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MoonPay CEO and co-founder Ivan Soto-Wright speaking at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami, Florida.
Eva Marie Uzcategui | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cryptocurrency start-ups have raised record funding this year.

It’s no surprise, then, that some major players in the space — from the Winklevoss twins’ virtual currency exchange Gemini to Ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin’s blockchain start-up ConsenSys — announced massive new funding deals in the last week.

MoonPay, a relative newcomer, is taking the crypto mania in venture capital to new heights. The three-year-old fintech firm said Monday it has raised $555 million in its first-ever financing round. The investment, led by Tiger Global and Coatue, values the company at $3.4 billion.

Founded in 2018, Miami-based MoonPay’s software lets users buy and sell cryptocurrencies using conventional payment methods like credit cards, bank transfers or mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

It also sells its technology to other businesses including crypto website and non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace OpenSea, a model CEO Ivan Soto-Wright calls “crypto-as-a-service.”

Soto-Wright said the firm aims to make crypto accessible to the masses in the same way that video-conferencing tools like Zoom made it easier to make calls over the internet.

“With the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, I think right now we are still in the dial-up days,” he told CNBC in an interview.

“Eventually we will get to this place where it’s frictionless to move any amount of value around anywhere in the world, and costs move as close as possible to zero.”

‘PayPal for crypto’

With prices of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies hitting all-time highs lately, venture capital investment in the start-ups powering the market is booming. Investors are looking for the next Coinbase after the crypto exchange giant’s blockbuster listing in April.

MoonPay’s pitch to investors is that it offers a “gateway” to digital assets. For now, that includes bitcoin, ether and other digital tokens like NFTs. But Soto-Wright’s vision is to expand the platform to include everything from digital fashion to tokenized stocks.

“People are calling us similar to PayPal, but for crypto,” he said.

The company has strong controls and checks in place to tackle money laundering, Soto-Wright said. Regulators have become increasingly wary about illicit activity in the market.

MoonPay says it has been profitable since launching its platform in 2019. The firm is on track to hit $150 million in annual revenue this year after transaction volumes skyrocketed 35-fold from 2020. Its service is now used by more than 7 million customers.

Still, the company faces stiff competition, not least from fintech pioneers like PayPal, which rolled out its own crypto features last year.

Soto-Wright said he’s not worried about the competition. He described PayPal as a “walled garden” that doesn’t give users control over their assets. “We believe the future of crypto is about customers taking possession of their private keys,” passwords that grant people access to their funds, he said.

IPO ambitions

Looking ahead, MoonPay plans to spend the money raised on new products and expansion. Soto-Wright said the firm already has ambitions to take the business public. “We have aspirations eventually to be a public company,” he said.

Cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile, however, and that has impacted even the most well-known players in the space. Coinbase, for example, missed sales estimates in the third quarter after a drop in monthly users.

Bitcoin hit an all-time high of nearly $69,000 earlier this month, but has since dropped about 17%. Ether, meanwhile, is down 13% from its record high.

Soto-Wright said MoonPay is prepared for a potential downturn in crypto markets, adding the firm is “agnostic” on which assets it supports.

“In the same way that telecoms got disrupted by voice over IP (internet protocol), we think, over time, financial services and all these different applications will be disrupted by the blockchain,” he said.

“There’s obviously going to be volatility as the market is trying to discover what assets, what blockchains are ultimately going to get adopted.”