Spatial Labsa web3 infrastructure and hardware company, today announced the closing of a $10 million seed round led by Blockchain Capital with participation from Marcy Venture Partners, the company co-founded by Jay-Z. Iddris Sandu founded Spatial Labs in 2020, with the aim of creating products and shopping experiences using augmented reality.
“The metaverse for us is not a virtual space where people go to spend time. It’s a world where we can add more context to your real world and make your real world more enjoyable,” Sandu told australiabusinessblog.com. “We will be responsible for catalyzing a completely new generation to be more aware of their environment; more aware of how they spend and how they buy.”
“It’s always crypto winter to be a black founder.” Iddris Sandu, founder of Spatial Labs
The Spatial Labs company made waves in the industry two years ago by selling clothing designed by Sandu that was embedded with a microchip called LNQ (pronounced link) that provided consumers with the item’s provenance and ownership history, viewable, of course, at the blockchain.
Almost like a QR code, tapping the LNQ chip with an online unlocked phone and personal experiences, such as virtual concerts. Last year, Spatial Labs launched a marketplace for buying and selling items. It also sold microchips to those who wanted to sell their own embedded products and upload their own exclusive offers for potential buyers. For example, the chip allows brands to add loyalty programs directly to their products instead of, say, signing someone up for an email list. To access the loyalty benefits, consumers simply need to bring their phone near the chip seeded into the article purchased from the brand.
“There was a time when nutrition facts weren’t available on products, so people just consumed everything,” Sandu said. “We want to give and create a new nutrition facts ecosystem for the products you post On your body, as well as the objects you put in your house.”
This seed round makes Sandu, now 25, one of the youngest black men to raise a double-digit seed round — and a solo founder. He is already part of a somewhat thin club. According to Crunchbase data, only 1% of all VC funds were allocated to Black founders last year; of the $21.5 billion raised by web3 startups worldwide last year, $60 million went to US-based Black web3 founders, including Sandu.
He said it took about six months to complete his round. When asked what it was like to raise during what was also a crypto winter, he said that for Black founders there is little difference between a bear market and a bull market due to ongoing funding discrimination. “It’s always crypto winter to be a black founder,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it.”
With the new capital, Spatial Labs plans to further scale its blockchain-based technology and expand into other industries, such as media and entertainment. It also plans to launch a device called Node later this year to simplify how long it takes to develop and deploy augmented reality experiences. “We are also thinking about lowering the barrier to entry to web3 and augmented reality using our chip technology,” continues Sandu.
Sandu has come a long way from where he started. Born in Accra, Ghana, he moved to Los Angeles with his family at the age of three. Inspired by the launch of the iPhone, he spent time in his local libraries, first in Compton and later in Harbor City after his family moved, teaching himself computer programming in hopes of becoming an entrepreneur one day.
In high school, he worked for Google and built his own apps. Recognized by then-President Barack Obama for his work in STEM, he dropped out of MIT to focus on building technology, consulted Twitter, Snapchat, and Rihanna, created software for Uber, and helped create the first smart shop with the late Nipsey Hussel.
At the same time, he realized there was an information gap affecting black youth like himself, where even his textbooks at Compton were out of date.
“If you want to keep people out of space, the easiest way to do that is to create information separatism,” Sandu said. He considers himself lucky because he managed to push boundaries at a young age, but notes that it shouldn’t be. Next year, he hopes to launch a personal fund to support people of color and will focus on technology and hardware innovation.
But until then, he’s building Spatial Labs. He wants it to be one of the fastest growing unicorns and generally wants to inspire the next generation of technologists; of course he also wants to make products that, well, change the world.
“For me, legacy is about the number of lives we can impact, more than the number of products we can sell,” he said.
“It is the purpose for which I feel I have been called here,” continued Sandu. “Opening doors and holding them for as long as possible and ultimately making sure those doors just don’t exist. No one can be the gatekeeper if there is no door there.”