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Welcome back to Chain Reaction.

PSA: I’ll be at ETH Denver this week, so if you see me, say hi! I’ll have a few Chain Reaction pins on me and the first few people to find me will get one. Think of it like a free NFT, but instead of it going in your crypto wallet, it’ll go in your wallet, wallet. Woah!

Anyways, let’s get into the news; oh, and Happy March!

February wrapped up as a big month for the NFT market as non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum blockchain surpassed $1.5 billion in volume for the first time since May 2022.

NFT marketplace Blur hit an all-time high for monthly volume at $1.12 billion for February, making up 74.6% of the total volume across all Ethereum NFT marketplaces, according to data from The Block. (The Block’s data aggregation filters out wash trading — when traders buy and sell items between themselves to artificially raise volumes and prices.)

By comparison, OpenSea, now the second-largest Ethereum NFT marketplace, had $270.11 million in volume for February, the data showed. At its peak, OpenSea had about $4.8 billion in monthly volume in January 2022 but has since seen its overall transaction volume deflate.

Amid the recent rebound, Blur has bested the once-largest NFT marketplace OpenSea in monthly volume for the third month in a row as the crypto market debates the issue of NFT creator royalties.

“If you look at what’s been happening recently with OpenSea and Blur, obviously that’s a concern broadly speaking in terms of the market and royalty fights,” Yat Siu, chairman of Animoca Brands, said to TechCrunch. “However, the volume as a result of that has increased tremendously, which means it has brought back another kind of excitement into the space.”

More below.

This week in web3

Ethereum NFT marketplace passes $1B in volume for first time since May as the creator royalties war heats up (TC+)

As mentioned above, the NFT market is getting hot again and the rise of Blur in the NFT market has helped reignite a debate concerning royalties. In previous quarters, OpenSea tried to balance creator royalties as it held the top position for NFT marketplaces, but Blur’s aggressive stance is causing OpenSea to change its tack. But as massive NFT marketplaces drop fees, this could be a “slippery slope” that hurts creators in the long term, Siu said.

Does web3 need a venture bailout now that AI has all the hype? (TC+)

Shifting investor priorities, more expensive cash and a dearth of the large deals that were so common during the last startup boom could leave many late-stage web3 companies short on cash. And the clock is ticking. For startups stuck in a now passé category, watching venture dollars flow elsewhere cannot feel great, even if such evolutions in capital flows are normal.

Chainlink’s new platform lets web3 projects connect to Web 2.0 systems like AWS and Meta

Chainlink, a web3 services platform, is launching a self-service, serverless platform to help developers connect their decentralized applications (dApps) or smart contracts to any Web 2.0 API, the company exclusively told TechCrunch. This new platform also supports more widely used programming languages like JavaScript so that developers who are new to web3 can get into the space. It will also provide integrations to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Meta and others.

The latest pod

For last week’s episode, Jacquelyn interviewed Alex Adelman, the co-founder and CEO of Lolli. Founded in 2018, Lolli is a bitcoin rewards app that lets people earn bitcoin or cash back when they shop online or in-person at over 10,000 stores like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’, CVS, Costco and so on.

Adelman previously was on the team that built a commerce gateway, Cosmic, that was acquired by PopSugar in 2015 then Ebates and Rakuten in 2017. And similar to Jacquelyn, Adelman also went to UNC-Chapel Hill — go Tar Heels!

Lolli has grown significantly over the past few years, from partnering with less than 1,000 stores to over 10,000 stores, to date. Adelman dived into the rewards system in the crypto ecosystem and how it has evolved over the years — and what the future holds for Lolli.

We also dived deep into the topic of Bitcoin NFTs and Ordinals, which is the latest craze for the community. We discussed whether Bitcoin NFTs are good for the ecosystem, how the technology can grow long term and possibilities for these digital inscriptions to potentially fit into Lolli’s business model.

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite pod platform to keep up with the latest episodes, and please leave us a review if you like what you hear!

Follow the money

  1. China’s regulatory compliant blockchain Conflux raised $10 million in a private token sale
  2. Decentralized crypto exchange Mangrove raised $7.4 million in a Series A round
  3. Singapore-based digital asset exchange DigiFT raised $10.5 million in a pre-Series A round
  4. Institutional DeFi-focused asset management platform Hashnote raised $5 million
  5. Term Labs raised $2.5 million in a seed round to build safer crypto lending for institutions

This list was compiled with information from Messari as well as TechCrunch’s own reporting.

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