The Unstoppable Origin StoryJan 13, 2023
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Five years since our founding, we are closer to the next generation of the Internet than ever before. More than 320 million people use crypto today, up from ~85 million in 2017, and blockchain tech has advanced at breakneck speeds. Even through the ebbs and flows of the markets, the world is beginning to embrace the possibilities that these new technologies present. But creating a new digital world that is fair and open to all won’t just happen – it’s up to all of us to create it.
At Unstoppable Domains, we believe that a better Internet begins with ownership. Owning your keys, owning your domain, owning your identity.
To see just how deep these roots run, we’re going to go all the way back to the beginning of Unstoppable – back when it was five friends in an apartment hammering away on mechanical keyboards.
This is the story of Unstoppable Domains.
Genesis of the idea
Our story begins in 2017 at 42 Silicon Valley, the innovative engineering college non-profit and hacker school founded by Xavier Niel. There, our CEO and Co-Founder Matt Gould honed his programming skills and, equally as important, met some fellow crypto enthusiasts: Braden Pezeshkli, Ryan Le, Max Burson, and Tim Jose. Between marathon programming sessions, group projects, hacking into the vending machines on campus, and programming robots, the newfound crew dove deeper into the budding world of blockchain.
In the midst of 2017’s ICO boom, they took a particular interest in blockchain domain names. They saw the blockchain domain not just as an update of the traditional URL, but as a brand new tool with incredible potential.
In the early summer of 2017, the Ethereum Naming Service announced it was set to launch. But our crew noted that, for most people, the system to buy domains was too difficult to use: Claiming your Ethereum domain required interacting directly with the smart contract, which wasn’t feasible for consumers outside of the developer community. Ethereum domains also had little utility relative to the vast potential we believed they had.
We saw an opportunity.
In an effort to simplify the domain claiming process and give them some new utility, we created BuyETHDomains.com. Our initial idea was simple — make buying and claiming Ethereum domains easier so more people would adopt them. The site was to act as an interface for the smart contract, but feel like any other e-commerce site.
Our vision and pitch were strong enough to land our first round of funding. On Christmas Day, 2017, the team got a call from Adam Draper of Boost VC — they had been accepted into the next accelerator batch. They received their official acceptance letter, along with the funds, a week later in January of 2018.
Bear Market Beginnings
With funding in hand, the team left San Francisco and set up shop in Las Vegas. Rent was cheap, and with a nasty bear market setting in almost immediately after they received their funding, they needed to make that initial funding round last.
Word on the street was that crypto was crashing and never coming back. With no time to give into FUD, the team went into full heads down mode, effectively paying themselves minimum wage and working around the clock out of the apartment that Matt and Braden lived in. Ryan and Max lived around the corner. Tim crashed in the spare room. As poor of a time to launch a crypto company as this was, we learned a lesson that rings particularly true today – Bear markets are a great time to build.
Unfortunately, this would turn out to be more than a short-term bear market. The entire crypto space saw red throughout 2018, with Ethereum shedding over 80% of its value between January and December. But our vision remained clear: Throughout the first half of 2018, we put together a working product, and BuyETHDomains.com became the first easy-to-use interface for Ethereum domains. You could even purchase domains with a credit card.
But the idea was never just to make claiming domains easy – we wanted to make them more powerful. We saw Ethereum domains as a new form of identification that people could finally own, build on top of, and keep private. And with a major hackathon coming up, our team saw the perfect opportunity to present this vision.
Unstoppable is Born
In August of 2018, the small BuyETHDomains team arrived in London with some big ideas and a slideshow. We presented the idea of blockchain domains acting as “connection points for all of your different social profiles.” In a world where our identities were becoming increasingly fractionalized and spread around the web, blockchain domains could act as the ultimate aggregators. Not only that, but they could serve as a single address for multiple cryptocurrency wallets and potentially much more.
Meanwhile, Ryan had joined a hackathon team with Billy Renekamp and WalletConnect founder, Pedro Gomes. Together, the trio spun up one of BuyETHDomains’ other ideas - turning Ethereum domains into NFTs. NFTs weren’t yet the hot topic they are today, but Ryan and the team recognized the long list of benefits that came with these standardized tokens.
First and foremost, by issuing domains as NFTs, the buyer would have complete ownership over them. Nobody would be able to reclaim them, tamper with them, or take them offline. Plus, NFTs are able to tap into a large web of support within the Ethereum blockchain. By creating domains in the form of NFTs, they too would be able to leverage this existing ecosystem.
Ryan’s team won the hackathon for turning domains into NFTs, but we left the hackathon feeling disappointed in the lack of urgency for what Web3 domains could become. Back at the hotel, sitting around a table of beer and Indian food, the team decided upon a new direction —we would begin work on our own product.
We rebranded to Unstoppable Domains and set out to launch Web3 domain registries. The final piece fell into place when we brought on Brad Kam – formerly the CEO of Talkable, he quickly became Unstoppable’s “business guy.”
In the years since our launch, we’ve registered over 3 million Web3 domains, integrated with more than 600 apps, and helped hundreds of thousands of people take a huge step in owning their digital lives. We’ve added nine TLDs that let people reflect their individuality, and introduced new features, like Login with Unstoppable, which lets you log in to platforms with just your domain and control what information you share. Most importantly, we’ve built a platform that welcomes everyone – whether you’re a degen or you’re buying your first NFT.
Web3 domains are your username for Web3 – the infrastructure that lets you own your data and our identities. Everything that we have done up to this point has been in an effort to make this a reality.
Our vision at Unstoppable has gone unchanged since these early days. In the short amount of time that has passed since our company’s inception, the importance of individuals owning the digital worlds we inhabit has grown tremendously.
We need the freedom to communicate and transact securely, but without a third party. We need the ability to verify our identities without handing over loads of sensitive information. We need the ability to own our data, our reputation and the economic rewards for the value we create online. And we need to build a new digital world that is truly user-owned and open to all.
All of this starts with individual ownership. Owning your keys, owning your domain, owning your identity. Without this ownership baked into the foundation, we risk repeating the problems of the centralized web that we are trying to escape.
It is our hope that by equipping everyone with a Web3 domain, we can help to usher in this vision for a brighter future.