Talk about a good-news, bad-news situation.
The good for Rarify, a new NFT startup: It has raised a $10 million Series A at a $100 million from Pantera Capital, one of the earliest venture capital firms to focus on crypto. Pantera likes that Rarify is doing something more straightforward than a token-based members’ club. Rather, it plans to sell software to big corporations that makes creating and selling NFTs easier.
The goal is something along the lines of “how Square made it super easy to accept payments,” says cofounder Revas Tsivtsivadze. “Checking out on OpenSea,” currently the largest NFT exchange, “is like, a 14-step process. What if we could cut down on that from 14 steps in the process to three steps.” Further into the future, Rarify thinks it might be able to build some type of investment software to gauge the investment value of NFTs, which remain a volatile and unregulated asset class.
Tsivtsivadze spent 5 years as a product manager at Shutterstock, winning the attention of its billionaire founder, Jon Oringer, by the time he left in 2021. Shutterstock has signed on to test out Rarify’s tech, and Oringer wrote Tsivtsivadze the first check for Rarify, part of a $3 million seed round last year that included Greycroft and Einac Ventures.
And the bad. Four of Rarify’s 14 employees, including the chief technology officer and engineering head, remain in Ukraine, where they had been living before the Russian invasion. Tsivtsivadze and cofounder Lasha Antadze are Georgian. (They first met attending a prestigious high school in Tbilisi.) Antadze had been living in Ukraine, too, until flying out a few weeks.
It has been possible though tricky at times to maintain communication with them as the war has progressed in recent days, says Antadze. “They’re in Kyiv and Kharkiv,” he explains. Two of Ukraine’s biggest cities. “Two of the hot spots.”