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Softbank leads $680m funding of blockchain NFT game Sorare at $4.3 bn valuation

sorare nft nicolas julia

Sports non-fungible token (NFT) platform Sorare raised a Series B round of $680 million at a $4.3 billion valuation. The financing was led by SoftBank and is the biggest Series B round in Europe.

Sorare was launched at the end of 2019 as an alternative to traditional fantasy sports games. Football player cards are minted as NFTs and users can build a weekly lineup of five players to compete against other fantasy teams. The performance of the users depends on the players’ actual performance on the field. 

The NFT aspect ensures that the cards are scarce, proves ownership, and enables transparent and efficient trading. In addition, people can make money off Sorare as the top ranked line-ups win some cryptocurrency weekly, or the cards can be sold for a profit. The blockchain feature of the platform ensures traceability in these transactions. 

Over 180 football clubs are already officially licensed on the platform, including league leaders Paris-Saint GermainLiverpool, and Inter Milan. It also signed a league wide contract with Spain’s LaLiga. The goal is to sign every team in the top 20 football leagues worldwide by the end of 2022. 

The platform experienced significant growth since the beginning of the year, with monthly active users increasing 34 fold between Q2 of 2020 and Q2 of 2021. Since the start of the year, the platform has generated $150 million in sales.

To put the $4.3 billion valuation in context, Dapper Labs raised $305 million at a $2.6 billion valuation in March, but is rumored to be raising more at a $7.5 billion valuation.

A contributing factor to Sorare’s $4.3 billion valuation is likely the growth opportunities for Sorare. The game operates in the NFT market, which accumulated $2.5 billion in sales in the first half of this year and the same again in the last month alone. Plus, it’s in the sports card market, which was worth $13.82 billion in the U.S. alone in 2019, and the fantasy sports industry, which is expected to be worth $48 billion by 2027. 

The funding will be used to expand into other sports outside of football, including women’s sports, and increase Sorare’s reach globally. The company is looking to open offices in the U.S., launch marketing campaigns, and support projects promoting youth sport activity, as well as other startups operating in Sorare’s ecosystem. 

“We are continuously shifting towards digital experiences to celebrate and hone our passions. This is also true for sports, where clubs, players and their passionate fans are looking for new ways to connect with each other online”, said Nicolas Julia, CEO and co-founder of Sorare. 

“Sorare’s game is born from our love for football and our expertise in tech. We saw the immense potential that blockchain and NFTs brought to unlock a new way for football clubs, footballers, and their fans to experience a deeper connection with each other. We are thrilled by the success we have seen so far, but this is just the beginning.”

The startup has also signed national football teams during Euro 2020. Sorare managed to land BelgiumGermany, and France’s national teams, and it will likely increase this roster in the run-up to the Football World Cup in Qatar next year. 

Besides SoftBank, other participants in the investment include Atomico, Bessemer Ventures, D1 Capital Eurazeo, IVP, and Liontree as well as previous investors Benchmark, Accel and Headline.

Softbank has been a relatively late investor in the blockchain sphere, but in the last three months it has placed some big bets. For several years, its telecoms unit has focused on telecoms payment solutions as part of a consortium with TBCASoft. But in the last few months, it invested in Brazil’s Mercado Bitcoin crypto exchange and Bullish, the yet-to-launch crypto exchange founded by Block.One and backed by Peter Thiel and others. Its social networking subsidiary LINE is also active in blockchain and recently lost out in a pitch for Korea’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) project. However, it has its eye on CBDCs in Africa and South America.

Image Copyright: Sorare