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

Apple's antitrust fight turns Epic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Millions of angry gamers may soon join the chorus of voices calling for an antitrust crackdown on Apple, as the iPhone giant faces a new lawsuit and PR blitz from Epic Games, maker of mega-hit Fortnite.

Why it matters: Apple is one of several Big Tech firms accused of violating the spirit, if not the letter, of antitrust law. A high-profile lawsuit could become a roadmap for either building a case against tech titans under existing antitrust laws or writing new ones better suited to the digital economy.

Survey: Fears grow about Social Security’s future

Data: AARP survey of 1,441 U.S. adults conducted July 14–27, 2020 a ±3.4% margin of error at the 95% confidence level; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Younger Americans are increasingly concerned that Social Security won't be enough to wholly fall back on once they retire, according to a survey conducted by AARP — in honor of today's 85th anniversary of the program — given first to Axios.

Why it matters: Young people's concerns about financial insecurity once they're on a restricted income are rising — and that generation is worried the program, which currently pays out to 65 million beneficiaries, won't be enough to sustain them.

Axios-SurveyMonkey poll: Doubts over fair election results

SurveyMonkey poll of 2,847 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 11–12, 2020 with ±3% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

One in four Americans is worried their ballot won't be accurately counted this year, and four in 10 worry mail-in voting could yield less reliable results, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

The big picture: Partisan identification is a massive driver of distrust in both categories — and the stakes are huge this year.