning out a development roadmap for the metaverse is difficult because the metaverse currently doesn’t necessarily exist. As The Verge puts it, the metaverse is “partly a dream for the future of the internet and partly a neat way to encapsulate some current trends in online infrastructure, including the growth of real-time 3D worlds.”
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To combat these difficulties, Lighthouse has narrowed its focus: building a metaverse search engine that will enable users to search for places, events, friends, creators, assets, and experiences across and inside blockchain-based virtual worlds, most of which have been built on Ethereum. Through its platform, the company intends to help users locate trending activities, build communities, check where their NFTs are usable, and follow specific brands and creators.
Brun differentiated “the Web 2 version” of the metaverse, which includes “closed platforms” like Facebook Horizons and Roblox—which are ultimately controlled by and subject to the whims of a single entity—from Web3, blockchain-based virtual worlds, which Lighthouse Labs is building for.
Lighthouse Labs believes that for creators, businesses, and other users to “really invest significant time into building great experiences, they need to have a sense of persistence and credible neutrality which blockchain enables.”
Roblox has seen its usage soar during the pandemic. Brun said he expects blockchain-based virtual worlds to experience similar growth.
Currently, blockchain-based virtual worlds are mostly being used for real estate sales, which have reportedly been booming. But Lighthouse Labs is banking that their use will broaden over time.
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“Our hope is that once we have all these places that are owned or rented out and that brands which are participating in this, artists, and basically culture and influencers are starting to develop cool things to do,” said Brun. “That’s when it’s gonna be interesting.”
Lighthouse Labs’ seed financing, which closed in March, came in the form of a SAFE agreement. The round was led by Accel, BlockTower, and Animoca Brands, with participation from White Star Capital, Sparkle Ventures, Gemini Frontier Fund, The Graph core developers StreamingFast, Tiny VC and a list of Web3 investors that includes POAP founder Patricio Worthalter, Messari founder Ryan Selkis, Nansen founder Alex Svanevik, and Exclusible founder Thibault Launay.
According to Brun, Lighthouse Labs initially set out to raise between $2 million and $3 million USD, but ended up seeing strong investor interest and opted to take in $7 million because it was entering a tough fundraising market and wanted to ensure it had some runway.
Lighthouse Labs plans to invest the capital to grow its team, expand the number of worlds it has partnered with, and develop its platform, which the startup intends to launch this summer.
When asked what Lighthouse Labs’ business use-case and model will look like, Brun listed off a number of options the startup could deploy, hinting that brands could find the aggregated data it gathers on metaverse activity useful, and alluding to the potential of launching a hub that caters to metaverse creators.
“For us, the goal is to see if we can build something that attracts people and then once you have traffic to your platform, then it’s a matter of finding what’s the best path to follow,” said Brun. For now, Brun pointed out that “being at the centre of discovery is never a bad spot to be at.”
Feature image courtesy Lighthouse Labs.