Tech veteran Brian Roberts is joining OpenSea as its first chief financial officer in the latest sign web3 startups are attracting not just historic sums of cash, but also serious talent.
“I voted with my feet,” Roberts told Bloomberg following his recent resignation from Lyft Inc. which ended his 7-year run as the ride share company’s CFO. Roberts said while he “loves Lyft,” the growth in web3 companies and in particular in OpenSea’s marketplace for NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, made it an easy choice.
“I haven’t been this excited about something in a very long time,” he said. “It reminds me of 1995 eBay.”
Roberts, who previously worked at Microsoft Corp. and Walmart Inc., joins the crypto craze along with dozens of other executives who have left longtime positions at tech companies like Facebook and venture firms like Venrock during the past year. The influx of expertise comes amid a surge of investment into the industry; Venture investors plowed more than $21 billion into the sector this year through Nov. 30 -- a more than sixfold increase that represents more than the past 10 years combined, according to research firm CB Insights.
Founded in 2017, OpenSea is one of the largest marketplaces for non-fungible tokens -- unique digital assets authenticated on the blockchain that most notably include sports memorabilia and art collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club. OpenSea has surged in popularity this year and says it now offers more than 80 million NFTs to more than 700,000 users and has processed more than $10 billion in transaction value or gross merchandise value.
OpenSea Founder and Chief Executive Office Devin Finzer confirmed the company is talking to investors about raising additional funds and is still determining what type of investor to add to its existing roster which includes A16Z, Founders Fund, Coinbase and Blockchain Capital.
He and Roberts both declined to comment on the status of the discussions. People familiar with the talks say investors are seeking to invest around $1 billion at a valuation north of $12 billion. Investors valued OpenSea at $1.5 billion when it raised its second round of funding in July.
Roberts, known for shepherding Lyft through rapid growth to a successful IPO and adjusted profitability, said OpenSea is already profitable. He said although it doesn’t need to raise more cash, it could use the financing to acquire companies, strike partnerships and create joint ventures to further expand the use of NFTs into new industries.
“I’ve seen a lot of P&Ls (profit and loss statements) but I’ve never seen a P&L like this,” said Roberts, adding that although he still feels it’s “day one” for the NFT industry in general and OpenSea in particular he’s already planning its IPO.
“When you have a company growing as fast as this one, you’d be foolish not to think about it going public,” he said. It “would be well-received in the public market given its growth.”
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