Berachain, a layer 1 blockchain focused on decentralized finance (DeFi), disclosed Thursday (4/20) its $42 million Series A at a valuation of $420.69 million.
The fundraise, finalized in December, was led by Polychain Capital and included investors Hack VC, dao5, Tribe Capital, Shima Capital, CitizenX and Robot Ventures, as well as several undisclosed centralized crypto exchanges.
If it’s not obvious from the $420.69 million valuation, Berachain is a project that doesn’t shy away from crypto flair. It was launched by a quartet of pseudonymous founders (Smokey the Bera, Papa Bear, Homme Bera and Dev Bear) who are self-described crypto natives. Bera is bear intentionally misspelled, a sly hat tip to the deranged crypto rallying cry of Hodl.
Berachain’s origins trace back to a non-fungible token (NFT) collection, Bong Bears, which three of the four pseudonymous co-founders launched in August 2021. The project’s OpenSea description reads: “100 absolutely zooted NFT bears getting baked.” But even the project’s name (and Smokey’s) is a misnomer. “I don’t think anyone on the core team even smokes,” said Berachain co-founder Smokey in an interview with CoinDesk.
At the time, the team was inspired by the rebasing protocol OlympusDAO, which was rapidly gaining traction in the crypto community. In the fall of 2021, OlympusDAO’s OHM token traded at a high of $1,300. (It has since fallen to about $10 per OHM.) Bong Bears followed in the footsteps of OlympusDAO, creating the first-ever collection of rebasing NFTs, which spawned several new collections – Bond Bears, Boo Bears, Baby Bears, Band Bears and Bit Bears.
Smokey says the pivot from Bong Bears NFTs to launching a fully-fledged layer-1 blockchain is not so far-fetched. “Bong Bears bootstrapped a community of DeFi enthusiasts,” he said. “What if we could take some of the liquidity and make it useful?”
Proof of liquidity
Berachain says its technology will allow staked assets to be used in DeFi protocols, creating more liquidity and capital efficiency on-chain. Currently, staked assets, such as staked ether (ETH), are locked while they are used to secure the underlying blockchain’s network. Berachain says its "proof of liquidity" consensus will allow users to simultaneously stake assets on Berachain and use those assets to trade, borrow or lend on-chain.
According to a press release, the Bera ecosystem already has over $250 million in committed capital to deploy, and will launch a public incentivized testnet in the coming weeks.
“In a lot of cases, liquidity is mercenary,” said Smokey. “The reason why they’re mercenary is that you can’t do much with stake assets, they just sit there.”
“Berachain … provides the first structure which aligns incentives between liquidity and security at the chain level, creating a massive opportunity to absorb the majority of liquidity and turn it into a sticky, capital efficient base for DeFi platforms to build on top of,” said Polychain founder Olaf Carlson-Wee in a statement.
Berachain will also launch BERA, its native gas token, and BGT, its governance token. The ecosystem will also include a stablecoin, HONEY.
“If people want to think that we’re a rug, I would tell them to do their own research,” said Smokey. “There’s a nontrivial history of pseudonymous projects doing good things.”
UPDATE (April 20, 17:12 UTC): Adds name of additional investor.
CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk offers all employees above a certain salary threshold, including journalists, stock options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.