Berlin Literally every child knows sticker albums for the Bundesliga, the World Cup or the European Championship: collect, trade, insert. For publishers like Panini, the business of buying lucky ones in the pack of cards is very lucrative.
The startup Sorare brings the stickers into the digital world and offers virtual player cards. There are stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, 18 complete national teams for the World Cup in Qatar, plus basketball pros from the North American NBA. They are offered as so-called non-fungible tokens (NFT), counterfeit-proof and uniquely assigned to the owner.
This use of NFTs differs from the highly speculative market of digital artwork; the soccer video game series Fifa has used virtual trading cards for years. Sorare is therefore supported by well-known investors such as Softbank from Japan and Accel. One of the numerous partners is the German Bundesliga. The French start-up is now worth more than four billion dollars.
The head of the start-up, founded in 2018, is French Nicolas Julia. The venture capitalists behind Sorare also include entrepreneur Christian Miele and former German international soccer player André Schürrle.
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“We believe Sorare has the potential to become one of the leading entertainment companies on the planet,” says Miele. In September 2021, Sorare raised $680 million, raising the largest Series B funding round in Europe to date.
>> Read also: Christian Miele: This year’s start-up investor is Christian Miele
In addition, the NFT company has brought well-known ambassadors on board, who do energetic marketing. More world soccer player Messi was added this week only. Former tennis player Serena Williams and Kylian Mbappé have been there for a long time.
Why is this relevant?
“Sorare brings together two very popular concepts – play and collect. The biggest innovation is that for the first time participants really own their cards and can also use them outside the platform,” says Julia.
The cards could therefore be used in the fantasy manager games and, for example, meetings with players and access to games in the real world could be achieved – there is a “usability”, an advantage.
“Before NFTs, you couldn’t own anything digital. Now it’s possible,’ says Julia, who is now launching a new manager game especially for the World Cup in Qatar. Sorare now has more than two million users worldwide and has partnerships with 300 sports organizations that pay royalties to the company.
What do the critics say?
The NFT market has recently cooled in a similar way, partly because of the cryptocurrency business – also because investors shy away from risky investments. Blockchain expert Daniel Diemers considers this normal because the market is young and therefore very volatile.
>> Read also: What you need to know about buying NFTs
He assumes that the possession and exchange of virtual objects still has a future. After all, cash can be earned by selling the tickets. Digital trading cards can cost 50 øre at Sorare, but in special cases they can also reach six-figure sums. The record holder to date is footballer Erling Haaland’s unique card from his last season at Borussia Dortmund. It cost 609,512 euros in February.
What are the company’s plans?
Soccer fan Julia wants to build the world’s leading sports entertainment platform. To get one step closer to the goal, Sorare also started in the United States and entered into partnerships with the NBA and the American baseball league MLB.
US competitors include basketball NFT specialist NBA Top Shot. In one respect, Sorare is already significantly ahead of other start-up companies: “We are profitable and growing despite the macroeconomic challenges.” Last year they had a turnover of 300 million euros. After the financing round in September last year, Sorare is for the time being well prepared. Fresh money is currently not needed, says Julia.
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