In a sale that many couldn’t even fathom just a few years ago, a Virginia metaverse startup just raised millions through a sale of its native token.
Passage, based in Winchester, Virginia, is a metaverse platform for established creators built with Cosmos and Unreal Engine 5. Its platform is blockchain-agnostic and supports 3D communication and cross-world commerce for fungible and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
In a sale of the company’s native cryptocurrency, PASG, Passage raised $6 million to help develop its platform. Akash Network led the deal, with support from Druid Ventures, Vitwit, Cosmostation, HyperChain Capital, Chorus One and Cogitent Ventures. According to a company statement, the coin is baked by a SaaS revenue model, and up to 50% of the sale’s profits support network security by incentivizing staking — a term for a process similar to a high-yield savings account whereby crypto holders lock their digital assets to keep the blockchain running, maintain security and earn percentage yields.
“The Passage platform is going to be an incredible place to leverage decentralized cloud and AI tools for creators,” said Akash creator Greg Osuri in a statement. “Creatives and brands need more high-quality options, and Passage stands out as one of the leaders in innovating this space.”
According to founder and CCO Lex Avellino, the company started by hosting events and incorporating virtual elements experiences for large brands and retailers. In 2020, the team pivoted to building a fully virtual platform. Now, he said, anyone looking to “level up their connection with their audience” will be able to build a 3D, immersive world with drag-and-drop tools in a browser — and with no technical experience needed. Creators can also access a social dashboard to connect with their audience, share details about upcoming events or gather feedback publicly.
That could involve such applications as building a one-on-one metaverse space for education, small group coaching or livestreams with a fanbase.
“It lets them create this very quickly, but also [develop] something that’s high quality,” Avellino told Technical.ly. “That’s the base of it.”
With the funds, the company will continue to build out its social platform, which launched in early July in closed alpha; establishing tech partnerships; and adding options for the community such as plugins, world-building assets and avatar customizing. Right now, creators can build everything they need within the platform without needing to download additional apps, but Avellino wants to add even more functions and blueprint spaces so creators can seamlessly change functionality — turning an education space into a game room, for example.
The company started as a creative agency in 2017, but its founders were intrigued by the potential of digital builds in the creative process. That was amplified during the pandemic, a company statement said. Thus far, the agency has worked with brands including Warner Brothers, Capitol Records, Amazon Studios and American Girl. Leading Passage is a team of Web3, ecommerce and virtual production staffers with experience at companies such as Disney.
Working in the event realm, Avellino said, involved developing a 3D experience and pulling out different elements that required a physical build. As a result, the founders had a lot of experience in different physical events while having a hand in a virtual component. That back and forth between physical and virtual, he said, is something that he wants to bring to Passage.
“We saw that we could be leveraging our experience to add a lot of value on the virtual layer,” Avellino said. “The physical experience is still important. A big part of what we’re doing is meant to connect really well and integrate really well with a physical implementation, as well.”
So far, Avellino said that Passage has a few hundred users in the alpha phase, including rap artist Royce Da 9’5″. Still, he and the team wanted to include a digital currency as part of its long-term growth. Avellino hopes that creators can use the tokens to sell items to their followers within Passage. For its part, the company charges 10% for transactions.
Going forward, the company will continue with plans to grow its network and presence in the local community. Passage also announced a partnership with Sortium to help with customizing the company’s metaverse world. The partnership will give users the option to retexture objects, generate full 3D models and other actions. Additionally, Passage plans to continue with the sale of its token: On August 29, the company will host a public launch and sale of its PASG token via StreamSwap.
All in all, Avellino said that at Passage, the future of digital is truly ownable and decentralized, so he wants to build it to work with social media platforms so creators can keep their audience wherever they go.
“We want to make this something that anyone can do to get access to that premium experience,” Avellino said. “Something that feels truly human and personal, but also gives people access to connect all across the world.”
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