SOMA, a Helsinki-based social marketplace startup, announced on Tuesday it has closed a €1.1 million bridge funding round, including a substantial investment from the Finnish Government.

The funding will be put towards market research, acquiring a user base, and refining SOMA’s product and design. Initially, the marketplace will be focused on watches: SOMA has over 50 partners in the luxury watch industry, including microbrands, independent watchmakers and other watch sellers. Following early testing, SOMA will scale to other sectors.

The social marketplace will see two rounds of early access in June: Cohort 1 will be limited to 100 participants, who will receive discounts of up to 70% and cash incentives of up to $200. Cohort 2 will consist of 500 people, with details such as rewards and discounts revealed closer to the time of launch. Registration details will be posted on the SOMA Facebook group before being released to the public.

Speaking in a press release, SOMA co-founder Jacob Andra said:

“Our watchmaking partners have been willing to work with us to make this a success. They see the SOMA vision and want it to succeed.”

Andra cites a number of watchmakers who are offering limited-edition watches for the lauch. As an example, Mexican-Canadian watchmaker Fernando Ronzon is creating two SOMA-exclusive timepieces in his “Jumping Hours” series. Other partners offering exclusives for the marketplace include Paris-based Sartory-Billard, Swiss-based Olivier Mory, and Italy-based ErridiBi.

SOMA and the Blockchain

SOMA’s peer-to-peer marketplace is powered by a hybrid blockchain solution: utilizing both public and private blockchain technology through what they call the ‘Heimdall Protocol’. This solution will provide immutability and security, as well as providing businesses with the level of privacy they may need.

Stellar — a public blockchain designed for payment processing — will be used to support the digital wallet and SOM token (previously Ethereum-based), while Hyperledger Fabric will be used for SOMA’s privacy-oriented architecture. The platform will then use Stellar to make payments against data stored on the Hyperledger Fabric network via a smart contract.

Stellar recently made headlines when they announced the launch of IBM Blockchain World Wire — a global payments network that utilizes Stellar’s XLM. Indeed, the network has positioned itself at the forefront of blockchain-based payment processing solutions, leading one to wonder how competitors Ripple and JP Morgan will compete.

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