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Local blockchain solutions provider raises $7.35 million

Mark Parker

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Michael O'Rourke, CEO of Grove and founder of the Pocket Network, said the $7.35 million equity raise would help drive mainstream adoption of decentralized physical infrastructure (DePIN). Photo provided.

Officials with Tampa-based Grove, formerly Pocket Network Inc., recently announced that the company’s first equity sale raised $7.35 million.

Grove is a Web3 infrastructure provider that builds enterprise-grade products and services on top of the decentralized POKT Network. Web3 is the latest iteration of the internet that allows users to control their data and payments without the need for conglomerate intermediaries.

Grove CEO Micheal O’Rourke, founder of POKT, said it has raised about $30 million by selling its cryptocurrency token. However, he said most of that capital went to developing the blockchain protocol, and Grove’s first equity-based cash infusion would support the parent company.

“I think what helped with the raise is the traction that we have,” O’Rourke told the Catalyst. “It definitely has been harder as a kind of macro environment … this is really the first time that crypto is in an environment where money is not cheap.”

Three prominent firms led the $7.35 million raise. Those included Avon Ventures, an affiliate of Fidelity Investments’ parent company; New York-based Placeholder Capital; and Tampa-based Druid Ventures.

O’Rourke said the investment would allow Grove to hire additional people, grow the company and increase profitability. The blockchain and cryptocurrency industry rebounded in 2023 after several high-profile collapses dominated headlines in 2022.

O’Rourke noted that historically high interest rates have also discouraged investors. “So, people are actually doing more due diligence now,” he said.

“It definitely impacted us – more so on just getting people over the hump to get more conviction,” O’Rourke added. “But at the end of the day, it’s the traction that made the difference.”

He founded Pocket, a global pioneer in decentralized infrastructure, in 2017. Its self-sovereign blockchain network launched in July 2020.

According to its website, the company’s mission is to provide developers with access to “the most reliable, performant and cost-effective data. Network officials envision “a future where the world’s most important digital infrastructure is owned and governed by its users.”

The decentralized network now includes over 16,000 globally distributed nodes – or stakeholders authorized to confirm transaction legality and security. POKT supports more than 40 leading blockchains.

In a prepared statement, Chris Pizzo, director of Druid Ventures, said his firm has “witnessed and supported Grove’s vision” since 2018. “Their commitment to enabling coordination across globally dispersed blockchains has positioned Grove as critical integration infrastructure for Web3,” he added.

O’Rourke noted that Druid’s founders partially bootstrapped the company through selling their POKT holdings, “which is pretty cool.” Avon and Placeholder are among the industry’s largest investment firms, and he said the raise significantly increases Grove’s legitimacy.

In early 2022, Pocket was worth $1.5 billion. Its current market capitalization is $192.7 million.

The company rebranded to Grove earlier this year. O’Rourke said it became increasingly important to separate the business from its blockchain protocol, foundation and other Pocket-branded subsidiaries.

He grew up in Tampa Bay and appreciates local blockchain stakeholders viewing the company as torchbearers. “As we’ve moved along and gotten some success, it’s always been important for me to show people – especially locally – that if I can do it, others definitely can,” O’Rourke said with a laugh.

He expects to launch the latest network upgrades next summer and called the number of people contributing to the changes “incredible.” O’Rourke said people typically judge a crypto-based company according to its token’s value, and CoinGecko shows the price of POKT soaring 312% in the past month and 90% over the last year.

O’Rourke said the network is faster, cheaper and more reliable than its centralized counterparts. He also remains “massively bullish” on Tampa Bay’s overall tech ecosystem.

“I think it’s been getting better as people learn and make mistakes,” O’Rourke said. “Collectively, I think we’re learning pretty quickly now.”

Michael O’Rourke previously participated in the inaugural edition of Decent Cities. View the interview here:

 

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