Funding is flowing into the metaverse and broader web3 endeavors. Since March 2021, sales of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) have made headlines – both for the eye-watering prices that some were commanding at auction and for the potential for NFTs to become a robust market, as brands appeared to be eager to market themselves and connect with consumers by way of these relatively novel pieces of technology. For Q3 in 2021, Forbes reported that the sale of NFTs had amounted to $10.7 billion in Q3 2021, a more than 8-fold increase from the previous quarter. As of January 2022, the monthly volume of NFT sales on the OpenSea marketplace hit an all-time high of $5 billion.
Fast forward to October 2021 and Facebook, Inc.’s announcement that it would rebrand to Meta, Inc. in furtherance of a shift away from being a social media company to becoming “a metaverse company,” seemingly solidified a larger shift among companies that a blend of “real” and virtual worlds is the future.
Against that background, brands have launched various ventures in the metaverse – from Gucci’s Garden pop-up in the Roblox metaverse (complete with virtual Gucci-branded handbags and apparel) to Nike’s “Nikeland” experience – and at the same time, rushed to file trademark applications for registration for their current (or far more frequently, their impending) uses of their trademarks on virtual goods/services and NFTs.
All the while, cash has been flowing into the space (with more than $2 billion and $62.8 billion being invested in augmented reality ventures and virtual world projects, respectively, in 2021, per CrunchBase), and at least a one major acquisition has taken place. With so much activity underway when it comes to the virtual world, from metaverse ventures to crypto funds, we have put together a (running) timeline of investments and M&A events to provide a broad overview of which players are raising funding, getting acquired, and what the trajectory of this segment of the market – which only appears to be gaining in steam – looks like more generally …
Sept. 13, 2022 – Doodles Raises $54 Million in New Round
Doodles announced that it has raised $54 million in equity funding, backed by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, along with Acrew Capital, FTX Ventures and 10T Holdings. Founded in 2021, the web3 NFT, media, and entertainment brand says it will use the funding “to rapidly acquire a world-class team of engineers, creatives, marketers and business executives, as well as to fund product development, acquisitions, proprietary technology, media, and collector experiences.” Doodles is looking to grow its team from 11 people to 30. On the heels of announcing the appointment of Pharrell Williams as chief brand officer in June, Doodles revealed that it recently hired a head of brand partnerships.
“We want to create products for our core collector base, but at the same time utilize these great forms of marketing like music, to introduce new people to Web3 and onboard them into the Doodles ecosystem,” Vancouver-based Doodles CEO Julian Hoguin says.
Sept. 7, 2022 – Tencent Boosts Investment, as Ubisoft Entertainment Looks to Metaverse
Tencent Holdings Ltd is raising its stake in Ubisoft Entertainment SA in a deal that values the games developer at about $10 billion, per Reuters. In addition to falling in line with the enduring trend of “deep-pocketed Chinese tech majors continuing their overseas search for growth,” the Tencent, Ubisoft deal is notable in that it comes as Montreuil, France-headquartered Ubisoft – and other traditional gaming companies – increasingly eye the metaverse to generate revenue from their existing IP. Early this year, for instance, Animoca Brands, the Hong Kong-based blockchain company behind The Sandbox, announced that it had formed a strategic partnership with Ubisoft, in which Ubisoft would receive its own land on the Sandbox’s metaverse platform and develop game experiences with NFTs in the virtual world.
August 25, 2022 – Nreal Raises $15 Million to Build Out AR Efforts
Nreal announced a $15 million investment from luxury eyewear brand Gentle Monster’s parent company, IICOMBINED, in furtherance of its focus on the consumer augmented reality (“AR”) market. The parties say that they are “exploring new collaboration opportunities to push the boundaries of fashion and technology,” with the investment coming as San Francisco-based “Nreal makes strides in expanding the appeal of AR [eyewear] to a broader audience base [and] delivering on the promise of AR for consumers everywhere.”
“This investment is an exciting try for the combination and exploration for the boundary of fashion and tech. In the future, we will leverage both parties’ strength and make joint efforts to create more possibilities,” said Hankook Kim, co-founder of Gentle Monster and CEO of IICOMBINED.
June 30, 2022 – Metaverse Platform Mona Raises $14.6 Million in Series A Round
Mona has raised a $14.6 million in a Series A round co-led by Protocol Labs, Archetype and Collab+Currency. The San Francisco-based company touts itself as providing “the first and only platform and network for creators to build, mint, and sell interactive metaverse worlds as NFTs.” In a statement, Mona CEO and co-founder Justin Melillo said, “With the closing of this round, we will continue to grow our global, vibrant community of builders as we onboard thousands of new creators to the open metaverse and web3. The metaverse doesn’t have to belong to big tech companies – it can, and will, be a place for everyone.”
June 23, 2022 – Gucci Invests in SuperRareDAO Ahead of Exhibition Launch
Gucci has entered into a partnership with NFT marketplace SuperRare, acquiring $25,000 in $RARE tokens to join the SuperRareDAO, and launch its the Vault Art Space. “The vault is Gucci’s digital space,” SuperRare co-founder and chief product officer Jonathan Perkins said this week. “And they are going to be working with artists and selling art through their space, which will be powered by SuperRare technology. The brand’s acquisition of RARE tokens gives it rights in the decentralized autonomous organization that governs the SuperRare platform. According to SuperRare, “Members of the community who hold governance tokens” – i.e., $RARE, the new SuperRare curation token – “can use them to vote on issues and decisions that affect the organization.”
June 23, 2022 – LincTex Digital Raises $100 Million for Digital Fashion Push
LincTex Digital raised $100 million in a round led by Hillhouse Capital and CDH Investments, with the Hangzhou-based company, which does business as Style3D, saying that it will use the funds for international expansion and to make further inroads into the digital fashion realm. “From developing virtual try-on technologies and 3D body scanning in the beginning,” Reuters reported that Style3D has now “broadened its offering to include digital services for fashion designers and manufacturers so they can use big data to design and produce fashion collections.”
June 22, 2022 – EBay Acquires NFT Marketplace KnownOrigin
eBay has acquired NFT marketplace KnownOrigin for an undisclosed sum, the parties confirmed in a release. Facilitating nearly $8 million in NFT trading since its founding in 2018, Manchester, UK-based KnownOrigin states that its “technology and platform provides artists with a place to create unique, authentic, digital collectibles, in the form of NFTs.” The deal is “an important step in eBay’s tech-led reimagination,” the parties revealed, “ushering in a new era of digital collecting to the world’s top destination for collectibles.”
“eBay is the first stop for people across the globe who are searching for that perfect, hard-to-find, or unique addition to their collection and, with this acquisition, we will remain a leading site as our community is increasingly adding digital collectibles,” said Jamie Iannone, CEO of eBay. “KnownOrigin has built up an impressive, passionate and loyal group of artists and collectors making them a perfect addition to our community of sellers and buyers. We look forward to welcoming these innovators as they join the eBay community.”
June 19, 2022 – Endstate Raises $5.5 Million in Seed Round
Combining NFTs with proprietary technology to definitively link physical products to digital assets, Endstate announced a $5.5 million seed round with investors including Archetype Ventures, Accomplice Ventures, Road Capital, and CMS Holdings, among others. Founded in 2020 by Bennett Collen and Stephanie Howard, Massachusetts-based Endstate says that it will use the funding to “help us reach the Endstate sooner — accelerating our product development and innovation roadmaps, and allowing us to continue to hire world-class talent.”
May 22, 2022 – BUD Raises $37 Million in Series B
BUD has raised $37 million in a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital India, with participation from Chinese billionaire William Lei Ding’s company NetEase, Chinese VC firms ClearVue Partners, and Northern Light Venture Capital, along with existing investors GGV Capital, Qiming Venture Partners, and Source Code Capital. The Singapore-based metaverse startup will use the funds to “launch Web3 products, the next generation of the internet that runs on blockchains,” and will also introduce NFT projects to allow users to “own and trade virtual assets derived from the metaverse,” per Forbes. The round follows from BUD’s Series A round, which was completed in February.
May 10, 2022 – Arianee Raises €20 Million in Series A Round
Arianee, the leading end to end web3 solution for brands, has raised a €20 million ($21.09 million) in a Series A led round by Tiger Global. Existing investors Bpifrance, ISAI, Noia Capital and Cygni Labs, joined the round, along with Commerce Ventures, Motier Ventures and Pierre Denis, former CEO of Jimmy Choo. In a release on Tuesday, Paris-based Arianne stated that “web3 is a unique opportunity for companies and individuals to regain control over their digital presence, especially their data, [and] it’s the time for businesses to free themselves from the dependency on big platforms and lead new usage and innovation.”
An end to end web3 solution built to create, distribute and interact with NFTs, including by enabling brands to tokenize, distribute and leverage value through NFTs, Arianee says it will use the new funds to accelerate its international presence by growing its New York office, recruiting new talent and continuing the development of its products and services. The 4-year old company says its staff has tripled since its last funding round in March 2021, and it currently boasts more than 50 clients and partners (including IBM and the metaverse The Sandbox) in Europe and North America.
May 4, 2022 – immi App Secures $50 Million Valuation Following Seed Round
Mark Cuban, singer Pitbull, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, DJ Steve Aoki, and Paris Hilton’s 11:11 Media are among the investors in a seed round for animation app immi, a round that an immi spokesman says values the company at $50 million. Immi characterizes itself as “the only real-time animation platform making full-body 3D cinema-quality characters and facial tracking technology accessible to anyone, anywhere.”
May 2, 2022 – Yuga Labs Raises $285 Million in Virtual Land Sale
Yuga Labs. the company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of NFTs, raised approximately $285 million worth of cryptocurrency by selling tokens that represent land in a virtual world game it says it is building. In an online sale on April 30, Yuga Labs sold NFTs called “Otherdeeds,” which can exchanged as plots of virtual land in a Bored Ape-themed online environment called “Otherside” that is expected to launch in the near future, per Reuters. The 55,000 Otherdeeds that were offered up were purchasable using the Yuga-created ApeCoin cryptocurrency
Apr 11, 2022 – Epic Games Raises $2 Billion in Funding for Metaverse Endeavor
Fortnite creator Epic Games raised $2 billion from Sony Group and Kirkbi, the family owned holding company behind the Lego Group, in a deal that values the company at $31.5 billion. Epic will use the new cash to help fund the kid-focused metaverse endeavor that it announced last month in partnership with Lego. “As we reimagine the future of entertainment and play we need partners who share our vision. We have found this in our partnership with Sony and Kirkbi,” said Tim Sweeney, the CEO and founder Epic Games, in a statement. “This investment will accelerate our work to build the metaverse and create spaces where players can have fun with friends, brands can build creative and immersive experiences and creators can build a community and thrive.”
“All three companies highly value both creators and players, and aim to create new social entertainment exploring the connection between digital and physical worlds,” the companies said in a statement.
Apr 8, 2022 – The Fabricant Raises $14 Million
Digital fashion brand The Fabricant raised $14 million in a Series A round led by Greenfield One, and with participation from Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, and Red DAO, and among others. The Netherlands-based company says that the funding will be used to support and expand its co-creation and NFT platform, The Fabricant Studio, which enables “everyday users to become creators [and] craft high-end digital fashion NFTs in collaboration with their favorite brands,” according to Maaria Bajwa, Investor at Sound Ventures.
Jascha Samadi, Partner of Greenfield One said in a statement, “Within virtual environments we are likely going to have multiple digital reflections of our physical self. The Fabricant Studio allows any creator to become their own fashion designer in the metaverse — paired with Web3 technology, digital fashion becomes unique, tradeable and accessible for the masses. The team behind The Fabricant identified this paradigm of user-generated fashion very early on, long before NFTs caught mainstream attention.”
Mar 22, 2022 – Kering Among Investors in $1.5 Billion Haun Ventures Raise
French luxury goods group Kering is among the investors in former Andreessen Horowitz general partner Katie Haun’s new crypto fund, Haun Venture. Haun Ventures will invest in “both start-up equity, and in some cases the cryptocurrencies issued by those start-ups, also known as tokens,” per CNBC, which reported that Haun’s fund will be divided into two segments: $500 million for early-stage companies and protocols, and $1 billion for later-stage projects.
Mar 22, 2022 – Yuga Labs Valued at $4 Billion Following Round
Yuga Labs announced that is now at valued at $4 billion, following a $450 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund, a16z crypto. According to Reuters, “Metaverse gaming company Animoca and its subsidiary, The Sandbox, and crypto exchange FTX are also among the investors that participated in the latest round.”
Mar 18, 2022 – Universal Music Acquires BAYC NFT for $360K
Universal Music Group has acquired Bored Ape #5537, a female character NFT now known as Manager Noët All, from its former owner for $360,817. The digital asset will join the digital musical group, Kingship, that Universal’s next-gen label 10:22PM created in November 2021. The group initially consisted of four “rare Golden Fur and Bluebeam Apes” from Yuga Labs’ collection of Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs. According to Reuters, “Kingship, which exists solely in digital form, will have its own website and presence on messaging platform Discord, and will eventually produce new music and give virtual performances in the metaverse.”
Mar 11, 2022 – Yuga Labs Acquires CryptoPunks, Meebits from Larva
Yuga Labs, the titan behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs, announced that it has “acquired the IP of the CryptoPunks and Meebits NFT collections from Larva Labs,” another giant in the digital assets space, which means that Yuga now “owns the brands, copyright in the art, and other IP rights for both collections, along with 423 CryptoPunks and 1711 Meebits.” The company says that its first move will be to grant CryptoPunks and Meebits holders “the same commercial rights that BAYC and MAYC owners enjoy” in a move that “further align[s] CryptoPunks and Meebits with the web3 ethos.”
Mar 8, 2022 – UNXD Raises $4 Million
UNXD announced that it has raised a $4 million funding round led by Animoca Brands, Polygon Studios, and Red DAO. In addition to partnering with brands, such as Dolce & Gabbana, to create NFTs, the B2B metaverse-focused company also hosts a Polygon-based (Ethereum-compatible) digital luxury fashion marketplace, which is says is the home of “the best of digital luxury and culture.” Founded in 2021 by Nick Gonzalez and Shashi Menon, UNXD states that it will use the new cash to further scale its “team, ecosystem, and roster of partner brands.”
Mar 7, 2022 – Space Runners Raises $10 Million
Metaverse fashion brand Space Runners has raised $10 million in a funding round co-led by Polychain and Pantera Capital, and including Accel, Jump Crypto, Animoca Brands Chairman Yat Siu, and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan. “We are designing and launching fashion items as NFT collections, which is ongoing,” Space Runners CEO Deniz Özgür stated. “But we are also launching the first phase of our fashion metaverse. Rather than just an urban cyber style, we are giving more weight to beauty and aesthetics, and we’ve been collaborating with some of the most popular fashion agencies in New York.”
Mar 7, 2022 – Immutable Raises $200 Million
Immutable raised $200 million from investors led by Singapore’s Temasek, valuing the Australian NFT startup at $2.5 billion, the company announced. Investors include Mirae Asset, ParaFi Capital, Declaration Partners, and Tencent Holdings, among others.
Mar 3, 2022 – Nifty League Raises $5 Million in Seed Round
Nifty League, a leading NFT gaming platform, today announced the close of a $5 million seed investment round led by New York-based private investment firm RSE Ventures, along with Spartan Group, Lerer Hippeau, VaynerFund, Private Ventures Group, DraftKings Co-founder Matthew Kalish, and Gallery Media Group CEO Ryan Harwood, among others. Launched in September 2021, Nifty League is bringing “competitive gaming to Web3 – moving away from play-to-earn into a new era of play-and-earn by offering a fun and engaging gaming ecosystem.”
Feb 25, 2022 – CollectID Raises $3.5 Million in Seed Round
CollectID closed a $3.5 million seed funding round led by SeventySix Capital and Hellen’s Rock. The Swiss-based startup combines NFT technology, backed by an immutably secure blockchain, through a tamper-proof NFC tag to provide a secure and unique identity for each product that can be applied to the majority of physical objects including clothes, accessories, shoes, watches.
Feb 22, 2022 – Metamall Raises $400K in Latest Round
Metamall, a metaverse start-up that allows buyers to own, build and develop virtual real estate has closed its Initial Dex Offering – or “IDO” – to raise $400k with the supply of 80 million tokens. With this round and previous funding (Metamall previously raised $4.6 million in its seed, strategic and private rounds and more than $2 million through NFT sales), Metamall announced that it is the first retail commerce-themed metaverse platform in the world to raise funding more than $7 million from private and public investors.
Feb 21, 2022 – Jambo Raises $7.5 Million in Seed Round
Jambo raised $7.5 million in seed funding in furtherance of Africa’s most notable metaverse venture. The Congo-based startup is angling to build Africa’s web3 user acquisition portal through “learn, play, earn” and democratizing access to crypto-based income-generation opportunities. According to TechCrunch, “Experts say Africa is poised to be disrupted by web3 in a similar fashion that has seen Southeast Asia become one of the best markets for web3.”
Feb 14, 2022 – BUD Raises $15 Million in Series A+
BUD raised $15 million funding in a Series A+ round. Founded by former Snap engineers Shawn Lin and Risa Feng in 2019, BUD allows users to create customizable 3D experiences and interact with others by way of its app.
Feb 13, 2022 – BNV.ME Raises $4 Million to “Elevate NFT Experiences in the Metaverse”
Brand New Vision Ltd, the company behind BNV.ME, the leading platform taking fashion into Web3.0 through 3D Product Creation, NFT sales, and Future Wearability, completed a $4 million Series A funding round led by Animoca Brands. In a statement, BNV.ME said that the funding will enable it to further expand its capabilities for creating elevated NFT experiences across the metaverse offerings that already exist and those that are under development, as well as growing its visibility and presence across the worlds of fashion, gaming, and crypto communities.
Feb 3, 2022 – nfinite Raises $15 million in Series A
Next-generation visualization and e-commerce merchandising provider nfinite raised $15 million in Series A funding led by US Venture Partners. New York-based nfinite stated that the funding would be used to accelerate development of its SaaS 3D visualization platform and to scale the company’s operations in North America.
Dec 13, 2021 – Nike Acquires RTFKT
NIKE, Inc. announced that it would acquire RTFKT, “a leading brand that leverages cutting edge innovation to deliver next generation collectibles that merge culture and gaming.” Nike President and CEO John Donahoe said in a statement that the acquisition is “another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture,” and one that will help to “extend Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.” Terms of the deal were not announced.
Nov 22, 2021 – Niantic Raises $300 Million to Build “Real-World Metaverse”
Niantic, the augmented reality platform behind Pokémon GO, raised $300 million from Coatue, valuing the company at $9 billion. The San Francisco-based startup announced that it will use the funding to build the “real-world metaverse.”
Nov 5, 2021 – VNTANA Brings Funding to $12.5 Million
VNTANA, the industry leader in 3D Content Management Software, closed its latest round of funding, with investment from Mark Cuban, former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Flexport and Anorak Ventures, among others, bringing its total funding to $12.5 million in total. VNTANA says that its tech “makes it easy for brands across fashion, footwear, furniture, tools, sporting goods, and more” – including Ugg-owner Deckers Brands, Staud and Diesel – “to share and embed 3D and AR for sales and marketing use.”
Oct 13, 2021 – Stage11 Raises a €5 Million Seed Round
Immersive music experience startup Stage11 raised a 5 million euro seed round led by Otium Capital, a European venture capital fund, backed up by founder and CEO, Jonathan Belolo. Stage11 stated that it is “setting out to redefine the interactive music experience by combining gaming, mixed reality, and digital collectibles,” including by building “a new creative canvas for artists, allowing them to invite fans to live, play, and create inside their performances and musical worlds.”
May 5, 2021 – RTFKT Raises $8 Million
RTFKT raised $8 million in a round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and that includes Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, artist Fewocious, and former LVMH Chief Digital Officer Ian Rogers, among others, in furtherance of its quest to “empower the future of fashion.” The round valued the company – which was not even 2 years old at the time – at $33.3 million.
Apr 21, 2021 – The Fabricant Announces Funding Round
Leading virtual fashion firm The Fabricant announced the close of an undisclosed funding round in furtherance of its aim to “create tools and products that transform the fashion industry into a fully digital existence in both production and consumption, while democratizing fashion creation into a collaborative process utilizing 3D technology and the creativity of the consumer, accessible to everyone.” Participants in the round included 4impact, Borski Fund and Slingshot.