Entrepreneur Pivots From Web 2.0 to Web3 With Startup Proof of Learn
Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out last quarter’s NYC round-up here.
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To some, Care.com founder Sheila Marcelo’s pivot into Web3 may come as a surprise. After all, Marcelo built the online marketplace that connects families and caregivers in 2006 and took it public in 2014. By 2020, she sold the company, and one year later was building her next venture, Proof of Learn, as a Web3 platform.
NYC-based Proof of Learn is a Web3 education platform that aims to enhance the skills of coders and blockchain builders in under-resourced global communities. Marcelo told Built In via email that her decision to build a Web3 company started after she was initially exploring investment opportunities in the sector.
As she was researching the Web3 realm, Marcelo watched a documentary about how a 65-year-old woman in the rural Philippines was able to change her financial situation by engaging in play-to-earn cryptocurrency games. This inspired her to bring that same opportunity to others.
“I’ve always had a passion for education and observing play-to-earn has inspired the concept of learn-and-earn,” Marcelo said. “I saw how it could help meet a growing demand for accessible, high-quality education around the world. A common theme was emerging wherever I looked — there was a shortage of talent needed to quickly enter Web3 to actually help build the metaverse.”
From there, Marcelo decided to build Proof of Learn with her co-founders, Kevin Yang, a Web3 developer, and Lauren Tornow, a former colleague from Care.com.
Together, the trio created Proof of Learn last year as a way for people to learn how to navigate building blockchain and code in Web3. Since launching, the company has raised $17 million in seed funding alongside receiving a $4.5 million grant from Solana Foundation, Flow Foundation, Avalanche Foundation and Polygon Funds, according to Proof of Learn.
We see Web3 as a huge and hugely accessible opportunity to bring equity to underserved communities.”
Proof of Learn has been using its funding to expand its platform and deliver on its company mission. Additional funds have been used to build global design-a-thons that offer $20,000 in prizes. Emerging Web3 designers on a global scale can participate in the competitions alone or with a team.
Earlier this summer, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Proof of Learn debuted its premier project Metacrafters — a learn-and-earn game that teaches developers to write smart contracts and build on the blockchain.
According to Marcelo, the game offers financial incentives as users learn the ropes and upskill their understanding of Web 2.0 coding and pivot to Web3. This financial model helps people, especially those in underserved communities, gain access to a skill set that can lead them to careers that pay more.
People living in places like India and the Philippines — where Marcelo is from — often do the same work as developers in the other parts of the world, but are only paid a fraction of what they would make if they worked in the U.S. and the E.U., Marcelo said.
“We see Web3 as a huge and hugely accessible opportunity to bring equity to underserved communities,” she said.
As Proof of Learn continues to expand, Marcelo said that the company is always hiring. It currently has roles to fill in engineering, blockchain development and more.