Facebook Does Its First Blockchain Acquisition

Facebook has made its first acquisition in the blockchain space.

The social network has hired the team behind Chainspace, a small blockchain startup founded by researchers from University College London. Chainspace was building a decentralized “smart contracts” system that could facilitate payments and other services through blockchain technology.

The acquisition of Chainspace’s team is the clearest sign yet of Facebook’s ambition to be a big player in the blockchain industry.

One of Chainspace’s goals was to improve the speed of transactions through blockchain technology, which currently functions much slower than traditional financial institutions like Visa. The researchers behind Chainspace were also looking at how blockchain and decentralization could be applied to areas outside of payments, like polling.

Four of the five researchers behind Chainspace’s academic white paper are joining Facebook’s blockchain group, according to people familiar with the matter. Two of the white paper authors, Alberto Sonnino and George Danezis (on the photo above), already list their employment as blockchain researchers in Facebook’s London office on LinkedIn.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Cheddar that the company had hired employees from Chainspace but declined to comment on specific hires. Facebook isn’t acquiring any of Chainspace’s technology, according to the spokesperson, who referred to an earlier statement about the company’s blockchain efforts:

“Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.”

More than 40 people work in Facebook’s blockchain division currently, and Facebook has shown interest in hiring other teams behind blockchain-related projects like Chainspace.

It’s unclear how much Facebook paid for an acquisition in the blockchain space. Chainspace was in the process of raising an initial round of funding of less than $4 million, according to people familiar with the matter. Early backers of Chainspace include Lemniscap and MW Partners.