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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Forte, a blockchain-based gaming infrastructure startup, recently agreed to raise $185 million at around a $1 billion post-money valuation, according to multiple sources. Then other investors, including Tiger Global, came calling — offering to nearly double the price. But Forte CEO Josh Williams stuck to his word, quietly closing earlier this week.

Why it matters: In an era of "can you top this" VC valuations, often for the sake of instant gratification, Forte chose to play the long game.

Details: Griffin Gaming Partners led the Series B round, and was joined by new investors like Union Grove Venture Partners and return backers Andreessen Horowitz and Battery Ventures.

Why the interest: Forte, which declined comment, sits at the intersection of several scorching trends, including NFTs.

  • It's an economic back-end for gaming, a platform that allows game developers to integrate blockchain into their consumer-facing products.
  • A lot of this right now revolves around in-game item purchases, with Forte helping to enable monetization between players (or between streamers and fans), as opposed to just between developers and players. But it also goes beyond that, with Forte having quietly minted over 5,000 NFTs — some of them for items, but many for things like fractional ownership of gaming guilds.
  • Sources say that Forte has around 8 million players on its network, via dozens of popular games. Among the studios it works with is Gallium, co-founded by Will Wright, the original lead designer for "The Sims."

Curious caveat: Forte's long-term plan is to gradually decentralize its platform, believing that it's building the niche equivalent of Internet infrastructure. That also means its eventual goal is to dissolve itself, and it's not quite clear how that squares with raising venture capital.

The bottom line: Not all highly-competitive deals go to the highest bidder.

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.

Olympics medal tracker

Data: International Olympic Committee; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. students fell 4 to 5 months behind during pandemic

An empty classroom in Pinole, Calif. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elementary school students in the U.S. ended the school year four to five months behind their expected level of academic achievement, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Months of school closures and often inferior remote education eroded what schoolchildren would have learned since the pandemic began, and caused some to go backwards.