Ethereum competitor Near launches $800M developer fund as DeFi competition heats up

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Smart contract ecosystem Near Protocol has earmarked $800 million for new funding initiatives aimed at growing its decentralized finance capabilities, offering the latest evidence that the highly lucrative DeFi market is still in its infancy. 

The new funding, which includes the $350 million grants program announced by Proximity Labs last week, gives ecosystem developers added incentive to create new product offerings on Near, the company announced Monday.

Roughly $250 million will be allocated to existing ecosystem developers; another $100 million is earmarked for startup grants, with Near planning to fund more than 20 startups at a rate of $5 million each. The remaining $100 million will be spent on so-called regional funds across Asia, Europe and the United States.

Value locked in DeFi protocols has surged 936% over the past year, with Ethereum competitors such as Binance Smart Chain, Solana and Avalanche seeing considerable uptake, according to data from DappRadar. Ethereum projects account for roughly 66% of the total value locked across DeFi, according to industry sources.

Despite Ethereum’s overwhelming dominance, the DeFi market is growing at a torrid pace and is currently valued at over $247 billion — leaving plenty of room for competing platforms to capitalize. One year ago, the total value locked in DeFi projects was less than $13 billion.

Related: Even with Ethereum 2.0 underway, L2 scaling is still key to DeFi’s future

Near accounts for a tiny sliver of the total DeFi market, but that could soon change as more developers tap into the new funding campaigns and users continue to search for alternatives to Ethereum-based protocols. As Cointelegraph recently reported, Ethereum’s competitors have seen an influx of users fleeing the high fees on the ETH network.