Solana infrastructure startup Helius today announced that it raised a $3.1 million seed round co-led by Reciprocal Ventures and Chapter One, in an effort to provide the tools to help developers build Web3 applications in less time and for less money.
Co-founded by engineers formerly of Coinbase and Amazon Web Services, Helius raised funds from a number of notable VCs, including Solana Ventures, Alchemy Ventures, Big Brain Ventures, and Propel VC, among other firms, along with angels like Magic Eden co-founder Zhuoxun Yin and Squads co-founder Stepan Simkin.
Mert Mumtaz, co-founder and CEO of Helius, told Decrypt that he started building tools for the Solana ecosystem in summer 2021, ahead of the platform’s surge in attention and value. The ex-Coinbase engineer developed arbitrage bots and tooling for DAOs, and helped with tracking scammers, but said that Solana is a difficult platform to build on.
“The Solana blockchain is quite hard to work with and understand, especially compared to Ethereum,” Mumtaz explained. “We're trying to simplify blockchain data and make it easy to work with and build on top of.”
Building an application on Solana typically requires developers to “set up all sorts of infrastructure and scaffolding first,” Mumtaz explained—and on top of that, the on-chain transactions are “very hard to read.” He said that in some cases, developers have to reverse engineer Solana smart contracts (the code that powers autonomous applications) to understand what’s actually happening.
DEMO: create a Solana webhook in 30 seconds.
Yes, building on Solana is really this simple now. pic.twitter.com/2YjlXrZNLV
— Helius 🕸️🪝 (@heliuslabs) October 13, 2022
Helius aims to help creators leapfrog those hurdles by providing APIs (or application programming interfaces) to understand on-chain data and query transactions, as well as webhooks that enable automations and bots, plus the RPC nodes that let Solana apps interact with the blockchain. All in all, they’re meant to abstract away complexity and streamline app development.
“It will allow developers to build much faster and cheaper,” said Mumtaz. “My hope is that people who are intimidated by crypto development, and people who are coming over from Web2 to Web3, will have a much smoother, easier, and faster onboarding experience to crypto—but also Solana specifically, as well.”
Helius launched public access to its platform today following the rollout of an invite-only alpha test two months ago. The company says that it has onboarded over 400 developers so far, including cross-platform NFT platform Crossmint and NFT project Famous Fox Federation. The seed funds will be used to cover infrastructure costs and hire additional engineers.
Prior to founding Helius, Mumtaz worked with his former Coinbase colleague Carl Cortright to develop a multi-chain developer platform, but they ultimately went their separate ways. Cortright instead founded Coherent, which offers up a similar-sounding suite of tools designed for Ethereum and its scaling networks, and recently raised $4.5 million.
“We realized that building for two chains at the same time was quite ambitious, and each ecosystem has their own needs,” Mumtaz said of the separate startups, citing the differences in data architecture between Ethereum and Solana.
Instead, Mumtaz and his Helius co-founders are focused entirely on Solana, with the goal to “make the entire Solana blockchain human-readable by next year.” In other words, he wants to make it easy for anyone to understand what’s happening on-chain, such as in cases of tracking the actions of scammers.
Helius is opening up to the public not long after the Solana blockchain experienced its latest bout of downtime—the third time it has gone offline so far in 2022, and the fifth major outage to date. Even so, Mumtaz said he’s not concerned about the long-term stability of Solana. He believes that the issues to date have been minor and will be overcome in time.
“I'd be much more concerned if the flaws were fundamentally fatal issues,” he said, “but they're relatively just consequences of Solana shipping quite fast.”
“Of course, downtime is not good,” Mumtaz continued. “It shouldn't be excused or anything, but the causes of the downtime have never been anything fundamentally broken. That’s what gives me confidence.”