It’s easier to invest in an NFT than a startup. Party Round wants to change that.

Party Round wants to automate fundraising to make it easier for founders to get money from friends.

The Party Round app

Friends and family round? There's an app for that.

Image: Party Round

Jordi Hays and Sarah Chase felt frustrated. They watched as speculators snapped up NFTs of apes or NBA stars with ease — and wondered why it wasn't just as easy for investors to back a startup.

Hays had a friend who had wanted to invest $500 in his previous company, only to have his lawyer say it would be more expensive just to run the paperwork for an investment that small. (He went ahead and accepted the $500, and the investor drove $50,000 of directly attributable revenue in return, so it more than paid for itself.)

So Hays and Chase decided to build Party Round as an easier way for founders to raise money. Named after the term used to describe when there's dozens of investors in a round, Party Round's goal is to allow founders to easily invite friends to invest via a SAFE, handle the documents and send money. Think Venmo, but for startup investing (and with a bit more legal paperwork).

"We honestly thought it was a little bit absurd that you could put $100,000 into an NFT from some stranger that you didn't know, but if your friend was sitting across the table from you and they were actively fundraising, you had to get lawyers and DocuSign and use wire transfers and all these archaic processes," Hays told Protocol.

Currently in private beta, the app had the ultimate dogfooding when Party Round used its own app to raise its pre-seed round from Gradient Ventures and roughly 50 angel investors — a party round of its own. The startup is now announcing that it's raised an additional $7 million in a seed funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz and its Cultural Leadership Fund. Other investors include Seven Seven Six, Abstract Ventures and Shrug Capital.

"The state of party rounds today is that all the best companies are raising party rounds," Hays said. "They're still finding a lead investor, but it actually is so advantageous to raise from a large group of people that it's super rare to find a company today that's not raising from a diverse group of people."

Already thousands of founders have signed up for the company's waiting list. During a beta with founders of JuneShine, Popshop, Eco and Commsor, Party Round said its app was being used to process an average of $200,000 a day. It's currently free for founders, and the team is exploring revenue-generating options, a spokesperson said. But it's no fluke that Party Round has been able to attract those numbers in the last seven months.

Party Round first started gaining attention thanks to a series of "drops" on Twitter, purposefully creating a brand that feels closer to streetwear than it does a fintech product, Hays said. The first drop was "Startup Ipsum," which generates ridiculous sounding startup headlines and texts.

The one that went the most viral was a collection of NFTs of "helpful" venture capitalists. VCs had to claim their own within a five-hour window under the threat that their virtual selves would be auctioned off.

"We want Party Round to look and feel totally native to the internet," Hays said. "And that means communicating with formats that are native, so memes and things like that."

Soon after, the company started fundraising and closed its $7 million round. (Because Party Round's beta version only works for SAFEs, it didn't use its own app for its latest priced round.) Beyond attracting investors and raising its profile with founders, Hays said it's been a boost for recruiting with over half of the 12-person team joining the fully-remote startup after coming across one of the drops on Twitter.

Even with its large following, Party Round so far doesn't have any plans on turning its app into a marketplace for founders and investors to find each other. Instead, Party Round wants to focus on the first checks in among friends to make it easier for founders to raise money, whether it's a $500 check from a friend or a $50,000 check from a fund.

"We want to make running a company closer to playing a video game than the way it does now, which is interacting with the DMV on a daily basis," Hays said.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories