Autograph — How NFTs will enter the mainstream.

Some little girls collect comic books or Pokemon cards. I, however, was a golf nerd and liked to collect autographs from the players. So when Tiger Woods came to the UK to play in the Volvo PGA tournament at Wentworth, I begged my father to take me. When the match was over, I asked a 21-year old Tiger for his autograph.

When you collect someone’s autograph, you’re more than just a fan. You’ve made a direct connection with an athlete or celebrity, and you’ve got a keepsake that could be worth a significant amount of money down the road, if you can bear to part with it.

That is the inherent consumer behavior behind Autograph, which brings this kind of collectible into the digital age. But instead of scribbling their names on a photo or a scrap of paper, legendary athletes like Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, and (yes) Tiger Woods are creating limited edition non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which fans can purchase, hold, or resell.

Despite all the media coverage of NFTs over the last year, few people outside the tech/crypto world have any idea what they are or what they’re for. Attaching household names like Brady and Woods to the concept may finally bring these tokens into the mainstream.

At Lightspeed, we are big believers in the potential of NFTs to enable digital ownership in the Web3 economy. That’s why we’ve invested in NFT-based startups like Hawku…and others not yet disclosed. And it’s why we’re proud to announce our participation in Autograph’s $170 million Series B round announced today.

A-listers only need apply

Autograph was co-founded by Tom Brady, Richard Rosenblatt and Dillon Rosenblatt. With this strong founding team, it’s not surprising that its first NFTs were for A-list athletes like Gretzky, Derek Jeter, Tony Hawk, and Usain Bolt. But sports is just one angle they are pursuing. Since then, they’ve added entertainers like The Weeknd and movie franchises like Saw. I’m excited to support them by getting many more celebrities on the platform.

With a management team deeply embedded in the worlds of sports, entertainment, and technology, that list is likely to grow very quickly. As it does, so will public familiarity with both the site and mainstream acceptance of NFTs.

Another smart thing Autograph has done is make most of its collections affordable to the average fan, while also appealing to more deep-pocketed collectors. For example: The 16,600 mystery containers from Tom Brady, each containing one of 25 different collectibles, sold for $80 apiece last December. An NFT of the Tom Brady Ruby Signed Immortal Statue, one of 29 that comes bearing his actual signature, is currently selling for $50,000.

Why we’re investing

Autograph has several fundamental characteristics we look for in our investments.

It’s scaleable. The total addressable market for collectibles is enormous. More than $400 billion of collectibles were sold in 2020, a number projected to reach $628 billion by 2031. Digital NFT collectibles are the fastest growing segment, at more than 14% CAGR. So far, Autograph has been wildly popular; a new Tom Brady collection introduced in December sold out in 10 minutes.

It’s social. Autograph is as much about community as it is about collecting. The site’s dedicated Discord channel has nearly 25,000 members and is growing rapidly. Buyers of more exclusive NFTs will also get opportunities to chat with celebrities like TB12 or win the chance to play a round of golf with Tiger. We believe the blending of virtual and real experiences will be a key trend this year and beyond.

It’s diverse. Up until this point, the crypto community has been overwhelmingly male. By appealing to fans of Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and other female icons, Autograph can help make the NFT market more diverse. More than a quarter of the site’s sales have been from women, nearly double the industry average for tokens.

With this new tranche of funding, the best is really yet to come. When I decide to acquire another Tiger Woods collectible, I’ll do it using Autograph. When I want to show it off, I won’t have to go digging through boxes in the attic to find it; I’ll just view it on Autograph.

Are you interested in building a startup around NFTs? Lightspeed is interested in hearing from you. Please reach out to me at nquinn@lsvp.com.

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Nicole Quinn

Nicole Quinn

2.4K Followers

Investor at Lightspeed, Stanford alum, Former Consumer Analyst at Morgan Stanley and British 100m sprinter