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GameStop’s next big move: Crypto and venture capital

February 3, 2022, 4:35 PM UTC

When things are going well, you might as well lean into it.

GameStop—poised for the chance of a new, more relevant iteration after retail traders hurtled into its stock en masse a little more than a year ago—is digging its heels into the wild frontier of gaming: crypto. 

This morning, GameStop took a two-part bold jump in that direction, announcing that the company is working with Immutable to launch an NFT marketplace on its liquidity platform. In addition, GameStop and Immutable are launching a new $100 million fund aimed at supporting game developers and studios, so you can expect to see its name on a few checks.

A wild ride for its stock in Jan. 2021 has more or less given the indebted brick-and-mortar chain a shot at a success story. GameStop has nearly paid off its $200 million–plus debt from pre-meme stock frenzy and plumped its balance sheet with cash after selling more of its shares. Retail investors “gave GameStop new life, however inexplicably,” my colleague Declan Harty wrote for Fortune’s latest magazine issue. “Now the company’s leaders are racing to ensure the business can thrive over the long term, and not just limp along like the convalescing patient that it is today.”

GameStop’s fledgling partnership with Immutable is a step in the direction of long-term relevancy. The blockchain gaming sector is a multi-billion one—and it’s growing. In-game NFT collectibles garnered $2.3 billion in sales during the third quarter of 2021 alone, according to the Blockchain Game Alliance. Axie Infinity, the hyper-popular Vietnamese paid-to-play game backed by a16z, Paradigm, and Accel, has alone driven more than $3.6 billion in NFT sales since inception. Venture capitalists can’t seem to ingest capital in these projects fast enough: An estimated $4.6 billion has been poured into blockchain gaming companies thus far, per a tally kept by blockchaingamer.biz. Between blockchain and the metaverse, gaming is getting a digital asset and immersive face lift, and it’s becoming incredibly more valuable. 

GameStop wants in on it.

As part of GameStop’s new partnership with Immutable, the video game and electronics retailer says it will allow developers to build out in-game economies, so that players can trade assets within the digital worlds (think digital real estate, swords, or skins). It’s hoping to be the one-stop-shop for purchasing items.

“For too long gamers have had economies manipulated, marketplaces shut down, and value extracted at publishers’ whims,” Robbie Ferguson, co-founder of Immutable, said in a statement. “GameStop, in partnership with Immutable, has the potential to cement itself as the ultimate destination for the next paradigm of gaming.”

If GameStop can pull this off—now that would be a success story.

Speaking of NFTs… The world’s largest NFT marketplace and auction platform, OpenSea, is experiencing some growing pains. The eBay of NFTs has been suffering from outages, plagiarism, bugs, and even an insider trading scandal, in recent months, and is struggling to keep up with its users’ needs alongside the ever-growing proliferation of non-fungible art, my colleague Anne Sraders writes

One unicorn, two unicorn, three unicorn, 1,000: IPO filings might have slowed to a (near) halt, but funding doesn’t appear to have. Though the Nasdaq took a tumble at the end of January and interest rates are on the rise, VCs and growth equity firms are still pouring capital into the largest unicorn class we’ve seen to-date (though there have been reports of some firms slashing valuations). In just over a month, there have been 41 new companies garnering valuations of more than $1 billion; and yesterday, the number of unicorns hit 1,000 for the first time, according to CB Insights. Here’s a look at the numbers:

Last chance: Today is the last day to weigh in on Semaphore’s confidence survey. Share your level of confidence in yourself, the economy, and your business; it’s anonymous and should take you 3-4 minutes. You can take the survey here. Have a look at last year’s results here.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com

Update, Feb. 3, 2022: This article has been amended to include the most up-to-date comment from Immutable.

VENTURE DEALS

- Ramp, a New York-based corporate card management company, raised at least $200 million in funding led by Founders Fund, per The Information.

- ICEYE, an Espoo, Finland-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data and natural catastrophes (NatCat) solutions provider, raised $136 million in Series D funding led by Seraphim Space and was joined by investors including BAE Systems, Kajima Ventures, Molten Ventures, OTB Ventures, True Ventures, C16 Ventures, Chione, Services Group of America, the National Security Strategic Investment Fund, Space Capital, and Promus Ventures.

- Productboard, a San Francisco-based product management and insights platform, raised $125 million in Series D funding led by Dragoneer Investment Group and was joined by investors including Tiger Global, Bessemer Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures, and Credo Ventures.

- PlexTrac, a Boise, Idaho-based cybersecurity software company, raised $70 million in Series B funding led by Insight Partners and was joined by investors including Madrona Venture Group, Noro-Moseley Partners, and StageDotO Ventures.

- Torii, a New York-based Automated SaaS Management Platform (SMP), raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global Management.

- Mos, a San Francisco-based banking app for students, raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Tiger Global and was joined by investors including Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, Emerson Collective, and Plural VC

- 180° Seguros, a São Paulo, Brazil-based insurance company for consuming and distributing insurance, raised $31.4 million in Series A funding led by 8VC and was joined by investors including Dragoneer, Monashees, Atlantico, Quartz, and Norte

- Flip, a Stuttgart, Germany-based internal communications app, raised $30 million in Series A funding. Notion Capital and HV Capita co-led the round and were joined by investors including Cavalry Ventures and LEA Partners, former Volkswagen chairman Matthias Müller, political consultant Roland Berger, and former BASF chairman Jürgen Hambrech.

- Codoxo, an Atlanta, Ga.-based healthcare artificial intelligence solutions company, raised $20 million in Series B funding led by QED Investors and was joined by investors including Sands Capital Management, 111 West Capital, Brewer Lane Ventures, Spider Capital, and GRA Venture Fund

- Getlabs, a Miami, Fla.-based infrastructure for remote healthcare delivery providers, raised $20 million in Series A funding. Emerson Collective and the Minderoo Foundation led the round and were joined by investors including Tusk Venture Partners, Labcorp, Healthworx, Byers Capital, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Capsule CEO Eric Kinariwala.

- nfinite, a Bordeaux, France-based visualization and ecommerce merchandising platform, raised $15 million in Series A funding led by USVP.

- Waldo, a New York-based no-code test automation platform for mobile apps, raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Insight Partners and was joined by investors including Matrix Partners, First Round Capital, Algolia founder Nicolas Dessaigne, Looker co-founder Ben Porterfield, and Zenhub CEO Tyler Gaffney.

- ClearEstate, a Montreal, Canada-based estate planning and settlement platform, raised $13.25 million in Series A funding led by OMERS Ventures.

- Zero, a Redwood City, Calif.-based plastic-free grocery, home, and personal care delivery startup, raised $11.8 million in seed funding led by Sway Ventures.

- Soelect, a Greensboro, N.C.-based solid-state battery component developer, raised $11 million in Series A funding from investors led by Lotte Ventures and was joined by investors including GM Ventures, and KTB Network.

- Resonant Link, a Shelburne, Vt.-based wireless charging technology developer for medical devices and electric automotive fleets, raised $9.3 million in seed funding led by The Engine and was joined by investors including Volta Energy Technologies, Emerson Collective, Scout Ventures, Urban Us, and FreshTracks Capital

- Onehouse, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based cloud-native managed lakehouse company, raised $8 million in seed funding co-led by Greylock and Addition

- RareCircles, a Calgary, Canada-based New York-based NFT membership platform company, raised $7.5 million in seed funding led by Tiger Global and was joined by investors including White Star Capital, Alpaca, Crew Capital, Global Founders Capital, Alumni Ventures, and Detroit Venture Partners.

- Cloud Paper, a Seattle, Wash.-based tree-free sustainable paper products’ startup on a mission to end deforestation, raised $5 million in funding from Bezos Expeditions, TIME Ventures, Presight Capital, SOUNDWaves, and Re:Build Manufacturing co-founder Jeff Wilke.

- Lula, a Philadelphia-based delivery solution for convenience stores, raised $5.5 million in seed funding. Ripple Ventures, Outlander VC, and Up Partners led the round and were joined by investors including SOSV, Simple Capital, NZVC, Stonks.com, EasyPost, Park City Angels, Alumni Ventures, Broad Street Angels, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

- Sunroom, a Toronto-based content management platform, raised $3.6 million in seed funding from investors including Blackbird, Li Jin, Cyan Bannister, Sarah Downey, Peanut CEO & co-founder Michelle Kennedy, and Brud co-founder Trevor McFedries

- Forwrd, an automated predictive analytics provider, raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Angular Ventures.

- ICHI, a DeFi protocol for creating and governing in-house, non-custodial tokens, raised $3.5 million in funding through a ICHI Foundation private token sale to investors including Lattice Capital, Fundamental Labs, GSR Markets Limited, Baller Ventures, Woodstock Fund, TRGC Limited, Ellipti Ventures, Lightshift, Collider Ventures, LD Capital

- Smart Nanotubes Technologies, a Freital, Germany-based “electronic nose” sensor chip startup, raised $2.7 million in Series A funding from investors including Cottonwood Technology Fund, Duotec, and Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Sachsen.

- SPOTLYFE, a York County, S.C.-based HR technology platform, raised $1 million in pre-seed funding led by Acadian Ventures.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- StepStone Group invested $400 million in Series B funding in Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a New York-based infrastructural investment holding company.

- Canva, backed by T. Rowe Price, Dragoneer, Sequoia, and others, acquired Flourish, a London-based data visualization startup. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- The Capstreet Group acquired hh2 Cloud Services, a Kaysville, Utah-based software provider for the construction industry. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- CGI Automated Manufacturing, a CORE Industrial Partners portfolio company, acquired Richlind Metal Fabricators, a Chaska, Minn.-based precision sheet metal fabrication and machining services provider. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- FTX Trading, backed by Temasek, Paradigm, SoftBank, and others, agreed to acquire Liquid Group, a Tokyo-based crypto trading platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- GoStudent, backed by Probus, Tencent, and SoftBank, acquired Seneca Learning, a London-based learning platform developer, and Tus Media, a Barcelona-based open tutoring marketplace. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Keeper Security, backed by Insight Partners, acquired Glyptodon, a Chicago-based remote access gateway which provides DevOps and IT teams with access to RDP, SSH, VNC and Kubernetes endpoints through a web browser. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Outdoor Living Supply, a Trilantic North America portfolio company, acquired Woodward Landscape Supply, a Phoenixville, Penn.-based distributor of hardscaping materials, natural stone and other outdoor living products and accessories. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Paceline Equity Partners acquired AHF Products, a Mountville, Penn.-based hard surface flooring manufacturer, from American Industrial Partners. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Pattern, backed by Knox Lane and KSV Global Innovators, acquired Amplifi.io—an Irvine, Calif.-based digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Phenom, backed by WestBridge Capital Partners and AllianceBernstein, acquired Tandemploy, a Berlin-based HR tech company. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

- TPG Rise Climate agreed to acquire a $500 million stake in Nextracker, a Fremont, Calif.-based solar tracker and software solutions provider, from Flex.

- Rock Mountain Capital and The Olayan Group acquired a 48% stake in PurposeBuilt Brands, a Gurnee, Ill.-based consumer and commercial markets specialty cleaning products portfolio, from Carlyle.

- BigHand, a Levine Leichtman Capital Partners portfolio company, acquired Iridium Technology, a Reno, Nev.-based legal business intelligence and analytics software provider, from Polaris Partners. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Clearlake Capital acquired Quest Software, an Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based cybersecurity, data intelligence, and IT operations management software provider, from Francisco Partners. Financial terms were not disclosed.

- Tenable agreed to acquire Cymptom, a Tel Aviv-based attack path management backed by State Of Mind Ventures. Financial terms were not disclosed.

OTHER

- City of Hope acquired Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based oncology hospital and outpatient care center network, for $390 million. 

IPOS 

- Cariloha, a Sandy, Utah-based company that makes bedding, clothing and bath goods from bamboo, plans to raise up to $32 million in an offering of 2.3 million shares priced between $12 and $14 per share. The company reported $34.1 million in sales in the nine months ending in Sept. 2021 and reported a net loss of $1.7 million. PW Companies owns the firm.

SPAC

- Wag Labs, a San Francisco-based dog walking app developer, agreed to go public via a merger with a CHW Acquisition Corp., a SPAC. A deal values the company at around $350 million.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- Stonepeak, a New York-based alternative investment firm, raised $14 billion for its fourth infrastructure fund.

- BC Partners, a London-based private equity firm, raised around $6 billion for its eleventh fund, according to Bloomberg. That’s below the $9.6 billion it had tried to raise.

- Great Hill Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, raised $4.7 billion, including general partner commitments, for an eighth fund.

- Polaris Private Equity, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based private equity firm, raised €650 million ($742.3 million), for a fifth fund focused on mid-markets in the E.U.

- Connected Capital, an Amsterdam-based private equity firm, raised €154 million ($175.9 million) for a second fund focused on B2B SaaS investing in Europe.

- Marathon Ventures, a Colombia-based venture capital firm, raised $26 million for its first fund focused on seed stage investments.

PEOPLE

- Ara Partners, a Houston, Tex.-based private equity firm, hired Churchill George Yong as partner. Formerly, he was with ArcLight Capital.

- VSS Capital Partners, a New York-based private investment firm investing in the healthcare, business services, and education industries, hired Dean Pernisie as strategic partner. Formerly, he was with Gemini Investors.

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