Ex-Poker Pros Raise $130M Fund for DeFi Bets

Ascensive Assets, an investment firm led by former professional poker players, has raised a $130 million fund that will focus on the decentralized finance (DeFi) market.

The latest fund dwarfs Ascensive’s maiden $24 million fundraise back in 2019, which backed the likes of Polkaswap, Benqi, Yield Guild Games and JennyDAO.

In terms of investors, the round was mostly populated by high-net-worth individuals from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia, many of whom are connected to the world of professional poker and gambling, said Ascensive Assets partner Oliver Blakey.

“They are casino owners, private bookmakers and Asian high-net-worth individuals generally from the gambling world,” Blakey told CoinDesk in an interview. “A gambling mentality is in their DNA, I guess. We have always known that world and of course everybody wants exposure to this industry now.”

Around a third of the new fund will go towards early-stage startups, and the remainder is basically doubling down on winners from the first fund, said Blakey, who is refreshingly candid about the firm’s investment performance.

For example, he laments missing out on early rounds in Axie Infinity, but says Ascensive was “insanely lucky” to get into Yield Guild Games at the right time.

“We’ve made some awesome investments, we’ve also made some terrible ones,” Blakey said. “I think about this industry as a kind of hybrid of venture capital and a hedge fund; it’s somewhere in the middle.”