Autograph, Tom Brady’s famed NFT startup, raises $170 million from top Silicon Valley crypto investors – TechCrunch

Autograph, an NFT agency co-founded by athlete Tom Brady with a particularly deep bench of star power, has taken in new funding from crypto investors who hope the platform can bring a new generation of celebrities and their fans into the world. lap of crypto collectibles.

The startup told TechCrunch it closed a $170 million Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins with participation from Katie Haun’s new fund and Lightspeed partner Nicole Quinn. This follows a Series A co-led by 01A and Velvet Sea Ventures that ended last July. The raise adds three new board members, including Haun, Arianna Simpson of a16z and Ilya Fushman of Kleiner Perkins.

They join an extensive board of directors with some big names, including Brady, Apple’s Eddy Cue, FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried and artist Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd.

Autograph is essentially a middleman agency for celebrity athletes and entertainers looking to find a personal presence in the incredibly noisy NFT world. NFT celebrity declines have been mixed since crypto collectibles exploded in popularity early last year. While some have come into space with thoughtful plans that reward their fans, there have been a slew of ridicule-inducing cash grabs.

Crypto has generally been a tough place for discerning celebrities to make a dent or make money without losing some of their cultural capital. Matt Damon received a fair share of ridicule this month for appearing in a corny crypto ad campaign. Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather were named in a lawsuit filed by disgruntled investors who had backed a token the two had previously endorsed.

While fellow unicorn NFT Dapper Labs has signed partnerships with a handful of player associations from global American sports leagues, including the NFL Players Association and NBA’s Player Association, Autograph appears to be more focused on individual athletes and cult following. of personality built around them outside of the context of the teams they play on or the leagues they are in. Autograph has a handful of early partners largely in the sports world, but the names represent some of the most famous athletes in their respective sports, including Brady, Tiger Woods, Simone Biles, Derek Jeter, Naomi Osaka, Usain Bolt, Wayne Gretzky and Tony Hawk. .

Autograph’s goal seems to be to build an on-ramp into the space where triple-A listers can dip their toes into crypto influence in a more organized environment.

In July, Autograph announced a partnership with DraftKings, though the startup told TechCrunch it was working with a number of markets. Autograph primarily served its NFTs on the Polygon blockchain, which taps into Ethereum’s infrastructure but uses far less energy per transaction, a fact that’s likely important for celebrities who may be hesitant to open up to environmental criticism from celebrities. blockchain technologies.

Outside of sports, Autograph has had releases with The Weeknd, Slam Magazine, and officially licensed NFTs for the horror series Saw.

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