MoonPay, the company that lets consumers pay for digital assets with credit cards, raised $86.7 million from a list of celebrities including Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo, Bruce Willis, Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matthew McConaughey. The new investment round is intended to help propel the company towards its goal of being the PayPal of cryptocurrency. The new investment brings MoonPay’s valuation to $3.4 billion, according to the company.
MoonPay is probably best known for its concierge service. To put it simply: MoonPay has simplified the process of buying an NFT monkey. Stars who want a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT will often go to MoonPay – then thank the company in their tweets after. (And they’re not all stars. Light Speed Venture Partners is also a MoonPay customer.) But the infrastructure service is also widely used: 10 million customers have processed nearly $3 billion in transactions through MoonPay, according to the company. It partners with exchanges such as Coinbase, FTX, and OpenSea, as well as wallets such as MetaMask; the company claims to work with more than 260 service providers.
PayPal became PayPal without much help from Hollywood, but PayPal didn’t build during a period of interest in NFTs. NFTs appeal to artists and musicians because they provide a way to create revenue streams through digital assets. So for MoonPay CEO Ivan Soto-Wright, it seemed natural to target venture capital firms specializing in the creator economy when raising funds. “I realized that the creator economy was going to be a very important part of our business, especially with NFTs,” Soto-Wright says.
The previous funding round, a $555 million Series A, brought in Thrive Capital, a company founded by Josh Kushner, who happens to be both Jared Kushner’s brother and Karlie Kloss’ husband. Sound Ventures – founded by Ashton Kutcher and Guy “Madonna’s manager” Oseary – joined this latest round. So did Kinship Ventures, which brought Questlove, Mindy Kaling and Zoe Saldaña with them. CAA’s Connect Ventures, a partnership with New Enterprise Associates, also joined.
Thank you so much Ivan for helping me navigate my first purchase! @moonpay
— Eva Longoria Baston (@EvaLongoria) January 10, 2022
These investors brought networks full of celebrities to Soto-Wright. At first, they asked him about the basics: what is Web3, what are NFTs, how to set up wallets. Soto-Wright walked them through setting up wallets, writing keyphrases, and connecting them to OpenSea.
Soto-Wright’s celebrity friends helped popularize the company, but that’s not the only reason they’re involved. A number of these household names, including Paltrow, Hilton, Snoop Dogg, Post Malone and Lil Baby, used MoonPay to purchase Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs prior to their investment in MoonPay itself. Because the owners of BAYC own the intellectual property associated with their monkey, this project was particularly popular with celebrities. (These intellectual property rights are also why BAYC weed exists.)
MoonPay made it easy for celebrities to purchase their monkeys. Because monkeys can get expensive, getting enough Ethereum to make a purchase isn’t a trivial process, Soto-Wright says. MoonPay therefore goes through the process of buying the necessary crypto for the NFT and acquiring the digital asset, then charges the customer. (It usually involves a bank transfer rather than a credit card because it’s a lot more money.) “We tried to make it as similar as a process that you interact with your private bank,” he says. . “Basically, you generate an invoice, you transfer money for that invoice, and then we settle the transaction.”
In this process, the client names a budget. MoonPay uses benchmarks such as scarcity tools to help calculate the value of an asset. But sometimes celebrities buy things just because they like them and pay what they think is appropriate, which can be more than the asking price.
The Web3 world is all about monetizing fandoms. In some ways, it makes sense that actors and musicians – people who make money from intellectual property – become Web3 adopters. But the NFT market has been slipping since January, according to data from NonFungible. After all, like the Colonics and the Jade Egg Goop, just because something is popular with celebrities doesn’t mean it’s here to stay.