I have been a blockchain entrepreneur for several years. Before starting SoRare, I was handling operations for Stratumn, which is a B2B blockchain company. I was the first employee and shareholder. Last summer, I left the company with my co-founder and CTO Adrien, who was also working at Stratumn.
With SoRare we have the vision to bring crypto assets in general to mainstream audiences. We found that NFTs could be a good driver because they are more tangible than crypto currencies, if you have to explain them. And if you add to this the emotional connection that you get with football players, plus a competitive game play, then you have a great combination.
Its very simple, first you need to collect NFTs, then you can use them to compose a team. Its fantasy football inspired, so you compose a team of 5 players. Then your team gets ranked, weekly and soon daily, based on real-world performance of the players on the pitch. We get that data from Opta, which is our main data provider. And based on your performance, you can earn rewards either as NFTs or ETH. This goes hand in hand with our vision, you buy NFTs with your credit card and you get rewarded in crypto. That’s how we think we can onboard millions of people to crypto in general.
Our vision of the beginning was to make a game that you can understand in one sentence. Like compose a team of 5 players and get rewards. But then we also have a more profound gameplay thats appealing for hardcore gamers. So we have different mechanics in the game play. For instance, you can improve your NFTs based on how good they perform in your team by ranking them up and earning experience points, which allow you to customize your NFT. These experience points are an important part of the game play. Then we have leaderboards or leagues that you can enter based on the scarcity of the cards you have.
So today for each football player for each year, you have 3 different levels of scarcity. So for instance if you take Lionel Messi in the season 2018/2019, you have a unique NFT of him, you have the Super Rare version of him (10 Editions) and then Rare version of him, which is 100 editions. So there is different ways to scale.
The first one is to introduce a new category of cards with different designs and attributes. That’s the straightforward way to scale.
Another way to scale is to introduce lending and fractional ownership, so that different gamers play with the same cards.
If you look today at the digital goods space and specifically into football video games, you see that the big studios are extracting value and pushing people to buy new cards every year. Its funny to see that even in football video games, if you buy something in a specific season, you can’t even use it in the season after. You are forced to buy more stuff and you can’t do anything with what you bought before.
So that’s something we want to end. It’s very important in our vision that you can do whatever you want with your NFTs, that’s something we discuss a lot with the licensors as well.
So, to answer the question, of course you can use your NFTs in the next season. As long as the player gets transferred into a club, where we get the player data, you can still play with your NFT.
What has been really important for us has been the announcement by the Major League Baseball (MLB), because I remember last summer when I started discussing with the leagues about the project. They were like: “That sounds very promising and cool, but we don’t want to be first” and “lets see if we can do something later in that space”. That was the common answer. But after the MLB announcement the conversation was very different.
It’s important for them to get, that we are building the future of the digital collectible and gaming industry. We are bringing digital scarcity and interoperability and that’s pretty straight forward to explain and to understand.
I think you need to have a compelling value proposition for them, in terms of revenue and marketing. They need to see value in that and they need to trust you as a company. So that has nothing to do with blockchain, but more with B2B sales and that’s something we have been doing for years.
Something they have asked a lot is: “What are you planning to do with the player cards, the NFTs, when the licensing agreements end?”. And my answer is very simple, its like in the physical world. If Panini, which makes the physical collector cards, loose the licensing agreement with the Premier League, you don’t go to the user and take away the physical cards. That should be the same in the digital world and it will be the same actually.
There is a definitely a fear about the overall space. Over the last two years, they have seen a lot of scammy projects coming to them. For them it’s really hard to select, who are the right companies to spend time with and go ahead. So that was difficult for us, because we had to proof that we are building a healthy business.
And then there is a concern about the sentiment around crypto. But the last 6 months have been very beneficial. I see the narrative switching again. Now when you see companies like Facebook investing in the space, it creates a lot of trust for IP owners. I think it’s becoming better and better.
I think there is even a lot of other use cases for NFTs in soccer. Some require no IP at all, there is other interesting projects that we are friends with. We are taking the IP way, because we think it’s important for the fans to have the real jerseys, the real names and stuff like that. It also helps from a marketing perspective, because you can tap into their existing user base that counts into the millions.
Our vision is broader than the soccer space and to expand to adjacent markets, like other sports. Also big brands are really interested in the space. So that’s for the medium term.
As usual for consumer products, you need to stay focused and build a good product and then expand.
I think it’s important to build products that are in-line with the maturity of the space. So right now, I think it’s totally wasteful to target mainstream football fans that are not familiar with crypto. So we are not doing that at all, because we don’t have a credit card integration yet and this is a must. We need to have a few thousand gamers playing first to really work on our product-market-fit, before expanding to mainstream audiences. So I think it’s a matter of months, till then we focus on people that understand crypto and get the value of these kinds of assets.
We are just connecting with entrepreneurs in the space and the first meet-up was with the CryptoKitties team. So we are trying to feature the NFT projects in Europe and even in the US. So it’s still a small world. Gauthier from NonFungible is Paris based, so he for instance did a presentation on Decentraland. It’s still a small community, so it’s hard to have a regular meet-up. But we are trying to feature the best people in the space. The next meet up will be this summer.
It’s going to be this fall and it will be in parallel with an announcement of a major league and credit card payments. We have very exciting news to come!