As Ethereum and other blockchain protocols started taking off several years back, Michael O’Rourke recognized a fundamental flaw associated with those building in the relatively new space.
While more people were building on top of the blockchain, they relied on a single service provider. “We got the sense that there would be 1000s of blockchains in the future, so I really started to think deeply about it and started designing a new protocol,” he told Hypepotamus.
To bridge that gap O’Rourke launched Pocket Network, which he described as “Amazon Web Services for Web3.” The Tampa-based startup works as a middleware protocol “in between an app and the blockchain that they’re trying to communicate with,” O’Rourke added. “Effectively we are providing data to these applications in a decentralized way.”
Those building on blockchain have requests sent to 1000s of independent full nodes, as opposed to relying on a single service provider. This is particularly important in the growing world of Web3. While Web3 allows users to “reach consensus on ownership” on the internet, O’Rourke added that there continues to be bottlenecks and “areas of risk” the higher you go up the stack.
Pocket Network users are companies building an app on a blockchain, be it wallets, games, or exchanges.
Those users have grown drastically over the last year — up from 7 million requests a day in July 2021 to 350 million by January, according to O’Rourke. “We hope to get well into the billions by the end of the year,” he added.
The startup recently landed a $10 million venture round, led by Republic Capital, RockTree Capital, Arrington Capital, and C² Ventures.
O’Rourke said his international upbringing and his previous work at credit unions helped pique his interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. He said it took about three and a half years for the startup to gain traction, but now the team has grown to over 40 people “probably across every single timezone.”
While a remote-first company, O’Rourke sees Tampa is a particularly good place to build a blockchain-focused startup. He credits The Tampa Bay Bitcoin Meetup, which has been running since 2014 and boasts over 1,300 members in its online community, for building up the ecosystem.
O’Rourke isn’t the only one optimistic about the blockchain community growing in the Tampa area. Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO at Embarc Collective, told Hypepotamus that she is particularly “excited about the variety of blockchain uses” seen across Tampa-based startups.
“What’s interesting to me is that we have a lot of companies here who are not necessarily leading with Blockchain when they’re talking about themselves…but they are leveraging blockchain technology to be able to do things better,” Shenoy added. That includes InsurTech ventures like TrustLayer, supply chain startups like RB Technologies, and developer tools like BlockSpaces.