Blockchain startup CasperLabs has banked $14 million from investors who pledged to secure its proof-of-stake Casper network at launch.

CasperLabs CEO Mrinal Manohar confirmed the private CSPR token presale to CoinDesk and further revealed that Digital Strategies had led the investment, with headline participation from HashKey Capital and Blockchange Ventures, as well as 52 others. Nearly half of subscribers already held CasperLabs equity, he said.

All together, the 55 new CSPR holders wield a share of the Casper network that Manohar said ranges “in the teens.”

Casper’s future node runners lend an early security force to the Swiss-based company’s upcoming blockchain. Jumping on ahead of Casper’s mainnet launch, and even before the native token’s public sale, these “genesis validators,” as Manohar called them, will confirm transactions on the smart contract-based network when it goes live early next year.

“Everyone is mandated to be a validator,” said Manohar, adding the sale will “create the initial security of the network” that CasperLabs has no interest in raising alone.

Read more: CasperLabs Pivots Away From Ethereum to Fundraise With Its Own Blockchain

“It’s a completely open and permissionless system,” he said. 

CasperLabs is among the many lesser-known blockchain projects hoping to steal even just a sliver of crypto’s decentralized finance (DeFi) scene from Ethereum. Industry tracker DeFi Pulse now estimates that Ethereum blockchain DeFi projects are locking up over $10.6 billion in value. 

But with DeFi’s market leader struggling under high fees and long confirmation times – not to mention a long-promised network upgrade looming but hardly assured – Casper’s team is eager to prove that an upstart competitor can handle booming industry demand.

CasperLabs understands Ethereum’s scaling woes perhaps better than most. Ethereum Foundation developer Vlad Zamfir used to advise the company. But he’d left the project by March 2020, when CasperLabs said it was pivoting away from Ethereum.

Excitement for Casper’s mainnet launch is running high if the CSPR round’s numbers are any indication. Manohar said the oversubscribed round brought in $4 million more than initially planned. All that cash came from 55 “medium-sized checks,” he said.

Coming one year after CasperLabs’ Series A sale raised $14.5 million, the fresh cash will fuel Casper’s 40 employees through their final pre-launch development, according to Manohar. Twenty-nine of them are engineers. Money’s “always gone very heavily into engineering” he said. 

Manohar has no plans to run another private sale before the public offering in “early Q1” 2021. And there’s no need to, he said. The sale’s primary function, now complete, was to establish Casper’s launch-day validators.

Also read: Validators Drop Off Ethereum 2.0 Testnets as Mainnet Release Looms

Next year’s public CSPR sale will give the public (but not U.S. investors) a shot at staging nodes as well. 

But Casper will be ready to go even without public buy-in.

“We’ll only do our first public sale once the network’s already decentralized,” he said.

Correction (10/22/20): A previous version of this article previously identified the Casper Network’s native token as “CLX.”

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