- Highlight, an NFT platform for musicians, raised an $11 million seed round led by Haun Ventures.
- Its co-founders, Nathaniel Emodi and Kevin Matthews, united by their love of jam bands like Phish.
- His start generated excitement among musicians and he soon caught the attention of Kevin Durant and Katie Haun.
Nathaniel Emodi and Kevin Matthews once worked together at Fintech Block. But over the years, they found that they shared several other things in common: namely a love of live music, particularly the band Phish, and a budding interest in cryptocurrencies.
They had been to several dozen concerts together. As non-fungible tokens—unique digital assets that represent ownership of things like art, video clips, and music—gained in popularity, they also spent an increasing amount of time going down the Web3 rabbit hole. So, in the spring of 2021, they decided to combine their hobby and interest in NFTs to create a Web3 startup called Highlight.
It was the first Web3 project Emodi, CEO of Highlight, had worked on, and it was a steep learning curve. But, Emodi told Insider, “Web3 is an incredibly welcoming community and there are a lot of people excited to play with this technology.”
Since then, Highlight has built a team of eight people, including alumni from Amazon, Facebook, and Dapper Labs. On Tuesday, the company unveiled its platform, announcing that it had raised $11 million in seed funding in a round led by Haun Ventures. , the firm launched 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 also participated, as well as angel investors Scott Belsky, Tarun Chitra, Robert Leshner, Lenny Rachitsky, Gokul Rajaram and Linda Xie.
Highlight enables musicians to create NFTs that provide exclusive access and benefits to their fans, all without writing a single line of code. It also strives to make NFTs easier and cheaper for those fans to purchase.
Customers do not have to set up crypto wallets to use Highlight, and the platform does not charge “gas fees” – crypto transaction fees that can rise to extreme heights during periods of high demand, as seen recently with Bored Ape Yacht Club. . recent sale of virtual land for his metaverse.
For more than a year, Emodi and Matthews, Highlight’s chief technology officer, kept their heads down to develop the startup’s service. They focused on introducing 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 attracted the attention of music, entertainment and sports investors who want to cash in on the latest tech boom, including Kevin Durant’s firm Thirty Five Ventures.
Investors are still eager to back crypto-enabled startups, even as they have shown increasing distress over falling stocks, declining start-up valuations and recent layoffs at tech companies. And Emodi and Matthews connected with one of the most influential investors in crypto, Haun.
“We showed the product mainly to creators and musicians, and we got really excited about it,” Emodi said. “When we met Katie Haun, things really started to pick up.”
Some reports have suggested that interest in NFTs may be waning, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Instagram from embracing them. And some crypto enthusiasts have touted the growth of utility NFTs, like Highlight, that aren’t strictly focused on collectibles, but allow owners exclusive access to products and slots.
Emodi, for her part, is unfazed.
“We think the future for NFTs is incredibly bright,” he said. “Like any technology cycle, there will be a lot of ups and downs.”