Yesterday DeFi firm Aave announced that it had raised a $15 million funding round for its Lens Protocol which aims to enable portable social profiles. General Catalyst led the round with a long list of high profile crypto backers. Surprisingly the text didn’t mention the participation of Tencent, the owner of China’s WeChat, one of the world’s largest social media companies. Only Meta’s properties and Youtube have larger audiences.
In today’s social media world, each social media platform holds the user’s data, their social graph, follower network and the content they create. This data is generally not portable, although Twitter plans to support some portability for creators. Lens Protocol aims to change that by providing a user controlled social profile on top of which numerous web3 decentralized apps can be built.
“People are driven to connect and share with others – be it news, photos, entertainment, opinions, etcetera,” said Stani Kulechov, founder of Lens Protocol. “Lens creates a more social, open, equitable and democratic internet – one that is secured by blockchain technology and governed by participants. By preserving digital identity and enabling portability, Lens alters the internet landscape.”
Tencent’s role and web3
One can only speculate why Tencent’s involvement in the Lens funding was played down. It may have been a small investor, or it could be that anything to do with China is now controversial. As a price for doing business in China, WeChat has to impose censorship on its user’s content, which conflicts with the Lens ethos of user control.
The Chinese firm has been active in blockchain for years, but more on the permissioned blockchain side of things, given that cryptocurrency is taboo in China. It launched NFTs in China – or digital collectibles as they are called there – but subsequently voluntarily shut it down.
However, outside China, it has no such restrictions. It even hosted a web3 conference in Singapore earlier this year. A big chunk of Tencent’s revenues come from gaming, so last year it invested in ImmutableX, a blockchain scaling protocol focusing on the gaming sector. Tencent Cloud also provides a web3 hosting solution.