The first crypto dating show raised $6 million to build the ‘Netflix of Web3’ with help from Paris Hilton

April 25, 2022, 1:00 PM UTC

Mad Realities, a company that wants to become the “Web3 version of Netflix,” just raised $6 million after launching what might be the first-ever crypto dating show. 

The seed round was led by Paradigm, the venture capital firm founded by Coinbase cofounder Fred Ehrsam and former Sequoia Capital partner Matt Huang. It includes investors like Paris Hilton’s media company 11:11 Media, OK Play cofounder Chris Ovitz, and many others. 

“We know what is strategic and what we needed for this company, and we went and got it,” Mad Realities cofounder and CTO Alice Ma, 26, told Fortune. Cofounder and CEO Devin Lewtan, 23, added that the Mad team “manifested” Hilton’s investment: “We were really, really bullish on getting Paris Hilton.”

Before this round, Ma and Lewtan raised over $500,000 to create their first show, Proof of Love, by selling NFTs that represent membership to the Mad Realities platform. With the funds, Ma, Lewtan, and their team started posting episodes of Proof of Love—a YouTube show that feels similar to The Bachelorette but even sillier—in March. 

But Ma and Lewtan have big plans beyond their first show. They plan to create more content, with the ultimate goal of building a decentralized media company to compete with streaming services and television networks. 

‘Like a crypto Netflix’

Proof of Love was named as a nod to blockchain mechanisms like “proof of work” or “proof of stake,” which dictate how transactions are validated for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others. 

Though its most-viewed episode has just about 6,400 views, Proof of Love has garnered a fandom and appreciation from the crypto community. Hundreds of people attend the show’s live shoots and hang out. And Mad Realities has over 1,000 members in its Discord group chat. 

A collage of members from the Mad Realities team.
The Mad Realities team as a collage.
Courtesy of Mad Realities

By raising funds with NFTs, Ma and Lewtan were able to retain creative control of the project and decided to work with fans to build out the series. 

While crowdfunding, they sold six types of “Rose Ticket” NFTs at different price points. Each NFT promised holders different perks.

The Sangria Rose Ticket NFT allows holders to have a say in what happens on the show. The Sequin Rose Ticket NFT enables holders to earn a producer credit and get “a video of everyone at in person events bowing down to you,” as Mad’s crowdfunding website states. Other Rose Ticket NFTs have different allowances, like the ability to put your friend in the show, play host or another role of choice in the show, and so on. 

When building out Mad Realities further and launching other shows, Ma and Lewtan plan to keep things interactive by driving the content around what fans want or choose, they said.

“Long term, we want this to be a decentralized media platform, where at its core we focus on shared experiences and co-creation and ownership at the community layer,” Lewtan said. “So you can imagine, like, a crypto Netflix, but every show has its own community behind it, [with] the relationship much more double-sided between the creator and the audience.”

With their latest funding round, the cofounders plan to hire an engineering and development team, they said. 

Ma and Lewtan hope to “upturn” the media industry, they said, adding that Proof of Love was, well, just proof of concept for Mad Realities. 

“We have this plan for a much larger thing. We want to generate this really strong connection with [the] younger generation and bring the next 100 million people into crypto by creating both a brand, but also a protocol,” Lewtan said. “We think content is the thing that’s going to bring the next 100 million people in.”

Though they recognize some people see crypto as “scammy,” Ma and Lewtan contend that their brand isn’t. They’re doxed and say they’ve shown follow-through after Proof of Love.  

Ma, a former core member of the ConstitutionDAOa group of friends that raised over $40 million to try and buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution last year—sees Mad Realities’ dating show as the “perfect starting point” for what they’re building, noting that big content sites like Facebook and YouTube started with a “dating use case.” 

“The show piloted a totally new business model for media,” Ma said.

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