Mixing sports gambling, fantasy competition and stock market mechanics, Mojo launches in New Jersey Monday with $100 million raised to date. In the app, NFL players—from Tom Brady to Jets rookie Jeremy Ruckert—each have a share price that represents the stat totals they’re expected to accrue over their career. Users can buy, sell or short players at those prices.
Mojo’s founders include entrepreneur and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Marc Lore, as well as fellow T-wolves owner Alex Rodriguez. They’re joined by tech execs Bart Stein and Vinit Bharara.
As Bharara explained in an interview, Mojo is decades in the making.
In the late 1990s, Bharara and Lore launched The Pit. “We thought it would be an amazing thing for the everyday sports fan if they could invest in athletes like stocks—what if we could create what we were calling a sports stock market,” Bharara said.
Worried about the legal issues involved, the company used sports cards as proxies for players. Topps bought the company for $5.7 million in 2001.
“Fast forward 20 years later, and Marc calls me,” Bharara said, “and he says, ‘This idea that we had a long time ago, this idea of the sports stock market, we should do that again. We should do it the right way.’ ”
Mojo earned a New Jersey Gaming Commission license, explaining its product to regulators as a modern version of long-term futures bets. It says it has plans to expand to nine additional states, with a vision of offering other sports as well.
In March, Mojo announced a $75 million Series A round led by Thrive Capital. It has since raised an additional $25 million in equity and venture debt. Tiger Global, Fin Capital, Courtside Ventures and TriplePoint Capital have invested, as has the NFLPA, The Chainsmokers’ Mantis Ventures, Chris Rock, Gary Vaynerchuk and Jason Derulo.
“We see a huge opportunity for Mojo to transform sports fandom by bringing fans closer to the players they know and love,” NFL Players president Steve Scebelo said in a statement.
Mojo’s app looks a lot like Robinhood’s, offering player charts and portfolio data. The company is hoping the market will eventually establish smart prices for each athlete, but for now it has also developed an algorithm to create rates. Because the numbers are based on career data, rookies will offer more volatility, while veterans offer a higher floor price. (Mojo will also offer a multiplier to increase the potential risk on older players.) “This thing that you own has real value, anchored in their career and anchored in objective statistics,” Bharara said. “We think that’s really important.”
Zach Wilson’s price, for instance, is roughly that of an average QB (in the $30-50 range), though he’s only generated about one-quarter of that output so far. Tom Brady, on the other hand, has a price that is unlikely to fall below $163 based on the numbers he’s already accrued. Mojo said it aims to keep its markets open during games, allowing for snap trading. A lot of its early funding will also go to providing liquidity to its market until more users sign up. Long term, the company plans to make money from commissions on trades.
“It is one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever worked on in my career,” Stein said. “You need the capital, you need the engineering, you need the people and you need to have the time to basically go and comply with all those regulations.”
You also need a large group of potential investors who are obsessed with the NFL. But that seems like a safe bet.