Update (May 25): Following the publication of this article, a Piermont Bank spokesperson contacted The Block and denied any involvement or partnership with Pebble. This story has been updated to reflect the spokesperson's comments. This report has also been updated with allegations by Eco founder Andy Bromberg about Pebble's conduct. Pebble did not respond to requests for comment.
Pebble, a crypto app that lets people save, spend and send money, has raised $6.2 million in a seed funding round as it plans to find a product-market fit.
Investors included Y Combinator, Lightshed Ventures, Cadenza Capital, East Ventures, Orange DAO and Global Founders Capital. Angel investors, including Odell Beckham Jr of the National Football League; Matthew Bellamy, lead singer of the Muse band; and Richard Ma, CEO of blockchain audit firm Quantstamp, also joined the round.
There was no lead investor in the round, but Lightshed Ventures was the largest investor, Pebble's co-founder and CEO Aaron Bai told The Block in an interview. Bai added that this was an equity funding round and brought Pebble's valuation to $65 million.
How Pebble works
Pebble's key offering is a savings account that currently provides a 5% interest rate. Users need to deposit fiat (US dollars) in its app. Pebble then converts those US dollars into USDC stablecoins. It then lends those USDC coins to its lending partners. In the process, it receives a commission from lending partners.
"Our lending partners give us 8% to 9% depending upon the market demand for USDC," Sahil Phadnis, co-founder and CTO of Pebble, said in the interview. Pebble's current lending partners are Vauld and Wyre, Phadnis added.
As for Pebble's exchange and custody partners, they are Prime Trust and Piermont Bank, respectively, said Phadnis.
After the publication of this article, a Piermont Bank spokesperson reached out to The Block, saying that Pebble's claim that it is a customer of Piermont Bank "is incorrect and there are no partnerships between them in discussion."
Andy Bromberg, CEO of crypto saving app Eco, also reached out to The Block after the publication of this article, alleging that Pebble has "massively" plagiarized Eco. He later also posted a lengthy Twitter thread explaining how Pebble has copied and pasted “everything” from Eco.
Phadnis and Bai did not respond to The Block’s multiple requests for comment on the claimed Piermont Bank partnership and Bromberg's allegations.
Customer acquisition plans
When asked how Pebble plans to acquire customers in the current bearish market scenario and especially after Terra's crisis, Phadnis said inflation is rising and people are looking for alternative investment options, so customer acquisition "will not be extremely difficult."
Bai said Pebble's business model is market agnostic, meaning the bear market conditions shouldn't impact its business. According to Bai, borrowers, i.e., large institutional clients, need USDC not just for buying crypto but also for shorting, longing, and various other trading strategies. And borrowers put 150% collateral, so Pebble is a safer option, according to Phadnis.
The Pebble app is currently in private beta with nearly 100 people, said Phadnis. "In the next three months, we are looking to onboard between 2500 and 5000 people and then get up to 100,000 people by the end of the year," he added.
Pebble will initially be available only to US residents, but the firm has plans for international expansion by the year-end. The firm has shortlisted Southeast Asia markets, including Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia, as its targeted markets for expansion, said Phadnis.
To that end, Pebble plans to expand its current team of four to around eight in the near future. "We want to stay lean and mean," said Phadnis.
Besides a savings account, Pebble will also provide 5% cashback to its users at its over 50 partnered merchants such as Uber and Amazon. It will also issue a Mastercard debit card to let users spend their funds, pay bills and it will offer reward points called "Pebbles."
"Our mission is to onboard the next 100 million people into crypto," said Bai.
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