Allan Curtis, CEO of Denver-based Radar Relay

Inside the meteoric rise of Fort Collins-born Radar Relay

Courtesy Radar Relay

FORT COLLINS — What started in part as a small cryptocurrency club at Colorado State University has grown into a startup that recently closed on a $10 million Series A with one product on the market and others in the works.

Radar Relay is a Denver-based cryptocurrency looking to help onboard the world to the token economy.

Just over a year ago, the company released its first product, a peer-to-peer token exchange that would eliminate the need for a centralized exchange. Now, the company has raised significant capital, gained an international customer base and is thinking about the next product it will release in the Radar family.

Radar Relay started as the convergence of two seperate Fort Collins groups working on similar ideas. The first group was made up of Alan Curtis, who would become CEO, and his partners Mike Roth, Brandon Roth and Joe Roth, all brothers. Curtis came to Colorado with the intention to focus on cryptocurrency through an unexpected lens. He entered a graduate-level public health program at CSU and created his own track focusing on economic insecurity. He believed cryptocurrency could solve global economic insecurity issues. During that time he joined Innosphere as the program director. While there, he was exposed to entrepreneurs and learned skills on how to build a business. On nights and weekends, he would work in a basement with his business partners.

Unrelated to his project, Caleb Tebbe and Chip Wasson at CSU had started a cryptocurrency club. The two groups were both working on the same ideas regarding cryptocurrency and crossed paths at Innosphere when Tebbe and Wasson wanted to learn how to turn their ideas into a business. Through Curtis, the two groups merged and formed into the founding group of Radar Relay.

Once the group of founders was created, it was time to get out of the basement and onto the market. The company decided on its first product of what it hopes to be many: a relay, or exchange, that would allow peer-to-peer sharing of cryptocurrency.

In the starting days of cryptocurrency, there were essentially two options for transferring cryptocurrency from one person to another. The first was to use a centralized exchange, such as Coinbase, that would act as a middleman between users. However, centralized exchanges have flaws. The amount of volume can cause them to have downtime, they require trust in their technology because of their centralized nature, they can have trading fees, they can be hacked.

The second option for cryptocurrency users was to trade in the real world: to post on Craigslist or Facebook that they had cryptocurrency they wanted to exchange for U.S. dollars or some other currency and to meet at a Starbucks or other location, chit chat awkwardly while the exchange is made and leave. That method too has its drawbacks, including the need for trust in a stranger, safety concerns and the impracticality of having to meet up somewhere to exchange funds.

Radar wanted to take that second option, meeting on a marketplace website and making that exchange, from the real-world to the internet. Its relay allows people to post what they’re looking for and safely enable a peer-to-peer transfer without requiring people to meet in real life or use a centralized exchange.

By simplifying the process of exchanging cryptocurrency and pairing that with a secure technology users can trust, Radar is hoping to bring more people into the fold of the crypto economy. Curtis said its technology is secure, in that each user is able to choose his or her own wallets and are responsible for their own security. Wallets are sophisticated pieces of digital equipment with their own built-in security. So if hackers wanted to hack Radar Relay, they wouldn’t be able to hack a centralized system. Instead, hackers would have to break the security and each user’s individual wallet, making it more secure than a centralized exchange.

In just a year of operation, the startup has users in 150 countries.

“I get goosebumps; it’s wild that a Fort Collins company is serving 150 countries around the world,” Curtis said. “You can now trade with someone in the Philippines, faster and safer.”

One reason Curtis said Radar has had so much success so quickly is because it is so driven by its initial ideals to onboard the world to cryptocurrency. Curtis said everyone in the company has different motivations. He believes crypto can be a public health solution to economic insecurity; other team members want to eliminate intermediaries or have a global market of crypto. But everyone believes in the company’s vision. So much so, that the company regularly audits itself as to whether it’s following its core values: accountability, vision and impact.

“We want to make a dent in the universe,” Curtis said. “Too many companies lose that spark if they’re solving a problem that is short term. But we keep that spark going because we are trying to solve a problem that is multigenerational. It’s an audacious mission with no clear success metrics.”

Curtis added that the push to make the world better applies to him personally.

“I think if my fellow founders were here they would say that ‘Alan’s always mad at the world.’ So many problems need to be fixed. Maybe it’s some founder naivete, but it helps me stay driven.”

To support the company’s rapid growth, Radar has done two capital raises. The first was a seed round in November, led by Blockchain Capital, to support growing the team after its product launch. In July, the company closed on a $10 million Series A to grow the team again. The company currently has 30 team members and plans to hire another 30 to 35 people in the next two years. Another capital round is planned in the near term as well.

As it grows, the company has broken up into four tactical teams. One team focuses on engineering, focused on the company’s application. Another is operations, which includes marketing to accounting to support. A third team is strategy, which looks ahead to new protocols, new blockchain and looks to the future to plan for what Radar is doing today. The fourth team, which Curtis said sets it apart from other startups, is a team dedicated to the creative aspects of the company, from educational materials to the design to user experience. Curtis said the fact that Radar has dedicated creative and strategy teams has helped to elevate the company and has helped it gain the following it has today.

It is those teams that are also helping guide the discussion as to what Radar will do next. Curtis said the company is exploring R&D into a dozen potential ideas and has about three potential products it is seriously considering. The company plans to decide which of those products will be the next to come out after Radar Relay in the fourth quarter.

Curtis, who wouldn’t yet share what that product might be yet, said the decision is a hotly contested one within the company.

“Everyone has an opinion,” he said. “There’s also the decision of which order we do the products. Sometimes product two might be a better product and idea, but option one might be a better go-to-market fit. When we talk about Radar, we’re a multigenerational company. I can say with conviction I’ve seen the list of ideas and I’m never scared we’ll run of steam of things to solve.”