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Funding

Three-month-old stealth Singapore game-fi startup raises seed funding of US$2.7 million

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Three-month-old stealth Singapore game-fi startup raises seed funding of US$2.7 million

SINGAPORE, Feb. 24, 2022Singapore-based game finance (game-fi) blockchain startup, Ethlas, announced today that it has secured US$2.7 million in seed funding from investors such as Sequoia Capital India, Yield Guild Games Southeast Asia, Global Blockchain Innovative Capital, Venturra Capital, Play It Forward DAO, Blockchain Space, Genesis Fund, Deus Ex DAO, Hustle Fund, and executives from Grab, Coinbase, Switcheo and CoinMarketCap. The hitherto stealth start-up has also unveiled the identities of two of its four founders: American Gennady ‘Ari’ Medvinsky and Singaporean Elston Sam, who have both worked in top tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Grab, and Airbnb. The identities of the other two founders – one of whom is a very senior executive with a Big Tech firm – will be disclosed in due course.

The three-month-old Ethlas is the first game-fi startup founded in Singapore to have secured serious investor money, underlining the confidence that VCs have in this fledgling tech startup that first launched quietly in November 2021. Built on the Polygon blockchain, Ethlas has chalked up over 100,000 crypto-wallet users globally and scored some three million gameplays on its platform as of end-January 2022. The rapid scale that Ethlas achieved product market fit has been one of the key reasons for its seed fundraising success.

According to a Bloomberg report in January 2022, the number of blockchain games grew nearly threefold: from about 200 in 2020 to more than 544 in 2021. Most game-fi platforms have a high barrier of entry, requiring gamers to pay subscription fees or have upfront capital. On the contrary, Ethlas – a portmanteau of “Ethereum” and “Atlas” – is a free-to-play, play-to-earn platform which helps the lay person win and encash cryptocurrency, by participating in simple, easily-understood casual games that everyone is familiar with. Think Tetris, Candy Crush and Bubble Popper but way cooler. To start playing, gamers just need to install MetaMask, a software crypto wallet or link their wallets, and they can start playing in the Ethlas metaverse on a PC or mobile phone’s browser. There are no complicated onboarding rules or requirements to sign up with a hefty subscription fee.

“Komo” NFT minted

As part of its product roadmap, Ethlas will mint its first series of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) called Komos. Modelled after the Komodo Dragons of Indonesia, the Komo NFTs will benefit both free-to-play gamers and crypto natives: Free-to-play gamers can use the five tiers of the Komo NFT to boost their gameplay and secure more $XGEM (Exchange Genesis Ethlas Medium), the in-game cryptocurrency in the Ethlas metaverse; crypto natives can benefit from the intrinsic value of a well-designed NFT that has in-game utility and facilitates scholarships (NFT rental). The Komo NFT series will be available before end-February 2022. Ethlas is also working with game studios to launch their games on their platform through a revenue-sharing model.

“The unique value proposition of Komo NFTs is that they do not only function as game passes on Ethlas granting players special access to games and features,  they are also asset-backed NFTs, which consist of staked tokens wrapped as an ERC-721 token that has recently started gaining popularity. Ethlas’ Komo NFTs possess both intrinsic artistic as well as monetary value, thereby driving up their desirability as a piece of tradeable art. Most game NFTs do not provide such value as Komo,” says Ethlas co-founder, Elston Sam.

Moonshot vision of one billion users

The founders of Ethlas were intrigued by the potential of game-fi when they read of Filipinos earning more money from playing games on game-fi platforms than from their day jobs. With their convictions that Web 3.0 will be powered by cryptocurrency and its social impact, the four founders decided to take the plunge and leave their well-paying jobs to build Ethlas. Their moonshot vision: make crypto inclusive and accessible by onboarding the next billion non-crypto users onto the Ethlas metaverse. Ethlas has plans to work with regulators to develop a framework for game-fi as it believes regulations and consumer education are key to facilitate the growth of this currently nascent but immense game-fi ecosystem in a safe and controlled manner.

“Consumer gaming platforms can amass millions of engaged players – combine that with asset ownership through NFTs and a crypto rewards layer, the network incentives fall back into the hands of the players. This is an immensely powerful flywheel. We also like that Ethlas is onboarding native gamers onto Web 3.0 and that the team is hyper-focused on delivering a delightful gaming experience. We have been very impressed with the platform’s rapid user adoption and high gamer engagement, suggesting strong future growth prospects,” Aakash Kapoor, Vice President, Sequoia India.

“We recognise that blockchain has a high barrier of entry, and currently appeals only to a skewed demographic. While GBIC is always looking out for blockchain startups to invest in, we are looking for those with a serious direction and vision. The direction of Ethlas was very clear and we believe in their vision that games will be a significant channel to onboard the next billion users into crypto. Unlike the current play-to-earn games, Ethlas’ operating model allows even people who do not even know crypto to just do a one-click sign in with MetaMask, and they can play for fun and earn. We are excited to be one of the early VCs to help Ethlas take flight,” says Sinhae Lee, Partner, Global Blockchain Innovation Capital.

Ethlas has built up a team of more than 20 blockchain engineers, game developers, data scientists, cybersecurity experts and designers, based out of Singapore, Philippines and the United States. The startup is founded in Singapore as the country has a good tech ecosystem that fosters and enables innovation, especially in crypto, and has good access to venture capital. It will leverage its seed funding to aggressively hire tech talent in the Web 3.0 space.

About Ethlas

Launched in November 2021, Ethlas is a free-to-play/play-to-earn blockchain-based game finance (GameFi) Metaverse built on the Polygon chain, the protocol for enabling interoperability and scalability within the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem. Founded by a group of four tech leaders with extensive experience in leading teams across tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Airbnb and Grab, etc, Ethlas is headquartered in Singapore with offices in San Francisco Bay Area and New York, United States, and Manila, Philippines.

Within two months of its beta launch and with minimal marketing, Ethlas chalked up more than three million gameplays with over 100,000 unique wallet IDs to its gamepage. Ethlas minted its first Windblown asset-backed NFTs in December 2021.

The Ethlas GameFi metaverse has been voted “Best NFT Project” by Polygon, and ranked the number one blockchain casual game on PlayToEarn.net, which tracks and ranks the most popular crypto and NFT blockchain games.

Ethlas is backed by Sequoia Capital India, Global Blockchain Innovative Capital, Play It Forward DAO, Genesis Fund, Blockchain Space, Venturra Capital, and executives from Coinbase, CoinMarketCap, Grab and Switcheo.

Funding

Used by Spotify and Logitech, HR & Fintech Startup RemotePass Raises $5.5M in Series A funding

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RemotePass series a funding

RemotePass, an HR and fintech platform that helps companies onboard, manage, pay, and retain remote workers, has secured $5.5 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by 212 VC with participation from investors in the US, Europe, and the Middle East, including Endeavor Catalyst, Khwarizmi Ventures, Oraseya Capital, Flyer One Ventures, Access Bridge Ventures, A15, and Swiss Founders Fund.

With this funding, RemotePass’s total capital raised has surpassed $10 million, adding to previous investments from BECO Capital, Wamda Capital, Plug & Play, and Flat6Labs.

“Witnessing RemotePass’s remarkable product growth and stellar customer service since early 2023 has solidified our belief in their visionary team and business model,” says Ali Hikmet Karabey, managing director at 212 VC, the round’s lead investor.

“By addressing today’s workforce challenges like talent mobility and remote work, RemotePass stands out as a key enabler,” he says. “It connects companies seeking a broader talent pool with emerging market talents who previously lacked access to global financial solutions and processes.”

Founded by Kamal Reggad and Karim Nadi, RemotePass serves a range of clients, from startups to large enterprises like Spotify, Logitech, Paymentology. It helps them onboard, manage, and pay their talent base in countries where they don’t have a local legal presence. RemotePass’s clients can hire full-time employees and contractors in over 150 countries.

“Our platform helps democratize access to global opportunities, leveling the playing field for skilled individuals and enabling them to compete in a global job marketplace,” says Kamal Reggad, CEO and co-founder at RemotePass. “This funding fuels our mission to empower countless lives and help global teams succeed.”

The RemotePass app offers access to a range of financial services and benefits tailored to the needs of remote workers, including multiple payout options, a USD debit card, as well as perks like health insurance. Apart from an end-to-end contractor management platform, RemotePass provides businesses with EoR services and relocation support.

“This oversubscribed funding round is a testament to the company’s robust financials, strong team, and high growth potential,” says Wamda Capital founder Fadi Ghandour. “What impressed us most at Wamda, and what confirmed our decision to back Reggad and his team since inception, is his entrepreneurial capability, which he demonstrated during the difficult days of the pandemic when he pivoted the company and subsequently built a great startup.”

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Funding

Tsubame BHB procures 5.3 billion yen through Series C

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First participation by a foreign investor brings green ammonia production to the world

Tsubame BHB Co., Ltd. (Head Office: Yokohama, Kanagawa Pref.; Representative Director and CEO: Koji Nakamura), which strives for the social implementation and commercialization of small, distributed ammonia production plants, has announced that it has undertaken capital procurement on a total scale of approximately 5.3 billion yen in a Series C round of financing through third-party allocation of shares to both new and existing investors worldwide.

In the second round*1 of this Series C funding, capital procurement was undertaken with Heraeus Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (Head Office: Germany; “Heraeus”) as the first overseas investor receiving shares, and with Yokogawa Electric Corporation and Energy & Environment Investment, Inc. as new investors receiving shares in Japan. This round of funding resulted in a cumulative capital procurement amount of 7.6 billion yen for Tsubame BHB Co., Ltd.

*1 The first round of funding was procured through convertible equity (CE) subscription warrants in July 2022

Tsubame BHB was established in April 2017 to achieve the social implementation and commercialization of on-site ammonia production at small, distributed ammonia production plants capable of synthesizing ammonia at low temperatures and low pressures, using the world’s first electride catalyst method. The Heraeus Group, based in Hanau, Germany, is a major family-owned technology company with multifaceted global operations. It has approximately 17,200 employees in 40 countries around the world, and boasts a diverse business portfolio that includes fields such as metals and recycling, healthcare, semiconductors and electronics, and industrials. With Heraeus participating as the first overseas investor, Tsubame BHB will develop the ammonia business and strengthen supply chains with a particular focus on Europe.

The EU decided to introduce a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) for the first time in the world, requiring businesses to report on carbon emissions from October 2023. Actual taxation based on these emission volumes is scheduled to begin from 2026. On February 6 of this year, the European Commission announced that CO2 emissions in the EU should be cut to 90% compared to 1990 levels by 2040. Given the need for CO2 reductions and actions to combat climate change in the EU, there is a growing demand for green ammonia, particularly in the chemical, transportation, and agricultural industries.

The synthetic ammonia catalysts offered by Tsubame BHB, which are produced at low temperatures and low pressures using electride catalysts, can be manufactured at small ammonia production plants, and so can be produced and consumed locally. Transport and storage processes are reduced in comparison to current procurement methods involving high-volume production at petrochemical complexes, enabling a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions.

In collaboration with Heraeus, which has a history spanning close to 400 years, Tsubame BHB uses an electride catalyst technology developed in Japan to promote the localization of ammonia production at small, distributed on-site ammonia plants, and the manufacture of green ammonia and hydrogen ammonia using renewable energy.

  • Current status of business/development

The first installation project in Japan, ordered in December 2022, is currently moving ahead steadily with plans for the start of production in August 2025. Detailed design and procurement are already complete. Receipt testing at the main device plant will begin from April 2024, and deliveries to the construction site are scheduled to begin in May.

Tsubame BHB has an R&D Center at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where R&D targeting catalysts is conducted in collaboration with about 30 researchers. Verification tests of catalysts developed at a pilot plant in Ajinomoto Co., Inc.’s Kawasaki factory began in 2019, and over the course of four years, these tests confirmed that Tsubame BHB’s technologies had transcended the laboratory level, meeting requirements for commercialization. Catalysts suited to on-site ammonia plants are at the commercialization stage. Tests confirmed that formation and increased production on a scale of more than 100,000x could be achieved, and that after four years of uninterrupted catalyst performance operations, there was absolutely no decline in performance.

Applying government subsidies, commercialization of next-generation catalysts is expected to be achieved in a short time, with further cost reductions scheduled for the future.

  • Tsubame BHB receives orders for basic design in Japan and overseas

In December 2023, Tsubame BHB received its first order for the basic design of an overseas unit in Southeast Asia. Production of green ammonia is expected to begin from FY2026. A project order was also received for basic design on a second unit in Japan, with ammonia production similarly scheduled to begin during FY2026.

In December 2023, a letter of intent (LOI) was signed between Agri Laos Co., Ltd. (“Agri Laos“), a business partner in Laos, and the Laotian State Enterprise for Agriculture Service (“SAS”) regarding an offtake agreement for low-carbon fertilizers. Tsubame BHB and Agri Laos have formed a special purpose company (SPC) to promote the development of projects involving the manufacture of green hydrogen and ammonia and low carbon fertilizers using renewable energy and hydroelectric power in Laos. SAS plans to purchase the low-carbon fertilizers produced on this project for sales in Laos and other countries.

Tsubame BHB has received an increasing number of inquiries from overseas companies, and has initiated projects targeting the on-site production of ammonia at small-scale plants in collaboration with companies in various countries in North and South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

  • Future developments

The capital procured through this round of financing will go toward R&D targeting further cost reductions at small, distributed ammonia plants and the commercialization of medium-scale plants, as well as technical development costs for next-generation catalysts with a view toward large-scale plants and recruiting/labor costs, which are particularly important in the context of business operations. In this way, Tsubame BHB will contribute to the commercialization of small-scale ammonia production plants originating in Japan.

  • Investors in this round

Along with Tsubame BHB’s first overseas investor, Heraeus Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH, investors participating in this round of financing will include the following companies:

List of participating investors (no specific order):
New investors: Heraeus Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH, Yokogawa Electric Corporation, and Energy & Environment Investment, Inc.

  • Comments from investors participating in this round

Heraeus Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH

“Heraeus has long established itself as a leader in innovation in the field of precious metal-based technologies. The Tsubame BHB technology fits perfectly with the Heraeus scouting criteria supports our efforts to lead the development of cutting-edge sustainable technologies,” said Dr. Philipp Walter, Executive Vice President Business Line Hydrogen Systems at Heraeus. “The technology complements our already broad range of sustainable solutions and helps to strengthen our position in a market that is increasingly focused on energy efficiency and decarbonization.”

Japan is a market where innovation is born – especially in the area of advanced materials. As a globally leading material technology company, Heraeus sees great potential in a stronger collaboration with Japanese companies, universities, and research institutes. Our investment in Tsubame BHB is a great example how Japanese and German companies can profit and grow together in future markets.” added Hideto Yamauchi, Representative Director, President of Heraeus K.K. in Japan.

Yokogawa Electric Corporation

“Various efforts are being made around the world to realize a decarbonized society, and Yokogawa is paying attention to these new energy trends. Like our customers, we believe that there will be a rising need for ammonia as a hydrogen transport medium and fuel. Yokogawa considers that Tsubame BHB’s innovative technology for the production of ammonia at a low temperature and pressure will play a key role in the attainment of a decarbonized society. By utilizing our company’s measurement, control, and information technologies, we will work together with Tsubame BHB to sustain the creation of value and address social issues,” commented Koji Nakaoka, a senior vice president and head of the company’s Energy & Sustainability Business Headquarters and Global Sales Headquarters

Energy & Environment Investment, Inc.

“Amid an urgent demand for decarbonization in various fields, ammonia is expected to be used not only as a hydrogen carrier, but also as a clean fuel in its own right, with applications for single fuel ammonia combustion in large-scale transportation (e.g., ships and aircraft) as well as thermal power generation. It has the potential to be a key driver in decarbonization, but in order to achieve this goal, renewable energy must be used in the manufacturing process as well “said by Member of the Board and Partner: Kenyu Hosoya. “Using Tsubame BHB’s technologies, ammonia can be manufactured at low temperatures and low pressures, enabling small, distributed manufacturing facilities. In this way, in addition to supporting the worldwide use of green ammonia manufactured using renewable energy, these technologies are expected to contribute to decarbonization as well.”

  • Outline of investors participating in this round 

Heraeus Beteiligungsverwaltungsgesellschaft mbH

The Heraeus Group, based in Hanau, Germany, is a global company with about 17,200 employees, operating in 40 countries around the world, and boasting cutting-edge technologies. Founded in 1660, Heraeus has a diverse business portfolio, with activities in fields such as metals and recycling, healthcare, semiconductors and electronics, and industrials.

Yokogawa Electric Corporation

Yokogawa Electric, a major electrical equipment company, is one of Japan’s top manufacturers specializing in industrial instruments and process control systems. Using measurement, control, and information technologies, it contributes to resolving social issues through business in the control, measurement, communications, and life science fields.

Energy & Environment Investment, Inc.

Energy & Environment Investment was established in 2006 as a venture capital company specializing in the energy and environmental fields. It invests in and supports the growth of startup companies with innovative business models and technologies that contribute to the realization of a sustainable society, with a particular focus on decarbonization.

  • About Tsubame BHB

Tsubame BHB’s corporate philosophy is to “resolve issues faced by mankind in the context of environmental and food related issues through the use of original technologies, in order to achieve a sustainable society.” We are a deep tech company that strives for practical applications of on-site ammonia production at small, distributed plants using technologies that dramatically reduce the extraction of CO2 in comparison to conventional methods, by producing ammonia at low temperatures and low pressures. Founded in 2017, we utilize electride catalyst technologies developed by Honorary Professor Hideo Hosono of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and we are currently strengthening the rollout of overseas business with a focus on regions including North and South America, Australia, and Africa. Last year, we were invited by the Japanese government to attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), where we had an exhibit booth.

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Cleantech

Altilium secures USD 9.43 million in funding

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SQM Lithium Ventures announced its follow-on investment of USD 9.43 million in Altilium, a UK-based clean technology group focused on supporting the energy transition to net zero, bringing its total investment to USD 12 million.

The investment completes Altilium’s Series A funding round and marks the largest investment to date for SQM Lithium Ventures, the corporate venture arm of the lithium business of Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), one of the world’s leading producers of battery-grade lithium.

The additional funding follows a year of strong progress in the scaling up of Altilium’s proprietary battery recycling technology and underscores both companies’ commitment to developing a circular economy for sustainable and low carbon battery materials.

SQM Lithium Ventures made an initial investment of USD 2.57 million in Altilium last year. Since then the company has hit a number of key development milestones, including the expansion of its UK recycling facilities, enhancement of its proprietary EcoCathode™ hydrometallurgical process and strengthening of its senior management team.

Going forward, the additional funding will accelerate the scale-up of Altilium’s UK and European activities, paving the way for the roll-out of the company’s full battery circularity customer offering, encompassing zero-carbon EV battery collection, black mass recycling and chemical refining direct to cathode active material (CAM).

Key developments for 2024 will include:

Construction of Small-Commercial Plant: The 18,000-square-foot facility in Plymouth, Devon is scheduled to begin operations mid 2024, processing significant volumes of battery precursors and cathode active materials for qualification with automakers and cell manufacturers.

Battery Recycling Stations (BRS): The raised capital will be instrumental in building the first Battery Recycling Station to efficiently transform discarded EV batteries into high-quality black mass, a crucial feedstock for Altilium’s chemical refineries.

Commencement of European Hydrometallurgical Refining: Altilium are progressing with the retrofit of an existing plant in Eastern Europe, with plans to process 8,000 metric tons of black mass to EV battery intermediates later in 2024.

Finalisation of plans for the UK’s largest EV battery recycling facility: The planned Teesside plant will have capacity to process battery waste from 150,000 electric vehicles. This facility aims to meet 20% of the UK’s Cathode Active Materials (CAM) requirement by 2030.

Altilium President & COO, Dr Christian Marston, commented:

“We are delighted to continue our relationship with SQM and excited about the journey ahead as we build a UK and European leader in battery recycling. We are immensely grateful for their belief in our business and our shared vision for achieving the lowest carbon footprint in battery raw materials.”

Altilium CEO, Kamran Mahdavi, commented:

“This round of funding with SQM Lithium Venture has been a pivotal achievement for Altilium and reflects the significant strides the business has made over the past 12 months. We look forward to building on these achievements with the support of our partners and our dedicated team.”

Carlos Díaz, CEO of the Lithium-Potasium Division of SQM, commented:

“The investment in Altilium gives SQM the chance to participate in the creation of a new industry: the recovery of critical minerals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt from recycled batteries. This will allow us to add value to the new battery supply chain, while at the same time maintaining sustainable levels of resource consumption, water use and carbon footprint. SQM’s top priorities include attracting technical talent to the company and associating ourselves with the world’s most innovative startups, allowing us to maximize our impact in the industry.”

David Rousselle, Engineering Manager at SQM and member of Altilium’s board of directors, added:

“Lithium batteries have become an essential component of modern society, as they’re used in electric vehicles and electronic devices. Despite the importance of the circular economy, most lithium-ion batteries are still not recycled. In the US and EU, less than 1% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, compared to 99% of lead-acid batteries. Given the growth in the electromobility market, lithium-ion battery recycling will be essential in the coming years. The investment in Altilium allows SQM to get ahead of the global recycling curve, doubling down on the company’s commitment to developing solutions for human progress and working toward economic, social, and environmental sustainability.”

In addition to providing capital investment, SQM Lithium Ventures also brings considerable experience in large-scale project delivery and a commitment to innovation and sustainability.

With substantial backing from UK Government Innovation grants, Altilium is leading the charge in the UK’s journey towards establishing a national champion for EV battery recycling. Altilium’s proprietary EcoCathode™ process converts old EV batteries and manufacturing scrap into domestic, sustainable, battery precursors, cathode active materials (CAM) and cathode precursor (p-CAM) for direct reuse in new batteries.

Recovering over 95% of crucial metals from old EV batteries will contribute to a UK domestic and sustainable supply of battery raw materials, reducing carbon emissions by over 50% and reducing the cost of cathode active material by more than 20% compared to conventional virgin mining practices.

About Altilium

Altilium is a UK-based clean tech group that will reshape the UK and European automotive supply chain by offering high volume, low carbon domestic sources of cathode and anode materials from recycling waste streams already in circulation, such as lithium scrap.

The company’s proprietary EcoCathode™ process converts end-of-life EV batteries and manufacturing scrap into domestic, sustainable, battery precursors, cathode active materials (CAM) and cathode precursor (pCAM) for direct reuse in new batteries.

Altilium’s first mini-commercial plant is currently under construction in Plymouth while its planned Teesside plant will be one of the largest EV battery recycling facilities in Europe. The plant will have the capacity to process scrap from over 150,000 EVs per year, producing 30,000 MT of CAM, enough to meet around 20% of the UK’s expected needs by 2030.

About SQM Lithium Ventures

SQM Lithium Ventures, launched in December 2022, seeks to invest in growing companies solving challenges related to lithium, water, and electromobility. The up-to USD 40 million fund invests tickets averaging USD 3 million, plus follow-on investments, in companies across the globe, and also operates an acceleration program based in Antofagasta, Chile, for earlier-stage startups within the same three verticals. Parent company SQM is one of the world’s largest producers of lithium for use in electric vehicle batteries.

The fund has a global presence, with team members in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. After evaluating more than 500 companies and completing four investment committees to date, the fund is advancing rapidly in conversations with several of the most innovative companies in its verticals.

The selection process consisted of several months of diligence and meetings with the Altilium team, culminating with an investment committee with participation of SQM’s CEO, largest shareholders, and key company leaders. SQM plans to add value with its global presence and vast expertise in lithium value chains, as well as a role in the company’s board of directors.

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