The blockchain start-up OpenSea, a marketplace for NFTs, non-fungible tokens, has raised $300 of investment capital through a funding round valuing the company at a colossal $13 billion. OpenSea, founded just 4 years ago, has benefitted from the boom in interest in NFTs last year which saw double figures of the digital artworks sold for millions of dollars.
The highest ever price fetched for an NFT was the $69.3 million paid in March at a Christie’s auction for the NFT EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS by digital artist Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann. NFTs have allowed owners of digital artworks and other digital collectibles to prove possession and originality. Even if a digital image can be exactly replicated at the touch of a button, the holder of an NFT can show their image or file is the ‘original’.
2017-founded OpenSea says that its marketplace holds more than 80 million NFTs and boasts 600,000 users. It now employs around 90 people and counts high profile investors like the billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Pinterest co-founder and chief executive Ben Silbermann and actor and investor Ashton Kutcher among its backers.
OpenSea’s own co-founder and chief executive Devin Finzer said the start-up’s ambition is to become the “most trusted” place for people to buy and sell NFTs online. The $300 million raised in the latest funding round will help, he wrote in a blog post on the OpenSea website, “accelerate this vision”.
The money will fund further development of the marketplace platform, improved customer support, further recruitment and investment in the NFT industry. The latter may suggest OpenSea is interested in making acquisitions as well as relying purely on organic growth.
Sceptics see the recent craze for NFTs as a temporary fad rather than the start of a new long term and growing market for digital art and collectables. Mr Finzer, unsurprisingly, disagrees and comments believes that 2021 “saw the world awaken to the idea that NFTs represent the basic building blocks for brand new peer-to-peer economies.”
NFTs are most typically traded using Ether, the cryptocurrency that the smart contracts Ethereum blockchain runs on. Ether is the second most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalisation after Bitcoin. A single ether currently trades at $3264 and the total value of all ether in circulation is around $386.7 billion. This time last year an ether traded at a little over $1200.