The company announced Jan. 19 that it had raised a whopping $170 million in a Series B funding round led by veteran Silicon Valley venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz (often referred to as a16z).
Officially launched less than a year ago, Autograph has already taken in more than $200 million to support its platform for NFTs — digital collectibles that can be bought, sold and traded on a blockchain.
It probably helps that Tom Brady is a co-founder.
The National Football League star launched the company alongside serial entrepreneur Richard Rosenblatt and Rosenblatt’s son Dillon Rosenblatt, who serves as the company’s chief executive.
Autograph has quickly established itself as a major player in the relatively new digital collectibles space with a series of successful “drops” featuring NFTs affiliated with star athletes like Naomi Osaka, Tiger Woods and Simone Biles.
Dillon Rosenblatt said the new funding will help the company scale its platform while delivering new experiences to users and expanding the scope of its product offerings.
“We want to get into other verticals more meaningfully,” he said. “I see us as a leader in sports- and athlete-based NFTs right now, and I want to do the same thing in music and entertainment.”
In July, the company announced a partnership with Lions Gate Entertainment Inc., which will allow Autograph to create a series of NFTs celebrating the studio’s popular film franchises, like “John Wick” and “The Hunger Games.” Later, it teamed up with Billboard on an NFT collection for pop star The Weeknd.
Autograph also has an important partnership in place with fantasy football and sports betting site DraftKings Inc., which supports the sale and trading of Autograph’s athlete-inspired NFTs.
Rosenblatt said more partnerships like these will be announced later this year and that the company is working on lining up a star-studded list of personalities to support future digital merchandise.
“We’ve built our own system where talent actually signs every individual NFT that they release,” said Rosenblatt. “That’s really exciting because it adds that layer of authenticity that’s really important in Web3.”
A major buzzword in tech, Web3 is a vision for the future of the internet supported by venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz, which is reportedly in the process of raising $1 billion for seed investments in Web3 startups as part of its latest venture fund.
The Web3 concept relies heavily on the theoretical potential of block chain digital ledgers to decentralize online transactions and facilitate more transparent sales of digital goods.
NFTs are a core part of this vision. Though they exist solely in the digital realm, they are sold and traded on a blockchain, which advocates of the technology say gives purchasers true ownership of the files and creates the same sense of rarity that accompanies a physical piece of art or memorabilia.
Rosenblatt said Web3 and its affiliated technologies represent an opportunity for fans and collectors to build community interacting with the digital merchandise offered by Autograph and other NFT creators.
“Once someone owns an NFT, they are connected to other members of the community,” Rosenblatt said, noting that the company has sought to foster these connections through digital events that have allowed customers to interact with sports icons like Wayne Gretzky.
“I expect more digital experiences, more live events, more opportunities for us to excite our community of users,” he said.
NFTs may be a new technology that many consumers aren’t yet familiar with, but Rosenblatt said he’s confident that the technology is here to stay.
“These projects that we’re incubating across sports, entertainment and music are going to make us the industry leader in fandom,” he said.
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