Secure messaging app Element raises $30m in Series B round

27 Jul 2021

Element and Matrix co-founders Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape. Image: Matrix Foundation

Investors included Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn’s Metaplanet and open-source research outfit Protocol Labs.

Secure messaging and collaboration app Element has closed a $30m Series B funding round.

The round was led by Protocol Labs, the open-source research and development centre, and Metaplanet, the fund established by Skype founding developer Jaan Tallinn. Other participants included returning investors Automattic and Notion.

Element is a decentralised, open-source team communication app built on the Matrix protocol, and was known until 2020 as Riot. The secure communication protocol was developed by Amandine Le Pape and Matthew Hodgson while they worked for Amdocs, beginning in 2014.

Because the Matrix protocol is open source, there are more than 150 apps built upon it. But Le Pape and Hodgson founded Element themselves to build what they see as the best possible implementation of Matrix. Element was founded in 2017, and in 2018 the pair established the Foundation as a non-profit to develop the protocol in general.

Users of Element can exchange messages with other Matrix-enabled apps and the protocol is also interoperable with several other messaging services including Slack, Teams, Telegram, IRC and Discord.

Element said it recently renewed a flagship contract with the French government, meanings its app will continue to be used by the country’s 5.5m civil servants. It has also secured new deals with Dataport, which is deploying the app in the German education and public administration systems, and BWI, delivering communication to the whole German military.

The start-up added that it is engaging with more than 10 other governments and has openly stated its desire to compete with the likes of Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Le Pape, who serves as COO of Element, commented on the latest funding round: “We’re delighted to have been in a position to choose two more mission-driven investors who back companies that will improve the internet to benefit humankind. Protocol Labs and Metaplanet invest in the long term and truly believe in open source and the decentralised web.”

Tallinn, head of Metaplanet, added: “When communication is centralised it becomes a very appealing target for abuse; whether that’s through propaganda, surveillance, censorship or worse. Consumers need rescuing from surveillance capitalism, and organisations need a secure neutral way to communicate. Matrix is the most advanced platform to provide that missing communication layer.”

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin