In a typical month, a couple hundred American companies disclose sizable seed funding rounds. And every few quarters, Crunchbase News has made it a habit to peruse those rounds to see what trends we can glean.
This time around, we looked at nearly 1,000 U.S. seed and pre-seed rounds of $500,000 and up announced in 2022. And, as usual, funded companies covered an extraordinarily broad range of businesses, from virtual world fashion to pods that can grow plants in space.
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Yet, even amid all this abundant variety, some popular investment themes stood out. We take a look at five of them below:
The people who invest in futuristic visions seem to think we’ll be spending more time and money in virtual worlds. In particular, they’re putting some large bets on companies that describe themselves as metaverse-focused.
We identified at least nine self-described metaverse companies that raised good-sized seed rounds so far this year. The largest funding recipient is Space Runners, a developer of metaverse fashions with an early focus on sneakers. The company pulled in $10 million in a March seed round.
Other funded startups include Cyber, a developer of showrooms for digital collections that raised $6.7 million, and Mirror World, a producer of virtual worlds featuring what it describes as “AI-powered virtual beings” that closed on $4 million. See the fuller list of 2022 seed-funded metaverse startups below:
The numbers certainly look discouraging. Sales volumes a few weeks ago were reportedly down 92% from their September peak. And past valuations aren’t holding up. An NFT of the first tweet from Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, for example, went up for auction this year and received no bids above $14,000, despite selling for $2.9 million in March 2021.
Nonetheless, seed investors haven’t ended their love affair with all things non-fungible token-related. “NFT” is one of the most popular description terms in 2022 seed-funded startups, with at least 26 pulling in rounds of $500 million and up.
The largest funding recipient—Yuga Labs, creator of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection—raked in a whopping $450 million. Although the company and funding round might seem too large to qualify as seed, in reality Yuga is a very young company, founded last year.
Other sizable funding recipients include CryptoSlam, an aggregator of NFT collectibles data that landed $9 million, and Stakes, a sports prediction game for NFTs that raised $5.3 million. See the fuller list of seed-funded NFT startups 1below:
3. Brain and neurotech
A lot of startups seem to think we could do a better job keeping our brains healthy, engaged and high-performing. Still others are exploring neurostimulation, next-gen wearables and supplements to perk up our cranial activities.
Whatever their particular focus, seed-stage startups focused on brain fitness, therapy and stimulation seem to be attracting plentiful seed investor interest so far this year.
Per Crunchbase data, the largest seed recipient for 2022 along these lines was Inner Cosmos, a Northern California-based developer of brain-computer interfaces for treating depression. The company, which says it is developing a penny-sized device that can go under the skin and rebalance brain networks using “imperceptible micro-stimulations,” raised $10 million in a March financing.
Another big seed round of $8.1 million went to BrainLuxury, a maker of supplements to optimize brain performance. And Earable, a developer of wearables for sleep health that employ neuro-stimulation, raised $6.6 million in a January seed round. For a more complete list of brain-related 2022 seed-rounds, see below:
4. Alternative protein
Alternative protein has been a popular area for seed funding for several years now, and it continues to rank as a top category.
One of the larger rounds, about $12 million, went to a 3-year-old company, Change Foods, which is relatively mature by seed standards. The startup uses microbes and precision fermentation to produce cheese that melts and tastes like the real thing.
Another intriguing company in the plant-based meat sector is Black Sheep Foods, which sells a vegetarian alternative to lamb. And in the crop science space, NuCicer raised $4.5 million for ultra-high protein varieties of chickpeas.
See a fuller list of funded companies in the alternative protein space below:
Whether we’re out-of-shape couch potatoes or competitive athletes, most of us could benefit from coaching and fitness tools to help up our game.
Luckily, a plethora of seed-funded companies are aiming to do just that. Offerings vary from AI-enabled personal training to customized home workouts to underwater entertainment.
Altis, an AI personal trainer, snagged $10 million across two seed rounds this year, per Crunchbase data. Zygo, meanwhile, pulled in $4.5 million for a headset swimmers can wear to listen to music and audio content while swimming. Kabata, a maker of “smart dumbbells” for weight training, bulked up with $2 million.
See a fuller list of seed-funded fitness startups below:
So where is our future headed?
Looking at seed funding in aggregate gives us a small sense of where futuristically minded investors think we are headed.
If we read into recent trends, we might come away with a take like this: In the future, we will spend more time in more elaborate virtual worlds, in which companies will find ever more-elaborate ways to monetize our time and attention.
Meanwhile, back in the physical world, we will attempt to keep our earthly bodies in more fit condition by further relying on digital technology—somewhat ironic, given that the same digital technology is also keeping us on the couch.
We’ll be able to maintain a tasty, protein-rich diet that’s less dependent on animal agriculture. And, our brains will remain in better working order with the help of supplements and neurostimulation.
Overall, it’s not the most horrific vision. However, the overall image is that humanity will be moving further away from the basic life skills of our cave-dwelling, hunter-gatherer forbearers.
Of course, we’ve moved pretty far from that already. Today, the battery of basic life skills for many of us—think e-filing taxes, microwaving frozen meals and paying the power bill—would be unrecognizable to our distant ancestors. Inevitably, we can expect that a few generations from now, our way of life will look rather primitive too.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
Some companies in our metaverse list are also categorized as NFT startups.↩
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