Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Bored Apes creator Yuga Labs raises $450 million

Mar 23, 2022
Illustration of a peeled banana made of money.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Yuga Labs — creator of the Bored Ape Yacht Club and now owner of popular NFT collections CryptoPunks and Meebits — has raised $450 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz's crypto fund.

  • Animoca Brands, LionTree, Sound Ventures, Thrive Capital, FTX, and MoonPay, among others, participated in the round, which values the startup at $4 billion post-money.

Why it's the BFD: Despite a recent slowdown in NFT trading volume, investors are still bullish on the sector and throwing their weight behind the current market leader.Driving the news: Since launching last spring, Yuga Labs' Bored Ape NFTs have risen to be the highest-valued collection on the market, according to CoinMarketCap.

  • And with its acquisition of CryptoPunks and Meebits IP earlier this month, the company now controls five of the top NFT collections.
Number of NFT sales
Data: NonFungible; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Yuga is clearly looking for ways to grow its community beyond those who can afford to buy NFTs selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Last week it issued a token — dubbed ApeCoin — that would let everyday users invest in the ecosystem.
  • It also gave a sneak peek at an upcoming metaverse project called Otherside.

Yes, but: The token launch was not without controversy — the price collapsed almost immediately upon issuance, as NFT owners who were airdropped ApeCoins flooded the market with tokens for sale.

  • Furthermore, at least one enterprising crypto bro exploited the liquidity marketplace NFTX by taking control of a pool of Bored Apes and getting ApeCoins for free.
  • And though the token is governed by a so-called decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), some are questioning how truly decentralized the governance structure is — since a big chunk of the token allocation is going to Yuga Labs and its investors.

What we're watching: Yuga Labs is clearly the early leader in a nascent market, and now it has a good deal of capital to build a moat.

  • But will the startup be able to remain the leader in a market where "what's cool" is always subject to change?
  • And will it be able to attract mainstream users who aren't on the bleeding edge of early adoption?

Of note: Yuga's fundraising talks with a16z were first reported by Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva and Dan Primack in early February.

Go deeper