NEAR Protocol Spin-off Open Web Collective Launches Venture Branch to Invest in Early Stage web3

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Open Web Collective, a blockchain and web3 accelerator, has launched a new division called OWC Ventures to invest in early-stage crypto startups, the team told TBEN exclusively.

The division is backed by Barry Silbert’s Digital Currency Group and the blockchain protocol NEAR (from which OWC previously emerged), Jeff Lavoie, head of investment at OWC Ventures, told TBEN.

There will also be a fund behind OWC Ventures, which has not yet closed, but the team said it expects to raise “a $20 million vehicle for pre-seed to Series A deals with co-investment opportunities.”

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“If you look at NEAR’s ethos and TBEN, we capture a lot of that [with OWC Ventures]. NEAR’s focus is on user experience, the end developer, Lavoie said. They have tried to make their lives as easy as possible, to create the next leaders in web3.”

The focus of the NEAR protocol has been on improving developers’ language, documentation, the technology and other things they’ve created, Lavoie said. “They have engaged and authorized the developer. That’s a theme that’s incredibly powerful for us and that’s what we’re going to focus on. Without it none of this is possible.”

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OWC’s two-year accelerator program consists of 26 alumni founders who have collectively raised more than $360 million in capital, according to the website.

“We are developing the way we are going to play in the web3 space and drive web3 adoption,” Mildred Idada, founder and general partner of OWC, told TBEN. “We spent time on the earliest stages of pre-seed and seed, but with this new rollout, we’re excited to move into Series A and other focus areas.”

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In addition to investing in developers, OWC Ventures will also deploy capital in other sectors such as DeFi, SocialFi and gaming, Lavoie said. “Our strategy is to play early, we want to stay small enough to participate in the highest value opportunities.”

“We expect there to be a lot of activity in the coming months and going into the first quarter,” Idada said. “But we’re actively betting and raising, we’re excited about the times we’re in right now. There has never been a better time to bet.”