One of the truly great things about the crypto and DeFi industries is that they have provided an environment for some incredible new startups innovating in endless ways.
Remember, every company in the crypto space, even Binance and Coinbase, started as an idea that was brought to life by a talented team of creators. In a financial sector that has been dominated by the old guard, blockchain technology has created an industry that has lower barriers to entry than many businesses in the traditional financial system.
There are new crypto and DeFi projects hitting the markets each day and it is truly providing an opportunity for investors to take part in the creation of decentralized future.
If you're looking for a way to work in crypto, invest in the next big crypto startup or DeFi project, or just want to stay up-to-date with the industry, here are 20 of the top crypto startups to watch this year. Also, many of these crypto startups were featured in our MLQ VC: Recently Funded Startup report. This means they've all recenly raised a venture capital round and are currently making moves in the industry.
Moonpay’s mission statement is similar to a lot of companies on this list: "to make crypto accessible to everyone." The digital platform is not only a place where consumers can buy and sell cryptocurrencies, it offers financial services to embed into the site or software for your business. It is one of a growing number of financial technology companies that provides add ons and APIs that integrate directly into your consumer-facing business.
Moonpay also offers an NFT Checkout add-on that allows a site to sell NFTs and accept payment in credit cards. Additionally, Moonpay offers direct fiat to crypto conversion using on and off-ramps to your site. Moonpay’s services are used in over 160 different countries by over 250 different companies.
The company also recently raised an incredibly large Series A round of funding in the amount of $555 million, which gives Moonpay a valuation of over $3.4 billion.
Anchorage Digital Bank is the first federally chartered digital asset bank in America, and was founded in 2017 by two former employees of Block (formerly known as Square). Anchorage Digital provides financial technology services to existing banks that want to allow their clients to be able to buy, sell, and hold digital assets in a secure manner. The company has a long list of crypto-related services including simple trading, secure custody, staking, governance, and even financing which allow users to leverage their existing crypto investments to obtain a loan. The digital asset market and the traditional finance market are trying to learn how to coexist and companies like Anchorage Digital are helping to make that transition easier for investors.
OpenSea is likely one of the more recognizable names on this list as it has already established itself as the leader in NFT marketplaces. The platform was founded back in 2017, before NFTs or Non Fungible Tokens that were created on the Ethereum blockchain had ever hit the mainstream.
The company is now the premier NFT marketplace and has over 600,000 active users that can buy and sell over 80 million NFTs across more than 2 million collections. In a recent round of funding, OpenSea received a valuation of a staggering $13 billion. Early investors include NBA player Kevin Durant, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, Mark Cuban, and Shopify founder and CEO Tobie Lutke.
Alchemy might be the most important blockchain company that you have never heard of. Established in 2020, Alchemy already has a valuation north of $3 billion. So what exactly does Alchemy do? Think of it as the operating system that allows applications and exchanges to work on the blockchain.
The company likens itself to the Windows or MacOS of the blockchain world, and is already being used by some of the biggest names in the space including the previously mentioned OpenSea, Dapper Labs, and Adobe. Alchemy also deals directly with blockchain DeFi protocols such as AAVE, Yearn.Finance, the Graph, and Sushi.
Alchemy is also being used by companies to build networks for the foundation of the next iteration of the internet: Web3. Keep an eye on Alchemy, as it evolves into the engine that runs the blockchain application universe.
While you might not be as familiar with the name Consensys, you have likely used one of its blockchain-based products. Ever heard of Metamask or Quorum? These are just two products in the full enterprise software suite that Consensys offers. It is one of the largest blockchain software providers in the world, and is an industry leader in building software that works on the Ethereum blockchain.
The founder of Consensys, Joseph Lubin, was actually one of the original co–founders of the Ethereum blockchain itself. WIth Consensys, Lubin is helping businesses and consumers around the world by building next-generation applications and software that will help transition the world into a future dominated by decentralized blockchain technology. Consensys is ushering in a new world of DeFi and Web3, that is changing the way we view finance forever.
This Vancouver-based blockchain company changed the way we view collectibles when it launched its NBA Top Shot product. These short video clips of NBA highlights that are created on the blockchain have revolutionized and resurrected a stale collectibles market.
Dapper Labs even created its own blockchain protocol called Flow, due to higher charges and slower transaction speeds on the Ethereum blockchain. Dapper Labs is also the creator of one of the most popular NFT lines in Cryptokitties, and has recently launched an NFL NFT line called NFL All Day, with a UFC line of NFTs also on the horizon. NBA Top Shots is the #1 decentralized app or dAPP in the world and already has produced over 10 million marketplace transactions that have totalled over $700 million.
Autograph is an NFT marketplace that takes sports collectibles to a whole new level. Co-founded by NFL quarterback Tom Brady, Autograph provides limited edition NFTs from some of the biggest names in sports and pop culture. Choose from exclusive collections like Naomi Osaka’s Mangas, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's Victory Lap, and Derek Jeter’s the Captain.
The company’s advisor group spans the sports world and includes names like Tiger Woods, Naomi Osaka, Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky, Tony Hawk, and Usain Bolt, as well as executives like the three co-founders of DraftKings and Michael Rapino who is the CEO of Live Nation. For the true sports memorabilia collectibles out there, Autograph is the marketplace for diehard sports fans.
Blockdaemon is a company that connects businesses to the blockchain by deploying blockchain applications and building the infrastructure between them. The company provides tools for blockchain projects and specializes in providing node operations, which act as the framework for data collected on the blockchain.
Blockdaemon is used by over 40 DeFi protocols including Bitcoin, Ethereum 2.0, Harmony One, Near Protocol, and Polkadot, just to name a few. The company boasts one of the safest node networks for crypto staking in the DeFi industry, and is helping crypto projects around the world launch their projects in a secure and efficient manner.
Offchain Labs is the premier scaling solution for DeFi applications that operate on the Ethereum network. Its main product is called Arbitrum, which can scale any existing Ethereum contract. Offchain Labs was the first L2 scaling system to go live on Ethereum, with well over 400 applications that can use it. These include exchanges like SushiSwap, UniSwap, and AAVE. Everyone knows how expensive Ethereum gas fees are right now, and what Offchain Labs is doing is reducing the gas fees by over 90% while simultaneously increasing the transaction output of the network.
When we talk about the future of the internet and DeFi, we are generally talking about Web3 which will be built entirely on the blockchain. Figment is one of the world’s leading providers of blockchain infrastructure and services, and is helping companies prepare for the impending evolution of the internet as we know it.
Figment was launched back in 2018, by co-founders Matt Harrop, Lorien Gabel, and Andrew Cronk. As you are probably now aware, one of the most important segments of DeFi is staking. Figment offers custody of tokens and staking and node infrastructure on some of the hottest protocols in the world including Avalanche, Cardano, Solana, and Near Protocol. The goal of Figment is to support the long-term success of the Web3 ecosystem by providing software and services to help companies build successfully on the next-generation blockchain framework.
Elliptic brings a different type of service to the blockchain. Since 2013, Elliptic has been utilizing blockchain analytics to help fight against financial crime. Look, we all know the risks in investing in crypto projects. There are too many to keep track of, but a majority of them do not really end up working out. Some end up being the source of fraudulent activity through things like rug pulls and digital asset theft. Elliptic is working with the providers of crypto projects like Coinbase, Genesis, and Coingate.
If you believe in the long-term success of the crypto industry, then you are also likely to be in favor of regulatory compliance to eliminate financial crimes. Elliptic hopes to do this by providing analytic reports of things like crypto wallet screening, crypto transaction monitoring, and crypto project investigations.
Ramp Network is a European company that is building software solutions to power the next generation of dAPPs. By creating software that connects the traditional banking system with the decentralized network of the blockchain. Ramp has some interesting features that set it apart from other software providers. These include things like lower fees for higher transaction amounts and integration with Apple Pay as well as local payment methods that are unique to a specific market.
Ramp also offers a SDK or Software Development Kit that any dAPP or site that takes transactions can add the ability to pay with crypto. If your site accepts fiat money as payment, Ramp wants to make it so you can accept crypto payments as well!
Matter Labs is yet another Ethereum scaling company that is aiming to play a major role in accelerating the acceptance of a decentralized finance system. Its product, zkSync, had seemingly solved the scalability of Ethereum without compromising the security of its users. zkSync has the who’s who of crypto businesses using it, including Binance, Moonpay, Coingecko, Coinbase, and Huobi. It is indeed an L2 protocol rollup that helps to increase security, reduce gas fees, and create faster transactions for dAPPs that use the Ethereum blockchain.
Shakepay is a Canadian-based crypto trading exchange that is helping to usher in the next age of digital finance. It was launched back in 2015 and has since added over 900,000 Canadian users that have carried out over $6 billion in crypto transactions.
What’s with the interesting name? The main gimmick (marketing ploy?) of Shakepay is that everyday users can shake their mobile phones and receive increasing amounts of satoshis which are Bitcoin’s smaller denomination. This can be done each day for 201 days at which point the amount of satoshis you receive maxes out. Shakepay even offers a Visa Debit Card that users can load and earn Bitcoin rewards on.
Stacked is a crypto trading platform with a catch: it is an automated way of investing in cryptos through a diversified index portfolio or through their trading bots. It is certainly a unique way of approaching the crypto markets, particularly with the bots since we know the markets are open 24 hours per day. We should warn you that the bots are a paid service whereas the indexed portfolios are free to invest in.
Stacked is hoping to take the stress and confusion of investing in cryptos out of the equation. It is also a platform that works alongside another platform of your choice, so rather than being an exchange, Stacked is more like the software that works with your exchange of choice. Currently, Stacked works with major crypto exchanges like Binance, Coinbase, Voyager, KuCoin, and many others. For those who know nothing about cryptos but want to get started in investing in them, Stacked is a great way to ease your way into the market.
Zerion was founded back in 2016 as a platform to track all of the different ERC-20 tokens trading on the Ethereum network. Today, it is one of the world’s most intuitive DeFi asset management platforms that makes it easy to manage all of your DeFi investments like NFTs and staking accounts. As of June of 2021, Zerion had over 200,000 monthly active users with over $1 billion in trading volume.
Zerion has a web-based platform, but also has mobile apps that are compatible with both iOS and Android phones. Zerion wants to be the dashboard and control console for your DeFi portfolio, and integrates seamlessly with DeFi wallets like MetaMask or TrustWallet. Zerion also supports other non-Ethereum chains including Polygon, Arbitrum, and the Binance Smart Chain.
Nansen is a Singapore-based company that was founded in 2019. Since then, it has established itself as one of the leading data analytics platforms for the Ethereum blockchain. Why is this significant? Investors are able to use Nansen to receive an analysis of tens of millions of wallet IDs so they can follow the smart money flow into various blockchain products. Users receive alerts on things like trading volume, major transactions, and gas fees across multiple different blockchains including Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Polygon, and Fantom.
The company recently completed another round of Series B funding that provided it with a further $75 million from major tech investors like Andreessen Horowitz and Tiger Global.
Faraway is a Miami-based blockchain company that is using multi-player gaming as a way to build the creator universe for the future of Web3. Its newest web-based game is Mini Royale: Nations, which like many play-to-earn games sells its users NFTs to use within the game.
Faraway is building its games on the Solana blockchain, and recently raised $21 million in a round of funding from major investors like Sequoia Capital, Pantera Capital, and Solana itself. Faraway also has major plans for bringing blockchain-based games to the Metaverse, and while thus far many DeFi games have been focussed on single-player action, Faraway is introducing massive multiplayer experiences.
Burnt Finance is an NFT marketplace that is built on the Solana blockchain. The difference between Burnt and other NFT marketplaces is that Burnt is built upon an auction system. You might have heard of Burnt when it announced its arrival on the art scene by burning a physical painting by Banksy, and then posted the NFT version on its marketplace. But Burnt is more than just your average NFT marketplace. Not only can you bid and purchase NFTs on Burnt, but you can also mint and create your own to sell to other users.
Burnt is also implementing DeFi functionality into its platform that will allow users to stake tokens and even offer GameFi which will build a stronger ecosystem and provide user incentives for its Burnt token.
Seashell is one of a number of DeFi platforms that are attempting to move investors away from the traditional ‘savings accounts’ of centralized financial institutions. The Seattle-based company offers high-interest yields on your fiat cash, and has been marketing the new account as a way to fight rising inflation rates.
Dallas Mavericks owner and crypto enthusiast, Mark Cuban, suggested to consumers that Seashell is an excellent way to gain a higher yield than a traditional bank account. Seashell also allows crypto investors to stake their crypto to use as collateral for a fiat money loan. This allows the company to play both sides of the transactions while providing a decentralized platform without going through a traditional bank.
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