Editor’s note: This article is part of a multimedia series called “Tomorrow’s Unicorns: A look inside Raleigh’s $1B startup pipeline,” produced in conjunction with Innovate Raleigh. The series aims to spotlight some of the region’s homegrown startups tipped to hit the $1-billion valuation mark, thus becoming a so-called “unicorn” in the language of investors, in the near future.
RALEIGH – The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in supply chains across all industries.
But this Raleigh blockchain startup says it’s got the “quick button” solution, and it already counts corporations like Shell, Sony and Citibank as users.
Meet Kaleido, founded by some former IBMers, which is solving “age-old” problems using the emerging technology of blockchain.
“Like a lot of startups, COVID-19 was an interesting, unexpected curveball,” its co-founder and CEO Steve Cerveny told WRAL TechWire. “But what our clients have told us is that it was an impetus for them to really accelerate their digital transformation roadmap. Blockchain fits under that umbrella, and we’re seeing a big acceleration.”
For the record, blockchain is essentially a shared digital ledger. When transactions are made, they cannot be changed, creating a permanent record. Bitcoin is just one example. But as Kaleido’s platform demonstrates, anything of value can be transferred to the blockchain.
Since launching its platform in 2018, its cross-cloud platform has been deployed in a range of industries generating more than 1 billion blocks mined on the Ethereum blockchain, according to the firm.
Headquartered out of Raleigh Founded’s Capital Club on West Martin Street, they say Kaleido is growing at an astonishingly clip – “around “3-5X, depending on market segment” – though they remain tightlipped on exact numbers.
It’s landed partnerships with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure. It’s also the top-rated product for both its blockchain-as-a-service and blockchain platform on G2, besting tech giants Amazon, Ethereum and Salesforce.
It’s doing so well that it can even afford to give away some of its assets. (It open sourced a product called Firefly, a multi-party system for enterprise data flows, a few months back.)
“There’s a once-in-a-generation shift to digitize enterprise back-office systems,” Lopez said. “We are laser focused on growth and leaning into this huge shift.”
“The barrier to building is coming down by a couple orders of magnitude,” added Cerveny. “At the end of the day, people want to build apps to do things, and enterprises are no different.”
The global blockchain market is expected to skyrocket from $6 billion in 2021 to reach $56.7 billion by 2026 – an impressive 56.9% jump.
Back in 2015, Cerveny and Lopez worked at IBM, heading up its blockchain development program from its RTP campus when they spotted a gap in the market.
“There was nothing in the space that helped multiple companies come together, put their data on the ledger and just start working together easily,” recalled Lopez, who has an engineering degree from Harvard University and an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Cerveny, meanwhile, holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering from Case Western and an MBA degree from Duke University.
So they built it – a platform that “accelerates and simplifies” creating and operating of a blockchain network, “saving organizations months and millions in the process.”
It was at a critical time in their personal lives. (Outside of Kaleido, Lopez is a single mother of four. Cerveny is also a father to four young children.)
They found an early backer in ConsenSys, a blockchain software technology company founded by Joseph Lubin with headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. It invests in companies developing applications on the Ethereum blockchain.
In its early days, Kaleido spent time incubating inside the ConsenSys venture studio model until it spun out last year. By that time, it had secured partnerships with AWS and Azure.
Today, the platform now has thousands of use cases, from big-name companies to lone developers.
“Every week we [hear] from people who are coming up with amazing ways to use the platform,” Lopez said. “Just developers who might be in an emerging tech team or innovation lab at a company, or they’re a startup with great idea.”
One example: Project i2i, a payment network built using Kaleido’s platform, which connects rural community banks in the Philippines. It started as a network of six participating banks in 2019. It now has 100s of rural banks and over 2000 branches onboarded. It’s also planning other projects that include cross border settlement and the Philippines’ first digital stablecoin for banking transactions.
Another includes Komgo, which recently created a private, shared blockchain business network to modernize global trade finance.
“In less than six months we were able to get 15 global stakeholders (comprising of the top 20 banks in the world and oil majors) running in production using Kaleido,” Komgo’s CEO Souleïma Baddi said in testimonial. It’s just one of several use cases that can be found on Kaleido’s website.
“Kaleido recognized a need [for blockchain-as-a-service] early on,” said blockchain analyst Martha Bennett. “Providing support for more than one blockchain framework is a differentiator.”
At present, Kaleido’s team stands at around 22.
For the time being, they plan to remain headquartered at Raleigh Founded, the old stomping grounds of another newly anointed $1-billion Raleigh company, Pendo, otherwise known as a “unicorn.”
Meanwhile, a fund raise could be on the cards “potentially later this year.”
“We don’t need to do a raise,” Lopez said, “but we’ve certainly had a lot of people reaching out to us, from small to large.”
One thing is certain, there’s going to be no early exits. “No, no, no, we want to take this all the way. We’d like to build a big, worldwide, corporation here,” she said. “Part of having careers in enterprise IT is the excitement of building something and seeing it grow through all the phases, all the way to going public. It’s part of why we’re doing this. It’s not just a quick way to get some cash.
Pendo started at Raleigh Founded, and it now has its new headquarters building being developed downtown.
Lopez is looking to do the same.
“It would be great have Kaleido on Raleigh’s skyline too. It’s not unreasonable.”
This editorial package was produced with funding support from Innovate Raleigh and other partners. WRAL TechWire retains full editorial control of all content.