A16z gets ‘digi-physical’ with $17M funding for IYK

Replicating designer merch isn’t a far-fetched idea. A bold few may indeed attempt it, proudly displaying what appears to be genuine accessories.

Web3 startup IYK, which stands for “If You Know,” emerged with the concept of ensuring the legitimacy of fashion items and other merchandise, while offering fans unique consumer interactions.

On Thursday, IYK, co-founded by Ryan Ouyang and Christopher Lee, revealed that it raised $16.8 million in seed round funding. 

This round was spearheaded by A16z crypto and included participation from Collab Currency, Lattice Capital, 1kx, Synergis Capital, among others.

IYK — serving clients such as Adidas, 9dcc and VÉRITÉ — is founded on the idea of embedding NFC (near-field communication) chips within merchandise or apparel. 

This technology enables consumers to effortlessly tap their smartphones on items like T-shirts to confirm their authenticity. 

In exchange, customers receive NFTs and the possibility of exclusive offerings from brands. 

Meanwhile, businesses gain insights into their merchandise ownership and maintain direct communication with customers.

Ouyang, one of the co-founders, shared IYK’s journey in a recent X thread. 

He recounted how he crossed paths with his partner, Lee, in the summer of 2021 on Discord. Together, they ventured into the world of Web3 projects, ranging from NFT sniping bots to online scavenger hunts.

One day, Ouyang found himself frustrated while waiting in a Ticketmaster queue to purchase tickets for a John Mayer concert. Despite being a frequent concertgoer for Mayer’s shows and a top 0.01% streamer, he had to compete against ticket-snatching bots for seats.

This experience made him realize that artists lacked the tools needed to maintain a strong connection with their real-world audience and devoted fans.

The realization sparked the idea that eventually evolved into IYK. After acquiring NFC chips, they set out to create a prototype of their concept.

IYK recently partnered with Adidas for an exclusive limited shirt release tied to NFT NYC 2023. In this collaboration, they created a total of just 152 shirts. 

The company defines its platform as a user-friendly gateway accessible to brands, musicians, artists and creators of all kinds to help them create “digi-physical” products without requiring technical expertise.

IYK’s recent fundraising is noteworthy in light of the tough funding environment for blockchain startups prevailing today.

The company secured this round after participating in the A16z Crypto Startup School, a twelve-week accelerator program hosted by the venture capital firm, focused on supporting emerging startups within the sector.

Blockchain fundraising has been challenging due to a prolonged slowdown in funding, heightened scrutiny and concerns about the macroeconomic environment.

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