Skip to main content

Bored Ape Yacht Club creator raises $450 million to build an NFT metaverse

Bored Ape Yacht Club creator raises $450 million to build an NFT metaverse

/

The funding values Yuga Labs at $4 billion

Share this story

An illustration of a Bored Ape at the center of a vortex pulling in Meebits and CryptoPunks.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Yuga Labs, the owner of three of the biggest NFT brands on the market, has raised $450 million in funding at a $4 billion valuation, the company announced today. The team behind Bored Ape Yacht Club plans to use the money to build a media empire around NFTs, starting with games and its own metaverse project.

The team describes its metaverse project, called Otherside, as an MMORPG meant to connect the broader NFT universe. They hope to create “an interoperable world” that is “gamified” and “completely decentralized,” says Wylie Aronow, a co-founder of Bored Ape Yacht Club who goes by the pseudonym Gordon Goner. “We think the real Ready Player One experience will be player run.”

The announcement comes just weeks after Yuga Labs made a major move to consolidate the NFT space, acquiring CryptoPunks and Meebits from Larva Labs. The acquisition put three of the most lucrative NFT collections under one roof — and gave Yuga Labs a bigger roster of IP to pull from when crafting its game and metaverse plans. The company also launched a cryptocurrency, ApeCoin, last week; the token will be governed independently and used as the primary currency in Yuga Labs’ properties.

Yuga Labs is partnering with “a few different game studios” to bring Otherside to life, says CEO Nicole Muniz. The game won’t be limited to Bored Ape holders, and the company plans to create development tools that allow NFTs from other projects to work inside their world. “We’re opening the door to effectively a walled garden and saying ‘Everybody’s welcome.’”

Metaverse projects are all the rage right now — see Facebook renaming itself to Meta — but Yuga Labs thinks other companies are going about their metaverse ideas wrong, giving the startup a chance to stand out. People won’t bond from spending time together in a shared virtual space with nothing going on, says Greg Solano, a Yuga Labs co-founder who goes by the pseudonym Gargamel. Instead, he says, people bond from being put in positions where they have to collaborate.

“You only play with people and make friends because you’re getting your ass kicked,” Solano says. “Basically, we don’t think deep social experience comes from essentially a Zoom chat and walking around saying ‘hi.’” Yuga Labs declined to provide a timeline on the release of Otherside. A play-to-earn game is also planned for later this year.

The funding round, one of the largest for an NFT company to date, was led by the firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has been investing heavily in the Web3 space. It previously funded OpenSea, Dapper Labs, and Coinbase. Also joining the funding round are the game studio Animoca Brands and crypto firms Coinbase and MoonPay, among others. Chris Lyons, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, will join the board of Yuga Labs. Funding talks were first reported last month by the Financial Times.

“There’s a dystopian future where Meta is this kind of dominant digital experience provider”

“To me, Yuga Labs, combined with these other emerging [Web3] companies, are an important counterweight to companies like Meta,” Chris Dixon, who leads Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto arm, tells The Verge. “There’s a dystopian future where Meta is this kind of dominant digital experience provider, and all of the money and control goes to that company.” (Interestingly, Andreessen Horowitz’s co-founder, Marc Andreessen, is on Meta’s board of directors and invested early in Facebook.)

Yuga Labs has been financially successful to date. A leaked pitch deck indicates that the company made $137 million last year, primarily by taking a cut of the transactions tied to its NFT brands, with an astounding 95 percent profit margin. (Yuga Labs declined to comment on figures from the deck.)

But the company has built fairly little at this point. Its NFT collections have 40,000 users at most, according to OpenSea’s data, and the company has only released one game for a limited period of time. That means Yuga Labs is essentially being given hundreds of millions of dollars to build a gaming company — or at least, the Web3-ified 2022 version of one — from scratch, off the back of a hugely lucrative art project.

That success is what investors are thinking about when funding Yuga Labs. “They built this very energized community and this culture phenomenon,” says Dixon. But the company is ultimately making the same big bet that so many others are right now: that some format of metaverse project will become the next explosive thing. Now, they just have to build it.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.