One of the areas of blockchain innovation I am most excited about is building open, permissionless, and decentralized technology infrastructure.

The three areas that seem most obvious to me for decentralized infrastructure are compute (code execution), storage (storing files, etc), and bandwidth (network infrastructure).

And today, we are excited to announce that USV has made an investment in a decentralized network infrastructure project called Helium.

My partner Nick, who led this investment for USV, wrote about Helium on the USV blogand explains why we made the investment (as is our practice with all new investments). I would encourage you to read that blog post as it explains a lot about how Helium works, how the token economics builds the supply side of the network infrastructure, and why it fits so neatly into our investment thesis.

I would just like to point out how cool Helium is.

Anyone can run a Helium hotspot in their home:

And then they can earn Helium tokens for doing so.

You can run a hotspot in your home/apartment and do the equvalent of bitcoin mining for network infrastructure.

Helium is optimized for very long distance, low power communications. It is ideal for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Think about electric scooters needing to “phone home” over long distances. Think about your dog’s name tag. Think about figuring out when the school bus is going to arrive at the bus stop.

We plan to run a Helium hotspot or two at USV and it would be great to see people powered Helium networks popping up all over the place and providing very low cost, low power, highly reliable long range network infrastructure.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    The closest to this, is FON https://fon.com/ and it has been very popular in Europe with close to 7 million spots, but that didn’t seem to take off in the US.The interesting novelty to watch with Helium is the token insertion.

    1. jason wright

      “The interesting novelty to watch with Helium is the token insertion.”Which i don’t yet get.

      1. JamesHRH

        Maybe, once a year, your Helium coin can buy you a latte.Its the only thing that I have ever admitted to Fred that BlockChain might enable – IoT solutions.Whether anybody wants to trust a Helium connection for anything IoT is a whole other proposition, but, logically, this is easy to do and has some upside for the hotspot host. How much upside is what will drive the adoption – you are laying out a minimal amount of fiat currency for the juice.

  2. Andrew Lee

    Seems similar in nature to yourkarma.com (provide free Wi-Fi and earn more GB for yourself), but they have struggled recently.

    1. Nick Grossman

      yeah, in a way — but what I particularly like about helium is that it is not targeting a high-end, high-bandwidth use case, but rather a somewhat simpler one, which is low data rate, long range

      1. JamesHRH

        Lousy offerings are the best way to get into a market, if you have time and money.Japanese car makers in NA are a classic example: https://www.autonews.com/ar

  3. Mac

    Earlier in the year, Chris Dixon wrote a blog post titled, ‘Strong and Weak Technologies’. He stated that, “technologies usually arrive in pairs, a strong form and a weak form”. Permissionless blockchains powered by cryptocurrencies were in the ‘Strong’ category.

  4. Richard

    This is interesting, but needs a critical mass of helium nodes.Maybe an innovative leasing program for the hardware.Or built in private use cases – packets of value to the owners – that help with the ROI for the device.Build Helium into the Apple Watch?

  5. jason wright

    The penny hasn’t quite dropped in my mind about the mining of the token and the economics of the model. I might have to sleep on it and hopefully wake up tomorrow with a eureka moment over breakfast.

  6. Eric Friedman

    Feels like this is 10+ years in the making for the USV thesis – great to learn more about and excited to dig in.

    1. Nick Grossman


  7. jason wright

    The first Helium city is Austin.Now who lives in Austin?

    1. Nick Grossman

      it’s actually a coincidence, but that’s where the multicoin team is based. austin is a good city for a bunch of reasons, but largely because it’s flat and full of young people 🙂

      1. pointsnfigures

        Ha, does flat make a difference? Midwest and Florida would be great except for Florida is “God’s Waiting Room”

      2. Emil Sotirov

        And it’s where Dell is… see my comment above… 🙂

    2. JamesHRH


  8. Emil Sotirov

    I wonder if this ends up being more viable as a standard component of a general purpose web3 device (compute+storage+bandwidth) in order to combine all potential web3 incentives/benefits in one attractive consumer package… which can be inexpensive because multipurpose drives scale.

    1. Michael Elling

      Not really, because they are using the processing and storage for an expensive blockchain solution. Instead, look at Veea.com, which allows truly distributed edge proceessing across a variety of layer 2 topologies.

  9. sigmaalgebra

    Revenue model?Barrier to entry?Size of market?

    1. Richard

      This is why the investment takes 10-15 years to pan out!

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Ah, you are cruel, SO cruel, HOW can you be so CRUEL??????!!!!!! :-)!!!!

      2. Michael Elling

        No problem. The tech depreciates in 6 months. But the hotspot owner (aka sucker) shoulders the risk. Once again, a model where risks are imbalanced; just like the entire internet!

  10. CJ

    I saw the title in my email inbox and thought you were weighing in on the growing Helium shortage.This isn’t too bad either. Seems like a pretty cool device and idea. Puts me in the mind of a real network for those Trackr devices and such. They would benefit a lot from an IoT network they can tap for geolocation.

  11. awaldstein

    Fascinating.I like how both the structure of communities and the structure of our networks are both atomic in some ways.In the community perspective, a leap of massive change beyond the old Chasm Crossing config, with networks similarly so though struggling for the analog.

  12. jason wright

    “Because hotspot fees are set by their owners, the network represents an open market with dynamic pricing and genuine competition.”Is there any scope for a hotspot owner to add value to their service to differentiate themselves from another hotspot owner operating in the same city? Competing only on price leads to a bloodbath. Where’s the economic incentive?

  13. Mike

    Very interesting. Would love to see more details on the business plan. My thinking on IoT is to focus on specific problems within industry verticals. Infrastructure and network investment seems more risky as it is hard to predict what applications and use cases may or may not emerge in the future. But no doubt, long range, low power, low data rate should address a range of needs.

  14. Richard

    Too bad the blockchain crowd is so fixed on profiting on the cryptocurrency – they Howey problem vs the business model shared rev with helium nose holder or sales of nodes.Have end users pay Helium node holder pay in Starbucks points.Savings savings could offset lease Payment.

  15. Nick Grossman

    I am hoping that that price point comes down quickly

  16. pointsnfigures

    Right, thinking “If I buy one for $495, how long is my payback period to break even and at what point do I run the operation where MC=MR?”

  17. jason wright

    The real question is “Will Coinbase be listing Helikon?”