From the early success of Crypto Kitties to the explosive growth of NBA Top Shot, Dapper Labs has been at the forefront of the cryptocurrency collectible craze known as NFTs.
Now the company is reaping the benefits of its trailblazing status with a new $305 million financing led by some of the biggest names in Hollywood, sports and investing.
The new round values the company at a whopping $2.6 billion, according to multiple media reports, and comes at a time when NFTs have captured the popular imagination.
Leading the company's financing was Coatue, the financial services firm that's behind many of the biggest later-stage tech deals. But heavy hitters from the entertainment world also took their cut -- these are folks like NBA legend Michael Jordan as well as current players and funds including Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Lowry, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, Michael Carter-Williams, Josh Hart, Udonis Haslem, JaVale McGee, Khris Middleton, Domantas Sabonis, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic and Thad Young and Richard Seymour’s 93 Ventures.
Entertainment and music heavyweights including Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary's Sound Ventures, Will Smith and Keisuke Honda's Dreamers VC, Shawn Mendes and Andrew Gertler's AG Ventures, Shay Mitchell and 2 Chainz also bought in on the action.
And from the venture world comes other strategic investors like Andreessen Horowitz, The Chernin Group, USV, Version One and Venrock.
The company said it would use the funds to continue building out NBA Top Shot and expanding the updated digital trading card platform to other sports and a broader creator community.
Top Shot has already notched over $500 million in sales for its animated trading cards featuring things like LeBron James dunking, and the sky (at least for now) is seemingly the limit for the collectible applications of blockchain.
It's like the one thing that cryptocurrency can do really well and it's been embraced far beyond the world of sports collectibles. The recent $69 million sale of a digital piece of art at Christies also marks a watershed moment for the art world.
“NBA Top Shot is successful because it taps into basketball fandom -- it’s a new and more exciting way for people to connect with their favorite teams and players,” said Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs. “We want to bring the same magic to other sports leagues as well as help other entertainment studios and independent creators find their own approaches in exploring open platforms. NFTs unlock a new model for monetization that benefits the fans much more than advertising or sponsorships.”
Powering the Top Shot system and Dapper Labs' other offerings is a new blockchain protocol called Flow, which purports to handle mainstream consumer applications at scale, and can support mass adoption.
Flow also allows for transactions using fiat currency and credit cards, and provides a much needed ease of cryptocurrency, and can keep customers safe from the fraud or theft common in cryptocurrency systems, according to a statement from Dapper Labs.
Flow enables NFT marketplaces and other decentralized applications that need to scale to handle mainstream demand without extremely high transaction costs (“gas fees”) or environmental concerns, the company said.
“NBA Top Shot is one of the best demonstrations we’ve seen of how quickly new technology can change the landscape for media and sports fans,” said Kevin Durant, co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures. "We're excited to follow the progress with everything happening on Flow blockchain and use our platform with the Boardroom to connect with fans in a new way."
Already companies like Warner Music Group, Ubisoft, Warner Media and the UFC, as well as thousands of third-party developers, artists and other creators, are using the Flow mainnet to sell collectible cards and develop custodial wallets.
Additional investors in the round include: MLB players like Tim Beckham and Nolan Arenado; NFL players Ken Crawley, Thomas Davis, Stefon Diggs, Dee Ford, Malcom Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Matthew, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, DK Metcalf, Tyrod Taylor and Trent Williams; team ownership, including Vivek Ranadivé (Kings); and notable sports investors Bolt Ventures.