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Dragon’s Den star Steven Bartlett’s Web3 startup bags $24m

The round was led by Haun Ventures, Coinbase Ventures, Shopify and Polygon.

By Eleanor Warnock

Steven Bartlett Credit: Steven Bartlett

Steven Bartlett, known for his appearances on the UK reality TV show Dragon’s Den (for non-UK readers — it’s Shark Tank), has just raised a $24m Series A for his Web3 infrastructure company thirdweb. The round puts the company’s valuation at $160m. 

What does thirdweb do?

Let’s get the Web3 definition over and done with first. Web3 refers to a new generation of blockchain-powered businesses that embrace decentralisation and democratising ownership (still with us?) — as opposed to centralised platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Web3 platforms often focus on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), tokenisation and the metaverse. NFTs are digital identifiers that can verify ownership of a virtual item on the blockchain, be that a piece of digital art or a football trading card.

Thirdweb makes it easy for developers to build using the tools of Web3 — from blockchain games to NFT drops — without having to learn a new coding language or hire other specialist developers. It’s basically a developer toolkit that lets developers easily build products on top of different blockchains. 

Bartlett, also known for his podcast The Diary of a CEO and for founding social media marketing agency Social Chain, founded thirdweb in 2021 with cofounder and fellow serial entrepreneur Furqan Rydhan. Bartlett says the company originally started as an idea to build an application to help brands and creators to distribute access randomly to fans before they realised that making it easier for others to build those sorts of products might be a better business. 

“Building an application is probably easier but it’s more competitive. Going one layer down is much more difficult but probably less competitive,” says Bartlett. “The good thing is going to the infrastructure layer has made us seemingly immune to the [cryptocurrency] bear market. Builders in these times carry on building.” 

Who is investing in thirdweb?

  • This round was led by US crypto fund Haun Ventures.
  • Crypto exchange Coinbase’s investment arm Coinbase Ventures, Shopify and Polygon, a crypto startup originally from Serbia, also participated in the round.
  • Bartlett says that the company is working on integration with Shopify. 

Who uses thirdweb?

  • Thirdweb customers include Australian buy now, pay later company Afterpay, New York Fashion Week and Coinbase (for its NFT marketplace). 

What’s the market like?

  • VCs invested $30bn into crypto companies last year, and investment into crypto and decentralised finance (DeFi) startups grew six times in 2021, according to our Sifted Pro crypto briefing.
  • Despite the drop in tech stocks, the tanking of cryptomarkets and the spectre of a global economic slowdown, Web3 startups have continued to find funding. Berlin-based Cherry Ventures launched a dedicated Web3 fund named Cherry Crypto earlier this year. 

What’s next for thirdweb?

  • Bartlett says that the company will use the money to grow the engineering and growth marketing teams and support more blockchains on the platform. 

Sifted’s Take

The jury is still very much out on Web3. Regulatory concerns over companies like football fantasy trading game Sorare are emerging. And most self-professed Web3 companies are still very much Web2 companies at their core — just look at Discord, the discussion platform of choice for Web3 communities.

But VCs still don’t seem to want to stop trying to make Web3 happen. Given the crypto winter, it makes sense that VCs who still want to dabble in blockchain-powered businesses would see approaches like thirdweb’s “picks and shovels” play — ie. building the tools for the gold rush — as more attractive than a pure-play cryptocurrency company. 

Eleanor Warnock is Sifted’s deputy editor and cohost of The Sifted Podcast. She tweets from @misssaxbys 

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