The Little-Known Web3 Metaverse Company Backed by Riot Games, Tencent and Electronic Arts
Originally a Discord mobile competitor, Bunch is now pivoting to blockchain amid investment fundraising.
A social video chat company backed by Riot Games, Tencent, Electronics Arts and a handful of other high-profile game publishers is raising its third round of funding—in a pivot to a blockchain-enabled metaverse.
Bunch Live is in market raising $7 million on a $65 million pre-money valuation for a Series A+ round, according to pitch materials obtained by The Jacob Wolf Report.
The company is preparing for the launch of “Bunch 2.0,” which will take its video chat functionality and incorporate it in a virtual world where players can visit each others in rooms, launch directly into games and buy NFT cosmetic items for their characters. Prior to the new release, the company had not enacted blockchain into its app, which has roughly 500,000 monthly active users, according to the deck.
Bunch bills itself as “Roblox meets Discord” in the deck. In its original launch, many considered it a mobile Discord competitor, and some of its functionality—including a video overlay on top of mobile games—piqued interest among mobile game developers. Now, though, the company is launching the new iteration that positions itself more akin to Roblox.
“Our vision has been the same before and after blockchain,” Bunch CEO Selcuk Atli told The Jacob Wolf Report in a Friday interview. “Blockchain is a technology we’re simply utilizing to give people ownership of the commercial goods that they buy on Bunch. With Bunch 2.0, we’re expanding the experience to this virtual world where there’s an element of ownership in the product and we feel that using blockchain as a technology makes sense for our community and in a way, futureproofs the economy of our metaverse.”
Bunch will launch on web and PC and integrate with Steam and Epic Games to be able to launch games users own in those clients. Currently, it works with a variety of mobile games, including “Minecraft” and “Roblox,” and can automatically matchmake in those games—functionality Discord also has on web for many popular multiplayer titles.
The company has also developed some first-party games, including Mars Jump, a mobile platformer. Atli says it does not require partnerships with developers to bake in its matchmaking functionality, and the company is not disclosing which blockchain it will use in its app.
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Since it was founded in 2017, Bunch has raised $28.5 million, with its last round—a $20 million Series A—led by General Catalyst and backed by EA, Take-Two Interactive and “PUBG” publisher Krafton. Riot, Tencent, Ubisoft, Supercell and Miniclip invested in the company’s pre-seed and seed rounds in 2019 before the company pivoted to focus on blockchain.
Several of those companies have remained mum about blockchain, NFTs and crypto. Others have unsuccessfully announced plans to launch blockchain projects, only to receive massive pushback from gamers—who generally have a distaste for the industry.
Ubisoft famously released an NFT collection around “Ghost Recon Breakpoint,” but stopped selling items for that game in March. The company received significant backlash on its announcement, and Ars Technica dubbed the project a “dumpster fire.”
Riot, comparatively, felt pressured to release a statement separating itself from the NFT industry after a January image that showed one of its “VALORANT” characters, Killjoy, admiring the work of an artist who sells his art on the Ethereum blockchain. Mobbed by crypto enthusiasts citing the picture as validation for the NFT industry and gamers with anti-NFT disdain, Riot posted that fictional character’s hobbies did not include NFTs.
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“With respect to Web3 and crypto more broadly, we haven’t seen an application of NFTs or crypto or similar tech yet where the benefits to players outweigh the potential risks or downsides,” Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson told The Jacob Wolf Report on Friday. “That said, we’ll continue to keep an eye on the space.”
Despite its controversial nature among hardcore gamers, Web3 projects—including play-to-earn games, NFTs and crypto—are in a venture capital investment boom. Even though crypto is going through a crash currently, with coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum down nearly half their value from a year ago, investment in the community continues to thrive. Venture funding concluded at $9.76 billion in blockchain projects in Q2 2022, according to The Block.
Major venture funds like Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and crypto exchanges such as FTX and Coinbase are investing billions of dollars in the industry alone, with a subset of that focused on games. In May, A16z launched a $4.5 billion crypto fund and a $600 million gaming fund, backed by limited partners such as founder Jason Citron, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime and Riot co-founder Marc Merrill. It has already made Web3 game investments via both.