5 Web3 NFT Companies With the Biggest VC Backing (and 5 You've Never Heard Of)
Many speculative assets have taken a beating in recent weeks, and many are ready to bunker down for an extended bear market or another long crypto winter. Confident users in the crypto community suggest that this just means “it’s time to build” to come out stronger for the next bull market. The problem with this is that many NFT projects won’t have the funds or motivation to build through a bear market and thus will fade off into irrelevancy. Another general sentiment shared by many in the NFT community is that blockchain gamification is the catalyst to bring NFTs to adoption for all the right-click-savers out there.
In this article, we'll dig into which of these companies have the most venture capital (VC) funding. These will be the projects that we suspect will be hard at work building throughout any potential winter and making NFT technology ready for mainstream adoption. These are companies in some cases with tens and hundreds of millions of dollars ready to help build blockchain-based gaming platforms to be adopted by millions of people.
5 Web3 NFT Companies With the Most Venture Capital Backing
Some of the biggest companies in web3 have serious financial commitments from venture capital. Below we'll walk through some of the most notable.
1. Sorare ($739M Total Funding) – $680M Series B Led by Softbank
One of the most exciting utilities for NFTs is in the world of fantasy sports. Many fantasy sports players share similar interests with those interested in NFTs, so it's only natural for a crossover of the two to emerge.
Fantasy managers can own and trade officially-licensed digital collectible soccer player cards that represent the holder’s virtual team in Sorare’s fantasy soccer game. The fantasy game and verifiable ownership are all on the Ethereum blockchain.
Sorare is unique from many NFTs because the global popularity of soccer gives the platform a vast potential market of acquirable users. In addition, they have partnered with Major League Baseball for one of the first blockchain-based baseball fantasy games. With partnerships already in place, a first-to-market product, and $739M in total venture-backed funding to date, Sorare has a lot of potential.
2. Dapper Labs ($607M Total Funding) – $555M Series C & D Led by Coatue
Dapper Labs is often considered the pioneer of NFTs, starting with its CryptoKitties project in 2017 and then really kicking off the NFT boom with NBA Top Shot in 2021.
Who knows where NFTs would be right now without Dapper Labs?
Despite some criticism from NBA Top Shot collectors, Dapper Labs has created one of the most consumer-focused platforms and one of the easiest paths to NFT ownership with the Flow blockchain.
Flow is different from other blockchains in that it was explicitly designed to support games and consumer applications on day one, with the throughput necessary to scale to millions of active users.
The Flow blockchain not only supports Dapper’s NBA Top Shot but also NFL and UFC digital sports trading cards along with an expanding array of NFTs and blockchain-based games. Dapper describes the Flow blockchain as “the easiest and most secure way to buy and store all your digital assets from the groundbreaking apps and games.”
Dapper Labs has raised a total of $607.5M at a valuation of $7.4B over nine funding rounds from venture firms like Coatue and Andreessen Horowitz.
Additionally Dapper has announced a $725M Ecosystem Fund for Flow Blockchain Development backed again by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Coatue, and many others with large holdings of the FLOW token. Through a press release, Dapper described this fund as the largest joint commitment made towards any blockchain ecosystem. The Ecosystem Fund participants will provide existing and future developers with support in building applications on the Flow blockchain through investments, FLOW token grants, and in-kind support.
3. Improbable Worlds ($604M total) / Yuga Labs ($450M total) – Lead Investors Softbank (Improbable) and Andreessen Horowitz (Yuga)
Yuga Labs and Improbable Worlds are the two companies behind what is likely the most popular and anticipated metaverse gaming experience in the NFT community with The Otherside. While most know Yuga Labs as the company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem, there is a lot still unknown about Improbable Worlds, the metaverse technology company which developed The Otherside metaverse.
British technology company Improbable Worlds is working hand in hand with Yuga Labs to develop the Otherside Metaverse. According to Improbable’s website, its technology known as M² (MSquared) will consist of a network of interoperable metaverses to create interconnected virtual worlds and experiences for users to socialize, play games, attend concerts, and create and build value over time. They are enabling 10,000+ players to be able to interact simultaneously in a single place together with components of blockchain tech and NFT assets.
The Otherside is expected to give a metaverse experience to players that break through barriers in scale, bandwidth, and rendering as they create new types of gameplay and social possibilities. This gaming metaverse will be able to handle more than half a billion operations per second, whereas typical online game worlds can handle around 10,000 operations per second.
With this groundbreaking tech and highly-ambitious vision, expectations are extremely high for Improbable Worlds and Yuga Labs. Improbable and Yuga Labs received a total of $604M and $450M, respectively, in venture funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, Animoca Brands, and Softbank.
4. Autograph ($205M Total Funding) – $170M Series B Led by Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins
Many may have heard of Autograph as the crypto company that Tom Brady retired to focus on for two months before changing his mind and going back to the NFL.
Autograph is an NFT platform co-founded by Brady that brings together the most iconic brands and legendary names in sports, entertainment, and culture to create unique NFT collectibles and experiences.
Many of these digital collectibles include authenticated unique digital autographs from the sporting world's top athletes, just like a physical autographed trading card.
Autograph partners with DraftKings for primary and secondary marketplace sales of the digital NFT collectibles minted on the Polygon blockchain. The company’s board of advisors includes Tiger Woods, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, and Wayne Gretzky.
Autograph has raised a total of $205M in funding over two rounds, including the most recent $170M series B led by Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins.
5. Pixel Vault ($100M Total Funding) – $100M Series A Led by 01 Advisors, Velvet Sea Ventures
Pixel Vault is a web3 native media firm focused on elevating crypto-native assets across a range of channels. Pixel Vault has three core divisions that make up the company: Pixel Vault Sports, Punks Comic, and MetaHero.
Pixel Vault began with Punks Comic in early 2021 with a goal to use its Punks Comic storytelling and gaming to bring web3 culture to the mainstream.
Next, they expanded with the creation of the MetaHero Universe. The company is working with a gaming partner and Blur Studios to bring the world to life on the big screen, small screen, and in a AAA game incorporating blockchain elements.
Lastly, the company has most recently announced its Pixel Vault Sports division that will focus on comics, content, and blockchain games inspired by the stories of famous athletes in partnership deals with UFC and MLB.
In one year since its creation, Pixel Vault has signed partnership deals with Adidas, MLB, UFC, WME, and The Blur Studio.
The company received a series A funding round of $100M led by 01 Advisors and Velvet Sea Ventures with the goal of growing its IP into a web3 Marvel-esque empire.
5 VC Backed NFT Gaming Companies You’ve Possibly Never Heard Of
While names like Sorare and Dapper Labs are commonplace to NFT investors and collectors, lots of other companies are working with less attention but just as much in venture backing.
Below we'll walk through some of the most notable war chests you've possibly never heard of.
1. Forte ($910M Total Funding) - Kora, The Sea Capital
Forte is at the forefront of integrating blockchain technology into gaming, yet they are a company that a lot of NFT enthusiasts may not have heard of.
In fact, Forte has raised a total of $910M in funding over 4 rounds including a recent $725M series B led by Kora and The Sea Capital.
The company believes blockchain gaming is on the cutting edge of a new technological evolution and that it will make greater waves than all the shifts we’ve seen in the technology before. Its mission is to prepare all game developers for success whether they already have a AAA title with millions of players or are building a blockchain game from the ground up.
Forte’s website describes itself as a platform that allows game publishers to easily integrate blockchain technologies into its games. It offers features such as seamless, embeddable token wallets, NFT minting and selling, payment rails, and other services built specifically for blockchain token economies and the management of digital and virtual assets.
The team is composed of longtime gaming industry professionals from companies like Riot Games, Electronic Arts, Sony, and Rockstar Games. They are currently working with over 25 acclaimed game developers from across the globe to reimagine the economics of games.
As we see blockchain gaming improve and evolve, Forte is likely to play a part in driving this technological revolution.
2. Mythical Games ($150M Total Funding) - Andreessen Horowitz
Despite being relatively unheard of within the NFT space at the time of writing, Mythical Games is not a company to sleep on. Mythical Games is establishing itself as a leader in bringing blockchain-based gaming to the masses as a next-generation game technology studio.
At the time of writing, Mythical Games is in the early access phase of its first blockchain-based game called Blankos Block Party. More impressively is the announcement of its partnership with the NFL to create an NFT-based video game called NFL Rivals.
Similar to Sorare, the game will allow fantasy managers to act as the general manager of a team in a fantasy-style environment while assembling rosters composed of NFTs which represent players through a play-and-own system (rather than play-to-earn).
Mythical has more than 30 full-time employees and offices in Los Angeles and Seattle. The company was founded by CEO John Linden, CCO Jamie Jackson, and vice president of marketplace services Rudy Koch. This founding team has developed some of the world's most renowned gaming franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft in its previous executive roles at Activision Blizzard.
Mythical Games has raised a total of $260M in funding over six rounds, including its latest $150M series C round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
With lofty ambitions, significant funding, and proven gaming industry veterans at the helm, Mythical Games will likely become a well-known name in the NFT space very soon.
3. Irreverent Labs ($45M Total Funding) - Andreessen Horowitz
Irreverent Labs is another interesting new blockchain-based gaming company. Irreverent is unique in that they are developing artificially-intelligent games with machine learning while creating engaging gameplay with blockchain technology tied in.
Irreverent Labs describes itself as a world-class team with backgrounds in computer science, machine learning, arts, game development, storytelling, and blockchain with one mission: to create games that will outlast any player and become worlds of its own. They believe in the power of player ownership and a play-to-earn economy to create the next stage in human play. The company plans to provide games that bring an engaging experience that evolves with players for generations by merging advanced machine learning and blockchain technology.
In a press statement, Irreverent discussed its first game in development, called Mecha Fight Club.
Mecha Fight Club is a metaverse gaming platform in which every character in the game has an individually unique, artificially-intelligent non-player-character (NPC) that lives on the blockchain as an NFT. While completely different, one can think of the algorithms behind the blockchain horse racing game Zed Run to get an idea of the type of experience Irreverent is incorporating into its games.
At the time of writing, Irreverent Labs recently raised a $40M Series A round, once again led by Andreessen Horowitz which brought a total of $45M in funding over two rounds. The blockchain gaming vision of Irreverent is exciting, and many are looking forward to what they are able to deliver over the coming years.
4. Wilder World ($36M) - The Spartan Group
Wilder World may be more well-known than others on this list, as its NFTs have been regularly bought and sold on OpenSea for months.
As a company developing a fully decentralized and community-owned virtual world, however, they haven’t gotten as much recognition as many other metaverses like The Sandbox, Decentraland, or The Otherside.
That said, Wilder World is just as much, if not more, ambitious in its vision: “to create a fully decentralized and community-owned virtual nation to be experienced in an immersive photorealistic Metaverse.”
The Wilder World team has actually created a one-to-one geographical replica of Miami using lidar data to create its first Wilder World virtual city called Wiami.
The player versus player and play-to-earn aspects of this virtual world, such as those found in Wilder Wheels NFT Street racing, is currently in alpha testing though land sales have yet to take place. The company is also rolling out key metaverse partnerships with crypto-native projects such as Ben Mauro’s Huxley.
The company has raised a total of $36M in funding over five rounds. The most recent $30M venture round was led by Spartan Group, Animoca Brands, and well-known individuals such as Anthony ‘POMP’ Pompliano and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca, among others.
Wilder World envisions creating Grand Theft Auto without the violence but with real stakes on the line.
5. Faraway ($29M) - Lightspeed Venture Partners
Faraway is a web3 gaming company that makes hyper-social blockchain browser-based games with player-driven economies.
Unlike a lot of other blockchain gaming companies on this list, browser-based game developer Faraway has released its first game called Mini Royale: Nations with hundreds of thousands of current active users.
Faraway’s Mini Royale: Nations is built on the Solana blockchain where players can collect, own, and sell in-game items such as weapon skins, character skins, and accessories, as well as future additions like land plots and buildings.
Many blockchain features such as a secondary marketplace for the game's NFTs are not yet available, however, as Faraway attempts to scale the experience to a potentially larger market.
The company believes that building a game that runs within a web browser is the best fit for NFT-centered web3 experiences, due to how far the tech has come. This approach can reduce concerns about the games being removed from platform owners such as Valve.
Faraway understands that just adding NFTs and tokens to a game doesn’t mean people will play it. That is why they are adhering to a core mentality: “that people only play a game long-term if it’s fun and their friends are also playing.”
Faraway co-founder Alex Paley believes that the crypto components can only benefit its approach by incentivizing community building and potentially rewarding the investment of time and money into games.
These impressive deliverables in a short amount of time have led Faraway to raise a total of $29M in venture funding. The most recent round was a $21M Series A led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, alongside other investors including, you guessed it, Andreessen Horowitz (along with Sequoia Capital, Pantera Capital, and Jump Capital.)
Though venture funding does not guarantee success, the projects on this list have a considerable financial runway to be able to withstand a significant downturn.
Whether a bear or bull market, you can find all the latest news on these projects and more on our curated newsfeed.