Exclusive: Crypto billionaire Novogratz leads funding for virtual real estate firm
By Elizabeth Howcroft
LONDON (Reuters) - Galaxy Interactive, the venture capital division of billionaire crypto investor Mike Novogratz's Galaxy Digital, has taken a lead investor role in virtual real estate developer Republic Realm, its managing director said.
Janine Yorio, managing director of Republic Realm, told Reuters Novogratz's backing was a vote of confidence for the $10 million investment vehicle.
Republic Realm buys virtual real estate, a crypto asset or non-fungible token (NFT) that has its ownership status and authenticity verified by blockchain. NFTs have exploded in popularity in 2021, with prices skyrocketing.
U.S.-based Republic Realm, set up in March 2021, has made more than 1,500 investments and earlier this month bought a plot of virtual land in blockchain-based online world Decentraland for $900,000.
Republic Realm then develops this land by adding buildings. It has built a virtual mall and rented out virtual shops to tenants, for example.
In virtual worlds such as Decentraland, people can display their NFT art collections, open shops and businesses, walk around with friends, visit buildings and attend events.
The price of blockchain-based real estate in virtual worlds has surged along with the boom in the NFT market this year.
Republic Realm did not disclose the size of Galaxy Interactive's investment.
Republic Realm is part of a private investment platform called Republic. Republic had a Series A funding round in March which raised $36 million from investors, including Galaxy Digital and investment firm Prosus. The $10 million funding for Republic Realm is separate from this.
Galaxy Interactive is part of Galaxy Digital, a crypto-focused financial services group founded by Novogratz, who was previously a hedge fund manager at Fortress Investments and a partner at Goldman Sachs.
He left Fortress to focus on his cryptocurrency investments, and founded Galaxy Digital, which now counts Goldman Sachs among its clients.
Earlier this week, Galaxy Digital agreed to give London-listed Argo Blockchain a 14 million pound ($19.36 million) loan secured with bitcoin.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft, Editing by Abhinav Ramnarayan and Jane Merriman)