New Crypto Venture Capital Fund Investing Only in NEAR in Nod to Specialization

Blockworks Exclusive: The fund plans to hold a first close on outside capital at the end of March or early April


MOVE’s Rune Bentien | Source: MOVE


key takeaways

  • The launch bucks the trend of generalist crypto venture capital startups
  • The fund’s portfolio manager previously spent time at firms ConsenSys Ventures and Google

As cryptocurrency-focused portfolio managers look to narrow their niches in a sweep toward specialization, a ConsenSys Ventures alum is prepping a venture capital fund fund launch focused on just one protocol.

Rune Bentien told Blockworks he expects to hold a first capital close of between $10 million to $15 million for his United Kingdom-based MOVE in late March or early April. The plan is to raise about $40 million overall, pending a couple of additional closes later this year. 

MOVE backs exclusively startups in the NEAR Protocol ecosystem, a decentralized finance blockchain that aims to harness a network of computers to create a cloud computing platform.

The NEAR token was trading at a little over $11 midday Thursday, a 165.6% increase from a year ago. Investors have been drawn to the proof-of-stake blockchain’s use of sharding, which splits the blockchain’s data into easily digestible pieces divided among the network’s nodes that validate transactions.

Bentien and other institutional investors deploying capital to NEAR projects say the blockchain is still in its early days and has a solid growth trajectory ahead.

“This is still so early,” Bentien said.”You have less than 30,000 full-time developers on Web3.”

The launch is one of a growing number of new vehicles keying in on a single corner of crypto  as limited partners increasingly look for specialization as a means to generate alpha.

A couple of years ago, industry participants say, crypto’s market cap was low enough that focusing on one niche wasn’t a viable way to deploy significant capital. That’s changing.

The NEAR team, Bentien said, has a “huge technical advantage” over other blockchains with its sharding technology and has been drawing the interest of institutional investors looking for the next big thing. Adding to the appeal: The cryptocurrency says it’s carbon neutral.

Bentien, who ran one of the first 50 nodes on NEAR, said the blockchain is primed for widespread adoption.

“Assuming they can stay focused in 2022, I think we have an exciting few years ahead of us,” Bentien said.

The startup plans to deploy capital “as early as possible,” Rune said, concentrating on pre-seed, seed and Series A investment rounds. He expects many of the investments to back startups developing decentralized applications on the NEAR blockchain. 

The team is now warehousing five to 10 investments that will become part of its portfolio once the fund launches. To start, MOVE plans to put about two-thirds of its capital into equity plays, with the remaining third earmarked for token investments. That proportion is expected to flip over the next year or two.

MOVE plans to have five staffers, including some from crypto-native backgrounds, on board around its launch. They’re based in Africa, Europe and the US. Bentien declined to disclose their identities because some are still negotiating exits with current employers.

The startup also has one venture partner on board.

The team will take the helm of a fund with a five-year lockup period — a shorter duration than a good number of other venture capital funds — and plans to take limited partner contributions in the form of cryptocurrencies, including NEAR.

Fiat will not be accepted for limited partner contributions, a potential barrier to entry for traditional investors accustomed to conducting all their financial dealings in dollars — though support for commonly used stablecoins, such as USDC, could help. 

Before working for ConsenSys, Bentien spent nearly nine years in business development roles at Google. He has also worked for a number of startups.

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