Ad-blocking browser startup Brave is having trouble spending the millions of dollars it recently raised via an initial token offering (ICO) on the ethereum blockchain.
After attracting what was then valued at $35m by selling cryptographic assets aimed at monetizing online user behavior, the startup today posted the first of a series of job posts that would double the startup’s size. However, after having privately been on the hunt for talent for weeks, Brave founder Brenden Eich is cautious about how quickly he’ll be able to find the much-needed talent.
In the wake of a historic year of ICO fundraisers, the competition for talent has reached a tipping point.
“We need ethereum talent and that’s scarce right now,” said Eich, who formerly co-founded Mozilla and Firefox, telling CoinDesk:
“We have people who have learned it and we can keep going with our people cross-training in the company, but I’m also looking to hire an ethereum hacker or two even though they’re in such demand.”
In a blog post published today, Eich revealed the first of what he said will be several “batches” of hires that will eventually increase the team by 20 people.
Aligned with the “Mercury phase” of Brave’s development, in which the startup plans to integrate its ethereum-denominated basic attention token (BAT) wallet into the Brave Browser, the company has posted eight new jobs, including five engineers and two designers.
Of the skills required for the positions, Eich highlighted the need for increasingly proficient ethereum developers, along with skill sets related to machine learning and browser development that are crucial to analyzing users’ behavior while still protecting their privacy.
Still, in spite of raising funds from almost 7,000 different addresses, the difficulty of finding new talent is forcing the startup to focus more of its efforts on cross-training existing staff who are already proficient in using bitcoin code and more.
Across the industry startups are increasingly finding that getting funded is no longer the hardest part. LinkedIn currently lists 367 job opportunities for blockchain specialists from a wide range of fields, while Indeed.com lists381 full-time jobs, not even counting part-time roles and internships.
“It’s so competitive,” Eich told CoinDesk.
Fight for talent
Nevertheless, planned hires through this phase also include pre-sales associates who would work with brands and ad agencies and on-boarding new publishers that may need help signing up to receive token payments from Brave users who choose to have their ads blocked.
Even before embarking on this multi-phase hiring spree funded by the ICO, the company had grown its staff to 26 people. But as other even larger ICOs continue to raise funds, Brave is pushing forward with its hiring plan aligned with the road map released in June.
Following the Mercury phase, which is expected to conclude in June, Brave’s “Gemini phase” will begin to refine the platform’s KYC process, while using the BAT token to grow its user pool and recruit vetted publishers. The Apollo phase in 2018 will see the company shift its attention to generating “real ad revenue.”
“We’re managing carefully because it’s easy to over-hire; it’s also important for us to get to the point where we can bring in other attention apps to use the BAT. But we’re not ready to do that until we’ve proven it in Brave first.”
Founded in 2015, the San Francisco-based Brave raised $7m from traditional venture capital firms before launching its ICO as part of a larger plan to pay its users for the ads they watch in more ways that with just bitcoin.
While the ICO was in part established to pay for these new hires and more, it was also intended to help incentivize new users interested in the business model that puts the power to monetize one’s data in the hand of the individual.
To prime the initial pool of users, Brave set aside 300m BAT tokens to incentivize adoption. The total supply of 1.5bn BAT is now worth about $126m at around $0.089 per token, at the time of publication.
Armed with these resources, Eich remains optimistic about his rate of growth, even in a crowded market.
The CEO concluded:
“We [already have] more publishers than I expected.”
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Brave Software.