Following its launch earlier this year, Shibuya—co-founded by artist Emily “pplpleasr” Yang—announced today that it has raised seed funding to expand its Ethereum NFT-driven, interactive video platform and onboard new creators.
Shibuya raised $6.9 million in a round co-led by VC heavyweights Andreessen Horowitz and Variant Fund. The round also included participation by notable angel investors including NBA star Kevin Durant, entertainer (and NFT creator) Paris Hilton, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, and Aave founder and CEO Stani Kulechov.
Pplpleasr and co-founder Maciej Kuciara, a concept artist on numerous Hollywood blockbusters, launched Shibuya in March with the first chapter of original anime series, “White Rabbit.”
Shibuya’s Web3 hook is that viewers can purchase NFTs that both fund new content and give them the ability to vote on the story’s direction across chapters—a sort of choose-your-own adventure story fueled by decentralized governance. While the platform was initially self-funded, the crypto and NFT market declines that followed convinced the founders to raise money to push forward.
“What became more important to me [than self-funding] was that we can continue building out this vision,” pplpleasr told Decrypt, “with that safety in mind of being able to focus on what's important, and not have to worry about the market.”
— Shibuya (@shibuyaxyz) June 10, 2022
Since the launch, Shibuya has added the second chapter of “White Rabbit,” with the third due in January. The startup plans to use the funding to expand its team as it seeks future creative collaborators to develop additional interactive, NFT-fueled film projects to debut in Web3.
Pplpleasr, who rose to prominence in Web3 through her NFT artwork for DeFi protocols, said that she and Kuciara will be hands-on with the next wave of projects on the platform to ensure quality results. The aim is to “be the A24 of Web3,” she said, citing the cult-favorite indie movie studio behind films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “Moonlight.”
“Content in Web3 right now is just bad,” pplpleasr said. “There's a lot of money in Web3 to make content, but there's not a lot of tastemakers.”
Shibuya aims to onboard creators that aren’t already immersed in Web3, and the longer-term plan is to eventually open up its tools to creators without pplpleasr and Kuciara being so intimately involved in the process.
The next chapter of “White Rabbit” will introduce new interactive mechanics, pplpleasr said, adding that the company is always “thinking five steps ahead” on new ways to engage with NFT holders. Shibuya also recently held a collaboration with popular profile picture (PFP) project Azuki, letting NFT owners vote on which character will cameo in “White Rabbit.”
Pplpleasr believes that a decentralized video platform like Shibuya is essential for creatives to break from the traditional Hollywood machine, and she said that if they didn’t build it, someone else undoubtedly would. Raising funding ensures that Shibuya can continue on its path, she said, to help creators monetize their work and involve fans in the process.
“It will enable a lot of creators to start transforming the way that content is made,” she explained, “if it is done right.”