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Photo: Peter Travers / Getty Images

Orchid Labs says that it has developed blockchain-based protocol that lets users access the internet free of censorship, restrictions, and surveillance.

Why it could be a big deal: Orchid co-founder co-founder Steve Bell tells Axios that the idea originated from internet restrictions he experienced while during his time living and investing in China. And because Orchid's network is decentralized — it exists by virtue of its users operating Orchid software on their computers — it can't be shut down or controlled by a government or single entity. Not surprisingly, San Francisco-based Orchid's lofty ambitions caught the attention of top investors like Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

"I think a free Internet is a really important thing for society and they're solving it in a very elegant way through technology," says Sequoia partner Matt Huang. "This type of network is, to us, one of the most exciting first applications of the blockchain computational sharing economies."

How it works: The main idea is to incentivize people with unused internet bandwidth to share it with other users (presumably in places with restrictions), in exchange for payment via Orchid's Ethereum-based tokens. The company also says it's a more viable option than Tor and virtual private networks (VPNs), which are increasingly difficult to access in places like China.

The team: Orchid's co-founders include entrepreneur and investor Steve Bell, former Pantera Capital partner Steve Waterhouse, former Ethereum developer Gustav Simonsson, developer Jay Freeman (best known for jailbroken iOS device software), and Brian J. Fox, author of the GNU Bash Shell. Orchid's advisors include Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood and Stanford cryptography professor Dan Boneh.

Funding: Orchid has raised a $4.7 million in seed funding via a SAFT (loosely, a convertible note promising future tokens) from an investor group that includes Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, DFJ, Polychain Capital, Metastable, Blockchain Capital, Crunchfund, Struck Capital, Compound VC and Richard Muirhead.

What's next:

Orchid plans to make its network and tokens publicly available next year through a public sale. One source tells Axios that early talk is about raising up to $350 million, although Bell says the company has no target.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Warren Buffett resigns from Gates Foundation board

Buffett and Bill Gates in 2015. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — the second-largest philanthropy in the world — is now governed by just two trustees, after Warren Buffett announced on Wednesday that he had resigned his position there.

Why it matters: The two remaining trustees, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, are going through a divorce.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

U.K. denies Russia fired warning shots at destroyer in Black Sea

The HMS Defender in the port of Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast on June 18. Photo: Konstantin Sazonchik\TASS via Getty Images

Russia's defense ministry claimed Wednesday that a Russian warship and fighter jet fired "warning" shots at the British Royal Navy’s HMS Defender destroyer for encroaching on waters near Crimea in the Black Sea.

The latest: The U.K.'s ministry of defense disputed that any warning shots were fired, saying in a statement, "We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior-warning of their activity."

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: WaPo Trump book's secret title revealed

Cover: Penguin Press

The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker will be out July 20 with "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year," Penguin Press announced.

Breaking: Axios has learned that The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender is moving "Frankly, We Did Win the Election" up to July 20, matching Leonnig-Rucker, from his earlier pub date of Aug. 10.

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