- Highlight, an NFT platform for musicians, has raised an $11 million seed round led by Haun Ventures.
- Its co-founders, Nathaniel Emodi and Kevin Matthews, bonded over their love of jam bands like Phish.
- Their startup created a buzz among musicians and quickly caught the attention of Kevin Durant and Katie Haun.
Nathaniel Emodi and Kevin Matthews previously worked together at fintech Block. But over the years, they discovered that they shared several other things in common: namely, a love of live music, especially the band Phish, and a burgeoning interest in cryptocurrency.
They had gone to dozens of concerts together. As non-fungible tokens — unique digital assets that represent ownership of things like art, music videos, and music — grew in popularity, they also spent more and more time sinking. down the rabbit hole Web3. So, in the spring of 2021, they decided to combine their fandom and interest in NFTs for a Web3 startup called Highlight.
It was the first Web3 project Highlight CEO Emodi had ever worked on, and it involved a steep learning curve. But, Emodi told Insider, “Web3 is an incredibly welcoming community, and there are so many people excited to play with this technology.”
Highlight has since assembled a team of eight people, including alumni from Amazon, Facebook and Dapper Labs. On Tuesday, the company unveiled its platform and announced that it had raised $11 million in seed funding in a round led by Haun Ventures, the company started by prominent crypto investor Katie Haun. Highlight is one of the first investments made by the $1.5 billion fund.
Other investors include 1kx, A.Capital Ventures, SciFi VC, Floodgate, Thirty Five Ventures, Offline Ventures, DAOJones, Mischief, Polygon Studios, Coinbase Ventures, WME, and Method Music. Music directors Mark Gillespie and Chris Zarou, as well as angel investors Scott Belsky, Tarun Chitra, Robert Leshner, Lenny Rachitsky, Gokul Rajaram and Linda Xie also participated.
Highlight allows musicians to create NFTs that give exclusive access and perks to their fans, all without needing to write a single line of code. It also strives to make NFTs easier and cheaper to purchase for these fans.
Clients don’t have to set up crypto wallets to use Highlight, and the platform doesn’t charge “gas fees” – crypto transaction fees that can skyrocket during times of high demand, as we saw him recently with Bored Ape Yacht Club. recent virtual land sale for its metaverse.
For more than a year, Emodi and Matthews, Highlight’s chief technology officer, have kept their heads down to build the startup’s service. They focused on promoting their company’s technology largely to musicians and artists, Emodi told Insider. Among the first musicians signed to the platform are DJ Moon Boots and rock bands City of the Sun and Futurebirds.
Highlight’s growing buzz among musicians has gradually caught the attention of music, entertainment and sports investors who want to cash in on the latest tech boom, including Kevin Durant’s company, Thirty Five Ventures.
Investors are still keen to back crypto-enabled startups, even as they have shown growing angst over falling stocks, falling startup valuations, and recent layoffs at tech companies. And Emodi and Matthews connected with one of crypto’s most influential investors, Haun.
“We were showing the product primarily to creators and musicians, which we were excited about,” Emodi said. “When we met Katie Haun, things really started to look up.”
Some reports have suggested that interest in NFTs may be waning, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Instagram from adopting them. And some crypto enthusiasts have touted the growth of utility NFTs, such as Highlight, which aren’t strictly collectibles-focused, but allow owners exclusive access to products and spaces.
Emodi, for one, is unfazed.
“We think the future of NFTs is incredibly bright,” he said. “Like any technology cycle, there will be many ups and downs.”