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Bolt founder Ryan Breslow isn’t done yet

Ryan Breslow has had a tumultuous 2022. It’s not slowing him down.

Few outside of Breslow’s world even knew his name a year ago. Then Bolt, a “one-click” checkout tech company that evolved from an earlier idea of his, announced $355 million in Series E funding at a reported $11 billion valuation. Suddenly, the startup was on everyone’s radar, as was Breslow. The now 28-year-old Miami resident was riding so high that he couldn’t help but take a kind of victory lap. Having struggled at one point to win over Silicon Valley investors, he began publishing thoughts on Twitter that most might never dare share publicly, including to call rival Stripe and famed accelerator Y Combinator “mob bosses” that will pull “every power move imaginable” to squash competitors.

While Breslow found some support for his perspective online, he was also criticized for the comments — including by powerful investors — and one week later, he stepped down as the CEO of Bolt and became its executive chairman.

Breslow, who still owns a major stake in Bolt, told us the development had nothing to do with his antics. But it was hard to believe Breslow’s attention-grabbing tweets — which kept coming — weren’t rattling Bolt’s investors to some degree. Certainly, it has been a rocky road since. Further funding that was reportedly in the works has not materialized. The company has been accused in the press of inflating its customer metrics and overstating its tech capabilities. By late May, citing changing market conditions, Bolt announced it was laying off roughly one-third of its employees, or 250 people — some of whom had taken out personal loans from the company in order to exercise their stock options.

Meanwhile, partnerships that Breslow teased publicly have yet to be announced. Bolt employees are also reportedly frustrated that Breslow sold $10 million worth of shares to investors during that Series E round back in January, when Bolt’s board had not allowed them to sell their own holdings.

Some founders might lay low after so much blowback. Breslow — who is both affable and cagey in conversation — is instead barreling ahead with several decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) infrastructure projects, including a programmable funding protocol called Juicebox.

He is also at work on several other startups, including a “people-powered pharma” startup called Love that he co-founded and which just announced $7.5 million in seed funding. Love aims to launch a DAO where members, who buy “Love tokens” with Ethereum or another reserve currency, can discuss homeopathic and other pharmaceutical alternatives, then vote on which of them should be tested in clinical trials. The DAO will then underwrite the studies.

The idea — and it’s all theoretical at this point — is to take on big drug companies by copying how they work.

If you’re thinking that it could be challenging to produce concrete clinical data about homeopathic treatments, Breslow argues that’s precisely the point. Right now, he says, it’s “all stories, and some scientists say some of it is BS and some say it’s true. So we’re finally going to show people the data and let the ones who believe fund it and see if it actually works.”

As for how Love makes money off this whole process, Breslow says it will be purchasing some Love tokens itself; it will also be “selectively launching different health-related brands under the Love umbrella.”

If it’s all fairly squishy right now, Human Capital and MaC Venture Capital don’t seem to mind. They provided Love’s seed round.

Notably, both firms are also investors in Bolt, Breslow said when asked, though he suggests that if there’s a tie-in to Bolt, it’s that running Bolt for eight years is what led him to alternative thinking about wellness. According to Breslow, he had chronic back pain for many years that he thought was “incurable” because the “many doctors and established medical experts” he saw only made things worse. Pointed later to an alternative healer who introduced Breslow to yoga, meditation and mental therapy, he says his back pain quickly disappeared.

Even social media, Breslow suggests, remains a therapeutic outlet for him. Indeed, asked if he could walk back his tweets of earlier this year given all that followed, he says he has “no regrets.”

Says Breslow, “I’m going to continue to be fairly active on social and I think it’s been a net positive in terms of increasing Bolt’s awareness. A year ago, most people that I know did not know what Bolt was or is. Now almost everyone does.”

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