NEAR protocol spin-off Open Web Collective launches venture arm to invest in early-stage web3

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 exclusively told TechCrunch.

The division is backed by Barry Silbert’s Digital Currency Group and the blockchain protocol NEAR (from which OWC previously spun out), Jeff Lavoie, head of investments at OWC Ventures, said to TechCrunch.

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

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

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

OWC’s two-year-old accelerator program is made up of 26 alumni founders who have raised over $360 million in capital collectively, its website states.

“We’re evolving the way in which we’re going to play in the web3 space and move forward web3 adoption,” Mildred Idada, founder and general partner of OWC, told TechCrunch. “We’ve been spending time on the earliest stages pre-seed and seed, but with this new rollout we’re excited to move into Series A and other focus areas.”

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

“We expect a lot of activity to pick up in the next few months and as we enter into Q1,” Idada said. “But we’re actively deploying and raising, we’re excited about the time we’re in right now. There’s never been a better time to deploy.”