MakersPlace, a marketplace for crypto collectible artwork sold as NFTs, is the latest such NFT destination to raise significant new funding following this spring’s market boom. Today, the firm announced a $30 million Series A round with various big-name backers in the mix.
It’s a long list of names, but rapper Eminem and his manager Paul Rosenberg stand out as strategic investors, along with NFL player Larry Fitzgerald. Eminem actually released his own NFTs in April, albeit through rival platform Nifty Gateway—the three separate drops generated nearly $1.79 million in total sales. Fitzgerald, meanwhile, is also an investor in crypto fintech wallet app Eco.
Bessemer Venture Partners and Pantera Capital led the Series A round, with Coinbase Ventures, Sony Music Entertainment, Draper Dragon Digital, Uncork Capital, and 9Yards Capital also participating. Other notable investors include Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lütke, DJ and NFT entrepreneur 3LAU, former Sotheby’s CEO William Ruphrecht, and Acquavella Galleries.
According to MakersPlace, its Ethereum blockchain-based platform has processed more than $100 million in transaction volume so far in 2021, and its user base has multiplied 10 times over. MakersPlace is perhaps best known for partnering with auction house Christie’s for the sale of artist Beeple’s “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” NFT, which sold for $69.3 million in March.
The NFT market exploded in early 2021, racking up some $2.5 billion in total transaction volume in the first half of the year according to data from DappRadar. An NFT is like a blockchain-backed deed of ownership to a digital item, introducing verifiable rarity to digital paintings, video artwork, tokenized tweets, interactive video game items, and more.
While NBA Top Shot moments and items in games like Axie Infinity and The Sandbox have been big draws, so have artwork drops on NFT marketplaces like Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, OpenSea, and MakersPlace. Celebrities and athletes have especially benefited from this year’s NFT boom, with musicians Grimes and The Weeknd and NFL players Rob Gronkowski and Patrick Mahomes each pulling in seven figures from NFT drops.
Given the surge in interest around the NFT market, which has caught fire again lately after a late spring/early summer lull, it’s no surprise that the marketplaces themselves have been a prime target for investment. OpenSea recently became a crypto “unicorn” with a valuation of $1.5 billion following a $100 million Series B funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Nifty Gateway, which is owned by cryptocurrency exchange Gemini (led by the Winklevoss twins), was estimated to be worth as much as $1.2 billion in March by crypto analytics firm Messari. At the time, Messari only pegged OpenSea's valuation at up to $498 million.
Meanwhile, Rarible raised a $14.2 million Series A in June and the Mark Cuban-backed Nifty’s raised a $10 million seed round in July. SuperRare also counted Cuban amongst its investors in a $9 million Series A round in March, which also included participation from SamsungNext, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, and Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff.