When Aniket Jindal was studying at Fudan University, Shanghai, the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry was still in its nascent stages.
Living in China in 2016 and 2017, Aniket saw firsthand the blockchain revolution taking shape across startups, cryptocurrency exchanges, developer communities, and token miners.
However, he realised that the development and mainstream adoption of decentralised applications (DApps) and Web 3.0 apps were complex, rigid, and involved several steps.
In an interaction with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, he says:
“In 2017, I joined Binance as an intern and got to sit next to founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao. In just six months, I learned a lot about blockchain technology. After I moved back to India in 2018, I decided to launch Biconomy in order to simplify development and adoption of DApps by building easy-to-use transaction infrastructure for DApps and Web 3.0 apps.”
Started with co-founders Ahmed Al-Balaghi and Sachin Tomar in March 2019, Biconomy provides APIs that enable simple and customised transaction journeys for developers so that end users don’t get frustrated by the less-than-desirable UX of DApps.
This way, the Singapore-headquartered startup aims to simplify the user experience by abstracting away blockchain complexities through gas-efficient meta-transactions.
Biconomy currently has over 30 project integrations and has relayed millions of blockchain transactions, claims Aniket.
The Stripe of blockchain
Aniket compares Biconomy’s offering to Irish-American fintech startup Stripe’s payment processing software and application programming interfaces for ecommerce websites and mobile apps, which are known to have simplified the payment infrastructure layer for developers.
“Stripe simplified the game for payments. We want to do the same for transactions in blockchain, which include not only payments but also governance, smart contracts etc. The vision is to enable users to use DApps without even realising blockchain technology is being used in the backend,” Aniket says.
For instance, users do not pay a fee each time they stream a video on YouTube or a song on Spotify, which are both examples of centralised apps.
But DApps traditionally involve gas fees [charges for computational efforts required] paid by users. Biconomy aims to remove this step from the experience of using a DApp, and place the responsibility of paying gas fees on developers instead.
Its APIs allow it to pay the gas fee on behalf of users through its transaction relayers. The DApp developer, in turn, pays Biconomy via cryptocurrency for the apps used.
In 2021, Stripe became one of the most highly-valued venture-backed private companies in the world when it was valued at $95 billion in its Series H funding round.
Although Aniket and his startup are not pursuing these dizzying valuations, he believes Biconomy can become the ‘Stripe’ of the blockchain world.
“In the centralised, Web 2.0 world, you have Googe, Apple, and Stripe, and the benchmarks they set in the industry. In the new and decentralised world of blockchain, there is no such benchmark. Anyone with access to a few developers can build a product that becomes extremely useful for the space,” he says.
A product-first approach
By building a Stripe-like infrastructure layer, albeit, for the blockchain world, Biconomy’s products allow developers to focus only on building their core products without investing time and money in building infrastructure layer tools in-house.
“In 2018, we co-founders started tinkering with these concepts as a side hustle and made demos and protocols. By May 2019, we went all in and began working full-time on Biconomy. The first year was rough as the cryptocurrency world was experiencing a bear market and it was difficult hiring people and getting validation from developers on our products,” Aniket adds.
However, the trio remained focused on building a product-first startup and not following the trend of going for an early IDO — an initial DEX offering, which refers to launching a cryptocurrency on a decentralised exchange to raise funds from retail investors.
Instead, they bootstrapped Biconomy through the early years, and in late 2019/early 2020 — only after they’d spent a year building the product — raised a seed funding of $1.5 million led by research-led European VC Eden Block.
Other investors included Fenbushi Capital, Binance, DACM, Outlier Ventures, Zee Prime Capital, Woodstock Capital, MiH Ventures, and more.
Building a future for mainstream blockchain adoption
Aniket remains optimistic about the future of blockchain technology and the role Biconomy can play in catalysing mainstream development and adoption of DApps and Web 3.0 apps.
“To succeed in this industry, you need to execute fast. In the Web 2.0 space, you have time to plan your product roadmap and go-to-market strategy. In Web 3.0, what you build may not be useful to anyone in just six months. So, you need to be flexible and build a forward-thinking mindset in order to create your own benchmark in the industry,” he explains.
Aniket, like several other blockchain entrepreneurs, vouches for the importance of fostering developer communities when building DApps or infrastructure layers and protocols for the future.
“From day one, we focussed on establishing a developer community and not a community of retail investors. We needed people building on top of and using our infrastructure layers and giving us feedback. We conducted numerous hackathons and grant programmes to inspire developers to engage with us,” he says.
The feedback has allowed Biconomy to build and hone its products for enabling gasless transactions, payment of gas fees in various tokens and movement of assets between blockchains.
Going forward, as India looks to boost innovation in blockchain and cryptocurrency, Aniket intends to launch new products that will further simplify and mainstream the adoption of DApps and Web 3.0 apps.