Business

Steve Kaaru

Struggling incubator ConsenSys seeking $200M from venture capitalists

New York-based blockchain firm ConsenSys is seeking $200 million from outside investors. According to a report by The Information, the incubator has already pitched to investors in Hong Kong and South Korea. Having started out as one of the most successful companies in the crypto space, recent months haven’t been too kind to the company.

ConsenSys, co-founded Joseph Lubin, has mostly involved itself in incubating blockchain startups. It also has operations in software development and consultancy services. The company had a dream start when it was launched. At the time, the prices of most cryptos were skyrocketing. This enabled Lubin, who owns the majority stake, to fund the firm with his own proceeds from the Ether tokens he owned.

However, in recent times, cryptos have been on a rough patch. Consequently, ConsenSys has lacked the financial backing it once enjoyed. In December last year, the firm laid off 13 percent of its staff to its current 900 employees. At the time, Lubin also announced that the firm would be more demanding of its portfolio companies.

ConsenSys has applied a business model that prioritized giving the portfolio companies freedom to develop products without insisting on profits. At the time, most of these companies could raise funds through initial coin offerings (ICOs) and from venture capitalists. However, recent skepticism from investors has denied funds from the crypto industry.

In the last financial year, ConsenSys brought in $21 million from its operations. A majority of the revenue came from its consultancy service, with most of its portfolio companies not being profitable yet. Nevertheless, the firm has valued itself at an eye-catching $1 billion. Many potential investors feel that this valuation is too high, people with insider knowledge told The Information.

The company predicts more than $50 million in revenue this year. It intends to double down on blockchain consultancy for blue chip companies. This field has been dominated by tech giants such as IBM, whose blockchain products are in use by some global giants such as Maersk and De Beers.

Some ConsenSys executives have already pitched to investors in Hong Kong and South Korea. They’ll also target U.S and Chinese investors as well. However, the firm’s business model could hinder its fundraising efforts. Many of its portfolio companies are not profitable yet. With others, the value of its investment has dropped by over 90 percent. One of these is Gnosis, a prediction market whose token has lost over 96 percent of its value. ConsenSys had initially invested over $1.9 billion in the startup.

Lubin’s tight grasp on the company could also scare off some investors. The soft-spoken entrepreneur owns a majority stake in the company he founded and he has been funding it from his own pocket. Investors could be concerned about how much control he is willing to relinquish in the firm.

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