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Which investors have backed the most crypto startups?

The crypto industry has had a rough week. But which investors have been putting their cash into the most startups in the sector?

By Tim Smith, Amy O'Brien and Federico Scolari

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Ruth Foxe Blader

The collapse of crypto exchange platform FTX has sent the crypto markets tanking, as its founder Sam Bankman-Fried went from Sequoia-touted wunderkind to the architect of a “complete failure of corporate controls” in the space of a week. 

So, with confidence in the sector plummeting, which investors have been most seduced by crypto companies in the past couple of years? And which European investors got involved with consumer-facing crypto’s biggest deals? 

Sifted analysed data from Dealroom to identify the US and European firms that have made the most crypto* investments in 2021 and 2022, as the industry hype gained ground.

We’ve filtered out funds that explicitly style themselves as crypto or blockchain-focused, instead focusing on mainstream investors who made their first crypto bets. 

Here’s what we found.

Who’s been the most active?

US firms have generally been more active in the crypto and decentralised finance (DeFi) space than Europeans, but the investor which made the most investments in 2021 and 2022 (so far), according to Dealroom, was London-based investment firm and hedge fund Kingsway Capital, with 23 deals.

Among the other crypto-hungry European investors are Global Founders Capital (15 deals), Speedinvest (five deals) and Balderton (five deals). 

Here are the 10 most active US and European funds backing crypto and DeFi startups.

Who’s exposed to fading consumer confidence?

So far, it’s been consumer-facing crypto companies that have suffered worst in the crypto crunch. One notable European casualty was crypto-focused digital bank Nuri (formerly known as Bitwala), which shut down in October. Even before FTX’s collapse jeopardised consumers’ assets, retail investors were shying away from putting their hard-earned cash into more risky crypto assets. 

“For many savers who became investors for the first time over the past few years, it’s really hard emotionally to see your portfolio fall 20%+ and keep making regular investments,” Tara Reeves, managing director at Eurazeo, recently told Sifted.

“Plus, savings rates are higher, so it’s less tempting to dip your toe into equities or crypto if you’re a novice.”

Using Dealroom data, Sifted identified the 10 biggest investments in the consumer-facing crypto space which involved European investors:

1/ Gemini

What it does: New York-based crypto trading exchange.

Size of round: $400m

European investor involved: Augmentum Fintech — publicly traded, London-based fintech firm.

2/ Bullish Global

What it does: Cayman Islands-based crypto trading exchange.

Size of round: $400m

European investor involved: Christian Angermayer — billionaire and head of Malta-HQ’d family office Apeiron Investment Group.

3/ Ledger

What it does: Paris-based startup making physical wallets for storing cryptocurrency.

Size of round: $380m

European investors involved: Felix Capital — London-based, consumer focused VC firm; and Molten — London-based growth firm.

4/ Blockchain.com

What it does: Crypto wallet platform based in Luxembourg.

Size of round: $300m

European investor involved: Baillie Gifford — Edinburgh-based asset management company.

5/ Bitpanda

What it does: Vienna-based crypto trading exchange.

Size of round: $263m

European investor involved: Alan Howard — British billionaire hedge fund manager.

6/ BitDAO

What it does: Panama-based DeFi network.

Size of round: $230m

European investor involved: Brevan Howard Asset Management — London-based hedge fund.

7/ CoinDCX

What it does: Mumbai-based crypto trading exchange.

Size of round: $135m

European investor involved: Kingsway Capital — London-based VC and private equity fund.

8/ Blockchain.com

Size of round: $120m

European investor involved: Lakestar — Zurich-based, generalist tech VC firm.

9/ Rain

What it does: Bahrain-based crypto trading exchange.

Size of round: $110m

European investor involved: Global Founders Capital — Berlin-based generalist tech VC firm.

10/ Animoca Brands

What is does: Hong Kong-based publisher of crypto and blockchain-based games.

Size of round: $88.9m

European investor involved: Kingsway Capital.

What are investors thinking now?

Investors building back confidence in the sector depends on whether they’ve developed a proper thesis, have been exposed to crypto for long and have made a good number of crypto bets. 

Ruth Foxe Blader, partner at Anthemis — which has made two bets on crypto this year — defines crypto “natives” as investors that know the sector enough to be able to distinguish between companies that are viable and those that are not. 

These companies will be divided into those that are providing the infrastructure needed for crypto assets, and “highly leveraged, opaque and problematic projects subject to contagion”, she says. 

For those newer to crypto, it may take a bit longer to build back confidence.

“Many investors will sit crypto out entirely, waiting for the dust to settle and the regulatory environment to clarify,” Foxe Blader says. 

London-based investment firm Fasanara Capital has just closed a new $200m fund to invest in fintech and crypto. But even its CEO, Francesco Filia, acknowledges it will take a while for the industry to recover. 

“It’s early to say, but we need to wait for the dust to settle before we count casualties in the market,” he says.

“What happened is a severe break in trust for the sector overall, and one which will take time to heal. But we represent patient capital, and a setback of one year or two won’t change our long-term plan.”

Tim Smith is Sifted’s Iberia correspondent. He tweets from @timmpsmith. Amy O’Brien is Sifted’s fintech reporter. She tweets from @Amy_EOBrien and writes our fintech newsletter — you can sign up here. Federico Scolari is Intelligence analyst at Sifted. *The crypto firms in this data are those that are tagged ‘crypto’ and ‘DeFi’ on Dealroom. 

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