How two Palm Beach Gardens natives raised $29M to build the future of blockchain gaming

‘We want to build games that last for 10, 20, 30, 40 years’ – Alex Paley, CEO of Miami-based Faraway

Alex Paley and Dennis Zdonov have been making video games since they were high school students in Palm Beach Gardens. Paley and Zdonov both left Florida after school, but their childhood foray into the gaming space would prove fruitful. After college, the duo built a gaming studio that was acquired by San Francisco-based Glu Mobile in 2017, before joining Los Angeles free-to-play gaming company Scopely as VPs of Product in 2020.

Fast forward to last June, when Paley and Zdonov founded Faraway, a game developer and publishing studio headquartered in Miami, Paley’s new hometown. Since then, they have racked up $29 million: an $8 million seed round and a $21 million Series A. Investors include some of the biggest names in the game such as Lightspeed Venture Partners, FTX, Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and Pantera Capital.

Alex Paley, co-founder and CEO of Faraway

Why are investors lining up to get a piece of Faraway? The startup is pioneering the burgeoning blockchain-based gaming space.

“Our focus is on building hypersocial games with player-driven economies,” CEO Paley told Refresh Miami. “We want to build games that last for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.” The blockchain aspect is far from a gimmick; rather, it plays a crucial role in enabling Faraway’s games to stand the test of time because it brings players deeper into the game’s ecosystem.

Dennis Zdonov, co-founder of Faraway

Farway’s first release is Mini Royale: Nations, a multiplayer, first-person shooter game built on the Solana blockchain. Players earn tokens (both non-fungible and fungible) by taking part in social activities like missions and tournaments. They can then trade these tokens on an exchange. 

“That’s the thing that makes the economy so interesting,” said Paley. “Once the player owns something, they can do whatever they want with it.” 

He continued: “We’re actually making real economies at that point,” drawing parallels between the open economies we see in the real world and that which Faraway is developing in their platform. This stands in contrast to the closed economies common in video games, where developers have full control over the in-game economy. Faraway generates revenue when people purchase NFTs that are playable in the game.

For Paley, building on Solana made sense. “We were looking for extremely fast transaction speeds and extremely low transaction costs,” said Paley. He explained that they needed a chain that would withstand the pressure of thousands of transactions per second, many of which are exchanging just a few dollars. 

Paley also underscored the vibrant community of developers building apps for Solana: “I was looking at the momentum in the ecosystem and who else is building here. Because there are a lot of smart people building, and you should go where the brains are going.”

The brains are also following Faraway, as evidenced by the company’s success with venture capitalists. Paley said that investors who get it, get it. But for investors who “haven’t invested in crypto as an ecosystem, there’s a lot more explaining to do.” 

While Faraway’s 40-person team is globally distributed, Paley said it was a combination of factors that made him want to move back to Florida during the start of the most recent, pandemic-fueled iteration of the #MiamiTech movement.

“We hadn’t lived here since we were 18,” he said. “I will say that I’ve been shocked – in a great way – by how many people are coming to Miami.” Paley called Florida “the optimal time zone” for working with employees as far flung as California and Eastern Europe.

“We’ve seen a lot of tech companies and a lot of crypto tech companies moving to Florida recently,” he continued. “It has been great to see how much talent is moving to the state and specifically Miami as a city.”


Riley Kaminer