21.co is a unique platform that lets you earn money by answering messages and completing tasks. Sound weird? You bet. Let’s take a closer look at how 21.co works.
What is 21.co?
21.co is an iOS app that promises to help you earn money simply by answering your emails. The premise is simple: you replace your public email “with an inbox that pays you”.
Basically, it works like this: you setup a 21 profile. Then, people pay to send you messages. You can choose to keep the money or donate it to charity.
21.co sounds like a crazy idea. But it’s one of the most well-backed cryptocurrency startups on the market today. In 2016, TechCrunch described the company as “the Bitcoin company with the most money and high profile backers…that almost no one knew existed.”
The paid-messaging platform is relatively new, in fact. Prior to launching that platform, 21 was a bitcoin mining startup.
The company raised $70 million in 2013 coming from industry heavyweights like Peter Thiel, David Sacks, Marc Andreessen, and Ben Horowitz.
The company was founded by renowned Stanford graduate Balaji Srinivasan and four co-founders. It was originally built under the name 21e6. The company used its funding to roll out thousands of mining computers whose goal was to generate new bitcoins. The miners were outfitted with custom chips with names like Yoda and Gandalf. Although the venture was successful for a little while, it soon ran into stiff competition from bigger mining competitions and increased bitcoin difficulty.
In 2015, the company renamed itself to 21 Inc. and went public with a new fundraising round. Investors poured in with an additional $56 million, building on top of the $70 million already raised.
In 2016, 21 announced new bitcoin software. Today, it has its paid-messaging service as well.
What is the 21 Bitcoin Computer?
Before we talk about 21’s paid-messaging service, let’s talk about their computer. The 21 Bitcoin Computer describes itself as “the fastest way for developers to learn bitcoin.”
The computer comes outfitted with everything needed to make your first bitcoin app in a weekend, including:
- A micropayments server
- A full copy of the blockchain
- A command line interface for programmatically mining, buying, and selling digital goods for bitcoin
The computer comes in the form of a matchbox-sized device that plugs into your device. It’s priced at $400 USD, although it’s currently sold out on the 21.co website.
The 21 Bitcoin Computer is popular across the internet, including among bitcoin enthusiasts and among traditional media outlets. You don’t have to look far on Twitter or social media to find people who have used the 21 Bitcoin Computer to create a range of exciting apps.
Using the 21 Bitcoin Computer, you can build bitcoin apps (like renting your Wi-Fi for bitcoin, selling digital goods, building bitcoin-accelerated computing, or receiving an SMS from anyone for bitcoin). You can also learn more about bitcoin using the built-in tutorials that promise to take you from novice to expert. Those tutorials were built in partnership with the same people who taught Stanford’s CS251P bitcoin course and wrote the official Bitcoin Developer Documentation.
Your 21 Bitcoin Computer comes with all of the following:
- A mining chip to provide a constant stream of bitcoin for development
- A powerful command line interface with a full multisig wallet
- A 128GB SD Card loaded with a full copy of the blockchain
- A suite of pre-configured bitcoin-enabled software
- The ability to run as a micropayments server and a full node
- All of the items you need to get started, including a Wi-Fi adaptor, a laptop-to-device cable, RPi2, and a power supply.
What is the 21 Messaging App?
The 21 Messaging App is currently featured on the main page of 21.co. It’s the company’s flagship product at the moment. The 21 app is currently available as a free download for iOS, although the Android version is purportedly coming soon.
Some of the key features of the app include:
- Replace your public email with a paid inbox, then choose how much it costs to contact you (you set the price)
- You can toggle paid messages on or off at any time
- Get paid to reply to messages (you’re paid in bitcoin)
- You get paid to reply to messages
- You can earn more money by doing tasks like surveys
- Once you’re ready to withdraw your money, you can cash out to a bitcoin wallet or Coinbase account
Why would anyone want to pay to message you? Most applications for 21 revolve around jobs. You can display your qualifications online, then wait for job offers to filter through. It’s designed to be a more quality-controlled version of LinkedIn’s messaging system.
You might receive a message in your inbox saying, “Job opportunity at a virtual reality startup”, for example. That message may say, “Earn $5 by replying”.
Alternatively, you might find a survey in your inbox that gives you $1 for filling it out.
You keep track of your 21 balance through the app. Once you’re ready to withdraw your money, you tap the “Cash Out” button, then withdraw your money to a wallet.
Alternatively, you can donate the money to a specific charity. If you choose to donate your money, then you’ll receive a special charity badge on your profile that lets senders know they’re supporting a good cause.
Ultimately, 21 isn’t designed for the average Joe. It’s designed for busy professionals who want to filter the way in which people get in touch. It’s also easy to see how celebrities could use the service to interact with fans: celebrities could charge fans $100 for a message, for example, in exchange for a thoughtful reply. Today, 21’s most prominent members include CEOs, founders, and venture capitalists.
Another key feature of the 21 app is its “21 Lists” feature. 21 Lists lets you get replies from many VIPs at once. Here’s how the company explains it:
“Lists make it easy for businesses and individuals to rapidly get in touch with important people outside their social network such as VCs, CEOs, angels, and founders.”
Right now, 21 Lists includes a list of CEOs, which lets you get replies from 100+ CEOs for $20 per reply, along with a number of other professional lists. Other lists include:
VC List: Get replies from 50+ VCs for $50 per reply, including venture capitalists representing 20+ firms and $25 billion+ in investable capital.
Angel Investor List: Get replies from 50+ angel investors for $20 per reply. The list is made from active angel investors who have written checks for at least $10k within the past 24 months.
Startup Founder: Pay $20 per reply for a list of 200+ startup founders, including founders of tech startups, VC firms, prominent nonprofits, and popular open source projects.
Blockchain Personalities List: Get replies from 150+ blockchain personalities for $10 per reply, including executives and influencers in the worlds of bitcoin, Ethereum, and blockchain.
Andreessen Horowitz List: Get the attention of Andreesen Horowitz partners by messaging them through this list for $50 per reply.
One of the cool parts about 21 Lists is that you can see who you’re messaging before you select a list. You can view each individual’s 21 profile on 21.co, or browse through each list to see who’s on it.
21 Co Conclusion
21.co is one of the blockchain world’s most unique companies. Originally launched as a mining company, 21 then moved into the world of Bitcoin development hardware and, most recently, a paid-messaging platform. Today, the paid-messaging platform is 21.co’s core product. Using the 21 app, you can setup a 21 profile and charge people to message you – or charge people to have you complete a survey.
The 21 app isn’t designed for average people to use – it’s designed for celebrities, startup founders, investors, and busy professionals who don’t want to get unsolicited spam in their email every day. These people can charge money for their attention, earn money for their replies, and impose a new quality control filter on their email inbox. You earn money through bitcoin, and then can withdraw your bitcoin to a wallet – or donate it to a charity of your choice.
Of course, “average” people, or those seeking investors, can use the 21 app to reach out to major influencers, or to get in touch with people outside their circle. The app is currently only available for iOS, although an Android version is coming in the future.
Stay tuned for more information about 21.co as the platform continues to grow and attract new profiles.