Israel’s Sirin Labs, Known for $17,000 Smartphone, Signs Soccer Star Messi As Brand Ambassador
Sirin Labs, the startup partly founded by Israeli entrepreneurs that develops electronic goods for the blockchain era, has signed soccer star Lionel “Leo” Messi as a brand ambassador, the company said over the weekend.
The Switzerland-headquartered Sirin Labs, with London operations and an R&D center in Tel Aviv, was founded in 2013 by Israelis Tal Cohen and Moshe Hogeg, known for founding the VC firm Singulariteam and startups Yo and Mobli, which nabbed celebrity investors. Kazakh businessman Kenges Rakishev, also a co-founder, serves as company chairman.
Sirin Labs made international headlines last year for developing the “most secure smartphone in the world,” the $17,000 Solarin secured with blockchain and geared toward customers who place a premium on encrypted communication and security. More recently, it revealed the more wallet-friendly FINNEY Smartphone, an open-source, secure device with an in-house operating system, SirinOS, and with a target price of $999, as well as the Finney PC, an “all-in-one PC”, that runs on a fee-less blockchain, with a target price of $799. The devices “will feature a cold storage crypto wallet compatible with the most common cryptocurrencies [bitcoins, for example],” and enable “fast payments between the network peers without the need for mining (fee-less),” the company says.
The operating system will support crypto-related applications, in addition to crypto-wallets, such as “secure exchange access, encrypted communications, and a P2P resource sharing ecosystem for payment and apps,” according to a report in Finance Magnates. The network will be supported by the SRN token, Sirin’s crypto-currency, for which it is launching a crowdsale on December 12. Only SRN token holders will be able to purchase Finney products.
Now one of the most famous football stars, Messi is set to be the public face of the new venture, in the hopes he will bring blockchain awareness to his millions of fans and followers.
Messi took to Facebook over the weekend in a promotional post to say that he was “usually busy trying to decentralize defenses and after digging deeper into blockchain and decentralized systems,” was “excited to join Sirin Labs as an ambassador to make blockchain more friendly with their upcoming operating system for smartphones.” He included a photo of himself in front of a laptop which has the words Sirin OS on the screen.
¡Feliz de sumarme al proyecto de SIRIN LABS como embajador para hacer blockchain más accesible con su próximo sistema…
Hogeg, who serves as Sirin Labs’ co-CEO, posted a photo of himself and Messi on his social media on Friday, saying the FC Barcelona forward was “joining the blockchain revolution” and that the company was honored to partner up with him. The details of the deal to sign Messi to the startup were not disclosed.
“We are excited to have Lionel Messi, the best soccer player in the world as the global brand ambassador for Sirin Labs. We have identified the potential of blockchain technology and are developing SirinOS to improve the security and user-experience on the blockchain to encourage mass adoption,” Hogeg said in a statement on the weekend.
In an interview with Israeli TV on Thursday night, Hogeg said he had been “super excited” to meet with Messi and recruit him as the face of the company. “We chose Messi because he’s kind of an expert in decentralization; decentralizing [soccer] defenses and decentralizing systems is similar,” Hogeg said, adding that of course there was also the element of Messi’s star power and “his ability bring [the message] to a wider audience.”
Hogeg said the whole notion of blockchain and bitcoin was “very complex” and that what Sirin Labs was trying to do was transform the “current horrible user experience in this world [of blockchain] into a more simple process through [its] smartphones.”
The Israeli entrepreneur, who lectures worldwide on cryto-currences, blockchain and information systems, said he was able to approach Messi with the idea through one of the company’s advisors, Joan Laporta, a Spanish politician and former president of FC Barcelona.
Messi isn’t Hogeg’s only celebrity recruit. It seems the Beersheba-raised entrepreneur has an affinity for those who have reached stardom.
In 2010, when he founded the picture and video-sharing platform Mobli to rival Vine and Instagram, he was able to attract investments from celebrity actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Toney Maguire, US tennis star Serena Williams and Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, one of the wealthiest people in the world.
At the height of its popularity, Mobli had over 13 million users and had raised over $86 million in venture funds, including $60 million from Slim. In 2016, the company became inactive.