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Ethereum giant ConsenSys is said to be seeking outside funding after a massive restructuring that included the layoff of 13% of its staff last year. The Brooklyn-based company has been speaking to funders in Hong Kong and South Korea and is looking for $200 million with a $1 billion valuation, unidentified sources tell The Information.
So far, founder Joseph Lubin primarily has backed the blockchain firm himself. Lubin is one of the creators of ether, the token generated by the Ethereum platform, and is one of the largest holders of the cryptocurrency in the world. It remains unclear how much control of the company he will have to cede to obtain capital.
ConsenSys has dozens of portfolio companies working on various aspects of the ethereum network and its implementation across industries, but The Information reports that it only generated about $21 million in revenue last year — primarily from its enterprise consulting business. As the company looks to expand its consultancy with a projected $50 million in revenue this year, it faces stiff competition from established brands such as Accenture and IBM that are already helping large companies experiment with blockchain.
That could make ConsenSys a hard sell for investors, particularly after the sharp fall in cryptocurrency prices last year has created increased scrutiny for all blockchain companies.
Ryan Selkis, a former entrepreneur-in-residence at ConsenSys, noted the challenge ConsenSys faces, comparing the $21 million it generated with 900 employees to a rival company where he also worked, Digital Currency Group. “Crosstown rival DCG cleared $100 million with fewer than 100 total employees,” he tweeted on April 15.
Lubin defended his company publicly in a series of tweets last December that were summarized in a company memo. He said ConsenSys remains healthy and that restructuring will take time, but that he is open to collaboration with “external partners of all kinds,” including investors, as the company looks for ways to build.
“I remain excited about scalability solutions that are available now or are becoming available for use in early 2019, core Ethereum protocol development that is accelerating, and the continued maturation of the token economy,” he wrote at the time.
Ambreen Ali is a freelance writer and editor based in the New York City area who specializes in business and technology. She has 15 years of reporting experience, including covering Capitol Hill and reporting from South Asia.