MoonPay, the company that lets consumers pay for digital assets with credit cards, has raised $86.7 million from a who’s who list of celebrities including Justin Bieber, Jason Derulo, Bruce Willis, Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matthew McConaughey. The new investment round aims to help the company achieve its goal of being the PayPal of cryptocurrency. The new investment brings MoonPay’s valuation to $3.4 billion, the company says.
MoonPay is probably best known for its concierge service. Simply put, MoonPay streamlined the process of buying an NFT monkey. Stars who want a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT often turn to MoonPay — and then thank the company in their tweets subsequently. (And it’s not just 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, the company says. It partners with exchanges such as Coinbase, FTX and OpenSea, as well as wallets including MetaMask; the company says it works with more than 260 service providers.
PayPal became PayPal without much help from Hollywood, but PayPal didn’t build itself 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 VC firms specializing in the creative economy when it came time to raise money. “I realized that the creative economy was going to be a really important part of our business, especially with NFTs,” says Soto-Wright.
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’s husband. Sound Ventures — founded by Ashton Kutcher and Guy “Madonna’s manager” Oseary — joined this final round. So did Kinship Ventures, which brought in Questlove, Mindy Kaling and Zoe Saldaña. Connect Ventures of CAA, 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 celebrity networks to Soto-Wright. First they asked him questions about the basics: what Web3 was, what NFTs were, how to set up wallets. Soto-Wright guided them through building portfolios, writing seed phrases, and connecting them to OpenSea.
Soto-Wright’s famous friends helped popularize the company, but that’s not the only reason they’re involved. Some of these household names, including Paltrow, Hilton, Snoop Dogg, Post Malone and Lil Baby, have used MoonPay to buy Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs before their investment in MoonPay itself. Since BAYC owners own their monkey’s intellectual property, that project was especially popular with celebrities. (Those IP rights are also why BAYC weed exists.)
MoonPay made it easy for celebrities to buy their monkeys. Because monkeys can be expensive, buying enough Ethereum to make a purchase isn’t a trivial process, Soto-Wright says. So MoonPay goes through the process of buying the crypto needed for the NFT and acquiring the digital asset, then bills the customer. (This usually involves a wire transfer rather than a credit card, as it’s a lot more money.) “We’ve tried to make it as similar as a process you’d do with your private bank,” he says. “You basically generate an invoice, you transfer money for that invoice, and then we settle the transaction.”
In that process, the client appoints a budget. MoonPay uses benchmarks such as rarity tools to help calculate how much an asset may be worth. But sometimes celebrities buy things just because they like them and pay what they think is appropriate, which may be more than the asking price.
The Web3 world is essentially about making money from fandom. In some ways, it makes sense that actors and musicians — people who make money through IP — would become Web3 adopters. But the market for NFTs has fallen since January, according to data from NonFungible† After all, as with colonics and the Goop jade egg, just because something is popular with celebrities doesn’t mean it’s here to stay.