Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot, has raised $305 million at a valuation of $2.6 billion.
Coatue Management led the round, which also included dozens of current and former athletes, headlined by Michael Jordan. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Stefon Diggs, DK Metcalf and Nolan Arenado are among the other athlete investors, joined by a16z and The Chernin Group. Jordan’s fellow NBA owner Vivek Ranadive (Sacramento Kings) also participated in the round.
Dapper, which burst onto the scene with CryptoKitties in 2018, has expressed interest in furthering its sports footprint and plans to use the money to expand its NFT memorabilia platform.
“Most people are grossly misunderstanding NFTs,” Dapper CEO Roham Gharegozlou said, focusing too much on the speculation happening and not enough on what experiences NFTs unlock. “This is a new way to build software…. They are programmable. They have functionality and use cases that keep expanding.”
Dapper is currently working with Ubisoft, Warner Media and the UFC to highlight more ways to use the Flow blockchain, which powers Top Shot. Over 1,000 third parties are also developing products for Flow, according to Dapper. In the short term, Gharegozlou said Dapper’s focus is on working with the biggest sports leagues to digitize the sports collectible market.
“We think this is what’s going to bring in a billion sports fans and put blockchain wallets in their pockets without them realizing or caring about the tech,” he said.
Top Shot has brought in over 800,000 registered accounts, hosting three million transactions for more than $450 million in sales. Dapper and its NBA partners collect a portion of every sale and resale on the platform. It has been an involved partnership, with the league playing an active role selecting the highlights that are minted as so-called ‘moments’ for collectors.
The $2.6 billion valuation makes Dapper more valuable than 22 NBA teams, by Sportico’s math.
A number of athletes, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski and UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, have minted their own NFTs while leagues sort out their strategy for the explosive market.