Sorare, a fantasy sports and non-fungible token (NFT) trading platform valued last year at $ 4.3 billion, signed a partnership with Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
This is Sorare’s second deal with a U.S. sports league this year as the startup so far has focused primarily on European soccer, where the company is a major player with an official license with more than 250 clubs. In March, Sorare announced a deal with Major League Soccer, its entry into the U.S. market.
Sorare has a market where people can buy and sell NFTs as well as a fantasy game where they can sell and manage teams.
The terms of the MLB/MLBPA deal were not disclosed. But MLB received an equity stake in Sorare as part of its investment, according to Noah Garden, the league’s chief revenue officer. MLB and Sorare plan to launch the fantasy game and NFT platform this summer.
“Sorare, when they first came to us, they were different from (NFTs),” Garden said. “We’re always looking for different ways to reach a younger audience and our younger fan base.”
He added: “The goal has always been to find a new way of fantasy for people who love the game or are casually involved in the game but don’t have to spend three hours a day to win their fantasy. baseball league. “
Garden said MLB has acquired equity in other companies that have partnered with it in recent years, including last year when it signed separate NFT deals with Topps and Candy Digital, a digital company. collectibles founded by Fanatics chairman Michael Rubin.
“If we invest, we trust all of our partnerships,” Garden said. “We want to be with people who are going to be very successful. We want to lean on and help them be successful. I’ve always found when there’s skin in the game on both sides, which puts us in a position to really work together to can be the best product you can make for the fans. If you do that, the money will always come. ”
Sorare was founded in 2018 by Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, in collaboration with Stratumn, a Paris -based financial technology company with a platform for developing blockchain applications. Julia and Montfort have each been involved with cryptocurrencies for many years, but they left Stratumn after becoming more familiar with NFTs.
“We’re like,‘ This is going to be the vehicle for mainstream adoption of crypto and digital assets because you have this emotional connection to NFTs that you don’t have with bitcoin or cryptocurrencies in general, ’” said Julia, who is Sorare’s chief executive. “You take something inclined and bring people together. That was very appealing to us.”
As cryptocurrencies and NFTs exploded during the coronavirus pandemic, Sorare caught the attention of the investment community, attracted by Sorare’s success in making deals with major European soccer clubs. Sorare raised $ 50 million in a Series A round in February 2021 and $ 680 million in a Series B round in September 2021 valuing the company at a $ 4.3 billion valuation, It was the largest Series B round in Europe and the second largest private fundraiser among blockchain startups. , only follows the cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank led the Series B round. Other investors in the company include venture capital firms such as Benchmark, D1 Capital, Bessemer Ventures and Seven Seven Six, led by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit.
Ohanian invested in both Series A and B rounds and was attracted to Sorare’s vision of expanding beyond soccer and into the major U.S. leagues. Tennis star Serena Williams, Ohanian’s wife, also joined Sorare’s board this year as board advisor.
“Crypto is truly international and soccer is the most popular game in the world, so even if they stay in (soccer), they can still be a successful business,” Ohanian said. “But if you’ve already built the core infrastructure, adding another game, I don’t want to say it’s pointless, but it can be. You have to think of some things that are a bit different because the character is different. games. But when we see the appetite of other leagues, now we just drop other sports than the fans love. ”
Sorare had $ 325 million in trading value last year, according to Julia, and is expected to reach at least a $ 700 million figure this year. The company claims to have 1.8 million registered users in 185 countries, with nearly 20% of users living in the US.
Sorare now has about 70 employees split between Paris and the United States. The company opened a New York office last year and made some big name hires, including bringing in Ryan Spoon as chief operating officer, Michael Meltzer as head of business development and Dan Sormaz as head of design. Spoon is the former chief operating officer of BetMGM and senior vice president of digital and social content at ESPN, while Meltzer is senior director of strategic ventures at DraftKings and Sormaz is vice president of design at Spotify.
By the end of the year, Sorare aims to have a total of 230 employees, and it is likely to sign deals with other U.S. leagues in the coming months.