Story: How Blockus Cofounders Met

Story: How Blockus Cofounders Met

Blockus co-founders, at a16z CSS office in Santa Monica. Photo credit: JP Ren

How it all Begun at Airbnb

It was a sunny September morning in 2017, Jess walked into Airbnb on her first day of work. Looking around, new coworkers everywhere. “Hey, I’m Linglong.” Says an engineer with a pair of Android earrings. 

Great partnerships always start in the most innocuous ways. After a couple lunches together, a friendship forms. The pair worked on the Guest team together, and would go on to build 20+ features for Airbnb’s search page. The most controversial - transparent pricing on P2. But like they say, brutal AB test debates bond people together. Jess being the Data Scientist, looking at results from the user’s perspective alone, and Linglong being the engineer, looking at things from an architectural standpoint, certainly disagree vehemently at times. “We need to kill this feature because metrics are neutral” Jess states. “But look it didn’t hurt the users, and improves performance while streamlining architecture” pushes back Linglong.

Debates like this happen often, yet Jess and Linglong remained close friends, going on trips to Miami 5 years later, shortly after Jess moved to the city in Spring of 2021.

Jess and Linglong at Everglades National Park, April 2021

Jess meets Michael in Miami

It was in Miami where Jess met Michael. Introduced through tech circles and the Coinbase network, Michael and Jess first met at a house party at Hyde in Midtown Miami. Under the backdrop of a NFT bull market in full bloom, the two talked in depth about the future of crypto, or now called, Web3.

Both agreed - NFT PFPs are not the end of it all, and NFTs are the start of the intersection of Web3 and culture. The pair carried conversations all across Miami, from Oasis to Lagniappe, Wynwood bar to Japanese sushi restaurant, in between talks of Michael’s upcoming wedding planning, and Jess’ love of scuba diving and her parent’s potential retirement in Florida. From PFP degen to Web3 identity, how broken current game publishing is to how Web3 could be the future, Michael and Jess chatted in depth about their current perspective, and envisioned a bold future.

Photo taken at the second Blockus side event @ GDC 2023

Blockus Begins

Seeing the success of Web3 in the cultural realm, Jess left Roblox in July 2022 and began actively exploring ideas at the intersection of Web3 and gaming. She felt strongly about the next bull market being all about NFT gaming.  Separately, Linglong has been exploring Web3 ideas in stealth mode for a year. After 3 idea attempts and going through YC co-founder matching with little success, a quick chat made the two realize they should join forces. 

Jess brought the 10 year futuristic vision, but with Linglong’s presence, a real business model around payments began to emerge. A formidable team formed, fresh on the scene.

YCombinator Offer & a16z CSS Acceptance

While exploring Blockus, Jess and Linglong's strong background attracted attention from a wide range of investors. From that came interesting connections, including angel investments from top East Coast Coinbase angels including Ada Yeo, Dmytro Korol and Cece Zhang.

Being big fans of YCombinator, with both founders consuming the content on a weekly basis, Linglong pushed for the pair to apply. Meanwhile, Jess met a16z Crypto people through multiple touch points, knowing the firm as the premier Web3 investor, without knowledge of the team quietly putting together its own incubator.

By the time YC interview slots rolled around in early November 2022, Blockus already had 4 LOIs open with game studios and was actively building with these Design Partners. With traction, an YC offer landed the same day. 

With a hint from Holly Liu, one of Jess’s mentors, Jess made a point to reach out to Jeff Amico who runs CSS to share that they've landed a YC offer. Jeff and team hopped on an interview call. Within 24 hours, a CSS offer came through signed by Chris Dixon. With a16z's reputation and expertise on all fronts including recruiting, security and compliance, Jess and Linglong chatted and decided to take it on the spot, becoming the first team officially accepted into a16z CSS.

Blockus co-founders, at their Santa Monica Office

Michael’s Addition

Being great Miami friends who actively shared thoughts on Web3 future, Michael was excited to help when he heard Jess is starting a new adventure. Maintaining the active discussions on future of Web3, Michael introduced one of his closest friends Marc Bhargava, who became one of the earliest angel investors into Blockus.

Things changed at Michael’s wedding in November 2022. Michael is one of the most humble people on Earth and does not ever speak to his amazing list of accomplishments. However, at Michael’s wedding, Marc as the groomsmen made a moving speech on Michael being the best first co-founder he’s worked with. That speech had Jess switching gears on seeing Michael’s role in her company in a completely new light. She then swiftly moved to do a stealth in-depth DD with the wedding guests, going from Michael’s parents, his ex-coworkers to his high school best friends. After that wedding, Jess had her eyes set on bringing Michael on as the third cofounder.

Fast forward to February 2023. Seeing Michael's experience with institutional-grade crypto security as the perfect third prong for Blockus, Jess made the ask. It wasn't a hard sell - those conversations in Miami already enforced a strong common vision and the excitement was mutual. Michael saw how the two of them had strong complementary personalities and skill sets - ENTJ vs INTP, charismatic and bold vs thoughtful and steady. He agreed to join within 24 hours, and the rest is history. 

Blockus co-founders, at a16z CSS