An illustration showing the cryptocurrency bitcoin with a price chart in the background.
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Funding for blockchain start-ups topped $4 billion for the first time in the second quarter, despite a sharp slump in cryptocurrency prices.
Companies in the nascent industry raised a record $4.38 billion, according to data from analytics firm CB Insights, up more than 50% from the previous quarter and a nearly ninefold increase from the same period a year earlier.
Blockchain is the underlying technology behind most cryptocurrencies. It’s essentially a digital ledger of virtual currency transactions which is distributed across a global network of computers.
The largest financing round for a blockchain company in the second quarter was a $440 million investment in Circle, a payments and digital currency firm. Circle recently announced plans to go public through a $4.5 billion merger with a blank-check company.
Ledger, which develops hardware wallets for people to store their digital currencies, attracted the second-biggest round in the quarter, raising $380 million. In a December interview, Ledger CEO Pascal Gauthier told CNBC the crypto market was maturing, with major institutional players getting involved.
“In 2018, when we raised our last round, financial institutions were not in the game,” he said, adding that now, “every major financial institution in the world either has a plan or is working on a plan” to invest in crypto.
The record funding highlights how investors are finding alternative ways to gain exposure to the crypto industry, by acquiring stakes in private start-ups developing technology for digital currencies and the distributed networks that underpin them.
Venture investors appear unfazed by declining cryptocurrency prices. Bitcoin has more than halved in value since hitting an all-time high of nearly $65,000 in April, when U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase went public.
Ether, the world’s second-biggest digital coin, has also fallen over 50% since notching a record high of more than $4,000 in May.
“At the current rate, blockchain funding will shatter the previous year-end record — more than tripling the total raised back in 2018,” Chris Bendtsen, senior analyst at CB Insights, told CNBC.
“Blockchain’s record funding year is being driven by the rising consumer and institutional demand for cryptocurrencies,” he added. “Despite short-term price volatility, VC firms are still bullish on crypto’s future as a mainstream asset class and blockchain’s potential to make financial markets more efficient, accessible, and secure.”
Last month, Andreessen Horowitz launched a $2.2 billion cryptocurrency-focused fund. “We believe that the next wave of computing innovation will be driven by crypto,” the Silicon Valley venture capital firm wrote in a blog post.
Funding for fintech companies as a whole also hit a new record. According to CB Insights, fintech start-ups raised an eye-watering $30.8 billion in the second quarter, up 30% from the previous quarter and almost triple the amount raised by fintechs in the second quarter of 2020.
Europe’s fintech sector gained significant traction, with 50% of the top venture deals in the quarter going to European firms. The trend was boosted by growing interest from foreign investors in the continent’s fast-growing tech industry.