The sports and celebrity non-fungible token (NFT) platform Autograph announced it raised $170 million in a Series B funding round co-led by A16z and Kleiner Perkins. Seven-time SuperBowl champ Tom Brady co-founded the company with Richard and Dillon Rosenblatt. Chairman Richard Rosenblatt once led social network MySpace and in 2008 co-founded the Livestrong site with cycling star Lance Armstrong before his fall from grace.
Autograph has signed a raft of deals so far, including major celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Naomi Osaka, and Tony Hawk. But its other deals are at least as important. This includes a partnership with DraftKings, the sports fantasy and gambling site that brings in a massive audience. It also has a deal with movie company Lionsgate.
New board members include executives from the venture capital firms that co-led the deal as well as Katie Haun, a former a16z partner who has recently formed her own fund. Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, is also a board member, and FTX is a significant sports sponsor.
Sports is seen as a gateway to the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. It’s no accident that NBA Top Shot was one of the first high profile NFT collections.
And the companies catering to the sector have pulled in large amounts of funding. NBA Top Shot founder Dapper Labs has raised more than $600 million, although it’s much more than a sports NFT firm as the founder of the Flow blockchain and with significant interests in games beyond sport. Sorare, the European fantasy NFT startup, raised $680 million in a single funding round led by Softbank last September. Candy Digital, with its MLB deal and majority owned by sports apparel retailer Fanatics, raised a $100 million Series A last October.