Sorare breaks records with $680m Series B funding

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 24 hours, you can’t have missed the exceptional news that Sorare has announced $680 million in Series B funding from Softbank.

This is Europe’s largest ever Series B funding and leaves Sorare valued at $4.3 billion – making them the highest valued private company in France. President Macron has publicly congratulated them.

This is staggering news and comes hot on the heels of Sorare announcing licensing for the whole of La Liga. Rumours also abound about Sorare being in line to pick up the Premier League licence very soon.

NFTs are hot right now and Sorare is even hotter, mixing blockchain technology with fantasy football to create a one-of-a kind platform that has the potential to transform gaming. We’ve not even scratched the surface yet either. NBA Top Shot boasts over 1 million users yet Sorare has less than 40,000 users with at least one blockchain card.

So what can we take away from this announcement?

There is a huge amount of confidence in Sorare

It’s hard to overstate the enormity of this funding raise, given the size of the team and the number of users. And this isn’t money to help Sorare become profitable (the model is already turning a profit) this is to help them reach the next level. Funding on this scale shows that investors have an appetite for blockchain gaming and fantasy sports, and that Sorare has already demonstrated it has what it takes to be a major player in this space.

You can see why investors are so excited. Sorare’s model operates across several industries that are booming right now – fantasy sports, NFTs and collectible sports cards. Nailing just one of these would be enough to be a success. Nailing a crossover of all three is literally a game-changer.

The global aspect plays a big part too – this isn’t just a European product. Sorare has fans and club licences stretching right around the global, giving them the perfect springboard to explosive growth.

We’ve only seen a fraction of what Sorare will become

I always assumed that the name ‘Sorare’ came from a conjunction of ‘Soccer’ and ‘Rare’ (maybe it did?) but by not explicitly using the words ‘football or ‘soccer’ in the product name, Sorare have set themselves up to offer a range of fantasy sports in the future.

This appears to be a big part of their plan, as outlined in yesterday’s Medium post. Their ambition is to ‘build the next sports entertainment giant’ – this isn’t just about football anymore.

Setting offices up in New York suggests that American sports might be next on the agenda and aiming to get something up and running in 2022 seems sensible given how competitive this market is likely to become in the next 12 months or so. They have first-mover advantage, if they are smart about it.

Basketball might be tricky, given NBA Top Shot already has a large part of this potential market – although Sorare’s proposition would obviously go far beyond simply buying and trading video clips, and at least the audience is already warmed up to NFTs.

Baseball has been scarred by the failure of MLB Champions and Topps seem to have the licences sewn up. NFL looks a difficult sell too, given that the league has just banned team and player involvement in NFTs and crypto (edit: a few days later we found out that this was because the NFL were on the cusp of an exclusive deal with Dapper Labs, the firm behind NBA Top Shot).

Perhaps it’s not about American sports after all and Sorare go after the most popular global sport after football (which is cricket apparently). Either way, the Sorare of the future is going to look a whole lot different to the Sorare we know now, which is really exciting.

Some of the rough edges might finally get smoothed out

I’m a big fan of Sorare (obviously) but I’ve been really frustrated over the last few months about the number of ‘rough edges’ on the platform, as I know others have been too. It’s been hard to see so much money rolling into the platform while the website still crashes from time to time, the prize pools are a bit of a mess and the support function is less than optimal.

Seeing this funding raise has helped me to understand what the team have been prioritising over recent months. They’ve been building the foundations for this moment. Yes, it’s still not much more than a ‘minimum viable product’ but they’ve managed this with a team of about 20 people for the most part.

What we should see now is a rapid increase in the pace of change. Up until now, many in the team have effectively been doing multiple jobs (as is common in a start up) and their focus has had to be on the most pressing issue at the time, with other things being pushed further and further down the to-do list.

They now have the money to recruit a sizeable team spread across two offices plus some remote workers, and this should give them the capacity to turn Sorare into something really slick – a website and (perhaps) a mobile app that matches the ambition of the founders.

If you’ve stuck it out through the early days, with all the bumps in the road, then well done. We often talk about ‘early adopters’ as if they are only the managers who came on board pre-2020. I’d disagree. I’d say anyone who joined before this point is an early adopter because we’ve seen and backed the product during its raw stages. Remember that.

They want to change the game

My final takeaway is that the ambition of the team goes far beyond simply creating a world-beating blockchain game. It goes deeper than that.

NFTs, blockchain games, Web 3.0 and the metaverse are all about creating new worlds. We’re doing this because we have the technology to do so but perhaps also because there’s something about our current world that we’re unhappy with or we want to change. We don’t have to build new worlds in the same image as our current ones.

I’m a pragmatist, so I know that in all likelihood we’ll end up creating the same unequal structures in the metaverse. We already see this – it’s a space that requires plenty of spare cash and time to enter, and therefore is predominantly occupied by people with money, by men and by White people.

So I was really pleased to see that Sorare want to do their bit to change this. They’ve said that they want to support community-led initiatives working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, they want to back young underprivileged entrepreneurs and they want to support female representation in sports. They don’t have to do any of this so the fact that they choose to do so tells me a lot about who they are. We need more of that in this space.

Some of this is also about finding meaningful ways to bring the real world and the metaverse together. The recent giveaways of La Liga match tickets shows that they want to offer more crossover prizes and this is only likely to accelerate with this new funding. If Sorare can perform this bridging role successfully, it will not only help them to grow but it will help more people to become comfortable in this new world, having knock-on positive effects for the whole industry.

So all in all, yesterday was not only a historic day for Sorare but also for the whole blockchain gaming industry. I’m really pleased to be along for the ride!

If you’ve just joined Sorare, or you’re thinking about it, please take a look at my Getting Started guide for some tips as you take your first steps.

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