The State of Web3 Super Companies

The year of 2021 had been the year that Web3 gained mainstream popularity, transitioning from obscure, niche Discord communities, selling and buying NFTs, to Facebook rebranding to Meta, and your uncle asking why anyone would pay $300k for a digital image of a monkey.

altan-tutar

Altan Tutar

Altan is an entrepreneur-in-residence at Antler, one of the fastest-growing global early-stage venture capital firms. He's also an active participant and leader of Antler's web3 initiatives. Before Antler, he was a mMaster's student at Imperial College London, specializing in computing and it's applications in robotics via deep learning methods. Prior to Imperial College London, Altan was an undergraduate at Davidson College, where he double-majored in computer science (honors) and mathematics, published award-winning research in virtual reality and mathematics and worked at early-stage startups such as Lucid Drone Technologies (YC S'19).

The year of 2021 had been the year that Web3 gained mainstream popularity, transitioning from obscure, niche Discord communities, selling and buying NFTs, to Facebook rebranding to Meta, and your uncle asking why anyone would pay $300k for a digital image of a monkey.

The space is exciting, with so much demand for engineers having the skills relevant to Web3. In fact, the expected salary for an entry-level blockchain developer in London, who knows Solidity and Rust, is almost 22% higher than the average salary (Glassdoor estimate) for a software engineer, regardless of seniority. At Antler, we see the same rise of interest from our founders taking action to build in the Web3 space. Over the last year, we backed at least six Web3-native companies, more than the total Web3 companies we had in our portfolio at the beginning of the year.

Numerous venture capital funds are launching Web3-only funds. With the excitement in place, I could not resist the urge to explore the unicorns in the Web3 space analytically — a line of companies that I call "Web3 super companies."

In this piece, I aimed to provide a basic analysis of the state of Web3 super companies by the end of 2021. I base my research on the Crunchbase data (See Appendix), where I found 8,785 Web3 native companies, with 60 of them (See the list) being Web3 super companies. My analysis looks at:

1. the percentage of Web3 companies that deserved the "super" adjective,

2. the top investors in the space by the number of investments into Web3 super companies,

3. the headquarter distribution by geography,

4. the makeup of Web3 verticals,

5. a preliminary estimation as to the total revenue of Web3 super companies.

Almost 1 in 150 Web3 Companies Became a Unicorn

Of all 8,785 Web3 companies, 60 of them became unicorns. Based on historical data, which might not capture the accurate snapshot of Web3 companies, that as an entrepreneur starting a Web3 company, you have a decent 0.7% chance of becoming a unicorn founder. From the VC perspective, your expected number of hitting the jackpot is very likely if you invest in 140 Web3 companies. It would be interesting to see how this percentage changes in the years to come.

Coinbase Ventures Made the Most Number of Investments into Web3 Super Companies

When we look at the investors that invested in Web3 super companies (only by the top 5 investors reported in Crunchbase), we see that 152 investment/venture capital firms have invested in Web3 super companies.

Of those that shine in the top number of investments are:

Coinbase Ventures (19 investments, 32% present in cap tables of Web3 super companies),

Digital Currency Group (14 investments, already a Web3 super company themselves),

Andreessen Horowitz (12 investments),

Ribbit Capital and Pantera Capital (9 Investments each).

It is also possible to see other game-changers of the venture capital industry in the last year in the list, such as Tiger Global Management (8 investments, top 6 in the leaderboard in count of investments), and Softbank Vision Fund (4 investments, top 17 in the same leaderboard). It is surprising not to see Web3 native funds, such as Maven 11 Capital and MultiCoin Capital, and I suspect that some of these funds will join the list in 2022.

The United States is the Center of Web3

With China's Central bank cracking down on bitcoin this year, the center of attention in Web3 has been turned to the United States. In fact, the United States beats China as the number one destination for crypto mining — for the first time in history. Web3 is expected to be an active debate in Washington with the a16z poll finding out that voters will prefer the candidate that supports Web3.

The prevalence of Web3 super companies, compounded with increasing bitcoin mining activity, is perhaps the reason why Web3 is such a hot topic in Washington DC. Of 60 companies on the list, 53% are headquartered in the United States, followed by China (excluding Hong Kong), which hosts 5% (3 companies) of the Web3 super companies. Other countries on the list are Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom with 2 companies each.

With Decentralized Finance (DeFi) being an integral part of Web3, I see further potential of new protocols in other regions emerging due to the core philosophy of open, decentralized, transparent and permissionless banking, potentially increasing the diversity of the headquarters of Web3 super companies.

Trading / Brokerage Firms are Dominating the Space, but NFTs / Gaming are on the Rise

Precisely 32% of Web3 super companies are in the Trading / Brokerage vertical. The high number of Trading / Brokerage in the list is fueled by the popularity of exchanges (Gemini, Coinbase, Bitpanda, etc.) in the crypto consumer market.

This high presence of Trading / Brokerage companies is followed by the Crypto Financial Services vertical, 28% of Web3 super companies. These companies, on average, raised $580 million in total funding, $180 million more than the overall average for Web3 super companies.

The real MVP of the year, discussed all year, is the NFTs / Gaming vertical. Capturing 13% of the Web3 super companies, NFTs / Gaming Web3 companies raised almost the overall average $400 million in funding, but on average, they are 25 months younger than an average Web3 super company. With the search for new NFT marketplaces in all corners of the globe, I predict that the percentage share of companies in this vertical will increase in 2022.

Web3 Super Companies Raised $27.3 Billion in Total Funding, but What is Next?

Undoubtedly with $27.3 billion in total funding Web3 is a topic to stay and just the beginning of a rising infrastructure and investment trend into the future of the internet. The idea is to create a decentralized web, where users can transport their data from service to service without corporate walled gardens stopping them.

Blockchain and its related applications such as DeFi, NFTs, GameFi and others are building the backbone of this trend. Via Crunchbase, the total estimated annual revenues of all 60 companies are $15.6 billion on the higher-end and $4.2 billion on the lower-end. The value creation of Web3 super companies cannot be just measured by revenues as with traditional businesses. A factor which is not reflected here is the composability aspect of lego-like building blocks of Web3 super companies that create value like never seen before.

It is early to say what the turn of investment looks like in a year or two from now — but in terms of acceleration of investment in 2022 we can confidently say that the trend shows more market entrants are coming in strong.

In the following piece, I will explain how Web3 super companies compare to the rest of the unicorns.

P.S. If you like this sort of analysis, I hope to continue this research with two comparative articles that focus on (1) the differences and similarities between Web3 super companies and the general outlook of unicorns, and (2) the Web3 super founders — founders who started Web3 super companies.

Appendix

Research Methodology

The Web3 landscape is changing rapidly. As such, I decided to pull, label, and analyze data during the Christmas break — the time of the year when deals-in-place are usually finalized before the end of the year. As of December 24th, 2021, I found 60 Web3 native super companies, while the count of all Web3 companies is 8,785.

I define Web3 as the ecosystem built by the power of decentralization and all the tools around it.

To find the companies that make a Web3 super company, I used the Crunchbase database to extract Web3 unicorns by utilizing

1. industry tags as blockchain, cryptocurrency, and bitcoin,

2. hub tags as the unicorn, emerging unicorn, exited unicorn.

I did a similar search to find the rest of unicorns, except that I removed the industry tags to be industry-agnostic. Similarly, I needed to find the number of companies in the Web3 space, so I removed the hub tags but kept the industry tags. To find the verticals, I used the mapping provided by The Block Research, one of the best research groups out there that include analysis on the Web3 landscape. These verticals are (1) trading/brokerage, (2) infrastructure, (3) crypto financial services, (4) data & analytics, (5) NFTs/gaming.

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