Meet Banyan: Reimagining Cloud Data Storage 

Protocol Labs
Protocol Labs
Meet Banyan: Reimagining Cloud Data Storage

Snapshot: Banyan (opens new window) creates usable, secure, vertically-integrated, decentralized storage solutions for users with significant data storage needs. Banyan provides the benefits of Web3 encryption and decentralization to Web2-savvy consumers in a familiar user interface. Its solutions are a bridge from the Filecoin (opens new window) ecosystem to the needs and expectations of users who are currently using Web2 incumbents like Backblaze, Dropbox, WeTransfer, or public clouds.

The impact: Banyan is addressing multiple critical gaps in reaching the wider data storage market with their product: a truly secure, SLA-ensured, user-friendly storage product that offers the ability to pay in fiat. No one else in the Web3 market offers this today. On the user side, customers already have significant fears about the sovereignty, privacy, and long-term safety of their data, but they don’t always shop for cloud storage with sufficient understanding of the technology to make an informed decision. Banyan combines consumer education with solid product and customer service, offering clear and easy-to-use modern cryptography and a decentralized, local-first, durable data storage solution.

On Joining PLN: Banyan's journey began when Claudia Richoux, then an engineer at Protocol Labs, was inspired to drive adoption of this new wave of the internet by building a user-facing onboarding product for Filecoin storage. She came up with initial concepts in December 2021 and moved on from Protocol Labs in March 2022. Banyan secured $3.8 million in funding from a variety of investors, including Protocol Labs, in May 2022.

What’s on the radar: The company is slowly launching its product to select customers over the next few months, ramping up sales pipelines, and leaving stealth mode by activating social media and publishing educational content. Within the Filecoin ecosystem, Banyan intends to expand its storage provider reseller/infrastructure networks. Post general availability, it will focus on novel ideas for improving customer data workflows.

# How it Started

Founder Claudia Richoux (opens new window) grew up all over the world as part of a military family. This instilled in her a deep appreciation for the internet's power to provide community and knowledge, regardless of location or institutional affiliations.

"I’ve always been extremely passionate about internet freedom, because I found a lot of friendships online through internet communities, like IRC channels, imageboard forums, and eventually with open-source software,” she said. “I moved so often that the internet was where I eventually made many of my friends. Libgen and other file-sharing networks were services I used since the age of 12 to download books. I spent hours a day in middle and high school devouring Wikipedia and pirated epubs, especially during periods of homeschooling.”

She began her journey into Web3 with a teenage fascination with cryptography, eventually landing a job as a cryptography auditor working with cutting-edge blockchain tech. After graduating from the University of Chicago, she dove straight back into the industry with a job at Protocol Labs to work on breakthrough innovations in computing. She briefly worked as an engineer on the Filecoin Virtual Machine (opens new window), before realizing that founding a startup in the ecosystem offered a unique opportunity to have a more significant impact.

# Unlocking the Storage Potential of Web3

Banyan currently develops practical, end-to-end encrypted, decentralized storage solutions that harness the power of the Filecoin protocol. The company provides both hot and cold storage options for users with significant amounts of data, leveraging both Filecoin’s network of storage providers and its cryptographic proofs of storage to give consumers confidence in the continued security and longevity of their data. These solutions aim to address the pressing need for secure data storage that doesn’t comprise usability.

Banyan places a strong emphasis on user-centric design, striving to create storage solutions with a familiar, intuitive UX. The team is actively working on developing a range of user-friendly applications, including a Dropbox-style web app, backup job management GUI software, and a CLI with an intuitive user experience. These applications make the benefits of decentralized storage accessible to a broad audience – from Web3 organizations and tech-savvy individuals to those with less technical knowledge and experience.

"Our main selling point has been about the durability and immutability of our product. In the customer’s mind, we’re competing with Dropbox, Backblaze and Amazon S3. We have to match them on customer experience – and then figure out how to communicate our unique edge,” said Claudia. “Some of this edge comes from Filecoin. Some comes from content addressing and Fission (opens new window)'s Web Native File System (opens new window). Our ability to match the Web2 incumbents comes from our own architectural and product secret sauce.”

# The Future of Banyan

Looking ahead, Banyan’s roadmap is geared towards further innovation and expansion. In 2023, the company is focused on launching and solidifying the core infrastructure of its hot and cold storage products, aiming to deliver a seamless and secure storage experience to its users. By the end of 2023, Banyan plans to establish several direct and indirect sales channels, grow its content and marketing output, and execute several months of product iteration cycles based on customer feedback and interviewing.

“One really important thing we learned from talking to users is that their language to describe their needs might differ from how we would initially think of it. We've learned to better speak the language of our users, as well as discover just how broad that user base might be,” said Claudia. “We’re going to dive deeper on that for the rest of the year.”

Next year, Banyan plans to keep growing and expand its product offerings to better serve their customers. CDN and compute tech are on the table, but only insofar as they sustainably help growth. By mid-2024, Banyan plans to raise a Series A funding round.