Unblockable raises $5M to create crypto collectibles around pro athletes

Unblockable is tackling a new area for blockchain technology — sports fandom, specifically collectibles and fantasy sports.

CEO Jeb Terry (a former Fox Sports executive, and before that a former offensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) said the goal is to connect pro sports and pro athletes with the technology, and to “create new means of access and really empower the fans to celebrate their fandom, to show off who they’re fans of and create new relationships.”

Terry founded Unblockable with Eben Smith, a former derivatives trader, as well as Greg Dean and Kedric Van de Carr, entrepreneurs who have founded multiple crypto projects in the past.

The startup is announcing it has raised $5 million from Shasta Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners, with Shasta’s Jacob Mullins joining the board of directors. (Mullins and I have been friends since we worked together at VentureBeat a decade ago.)

“Taking advantage of the unique characteristics of the emerging blockchain platform, UNBLOCKABLE is defining a new category of fun, engaging and approachable experiences and games for consumers as well as new ways for stars, athletes and leagues to build new relationships with fans,” Mullins said in the announcement.

Unblockable isn’t launching its consumer product yet — Terry told me that will probably happen later this year. But the basic idea is to release collectible crypto tokens tied to pro athletes. The goal is to have tokens representing every player (including their likeness), not just the big stars, and to create “true, authentic scarcity.”

Terry argued that the tokens will function as a kind of virtual collectible, with “a limited volume ever minted.” The value of each token should also fluctuate depending on the player’s performance on the field, especially since there will be a fantasy sports component of the platform — you’ll need to own a player’s token in order to include them on your team.

“There will be market dynamics in play,” Terry said. “With the value of the performance of the athletes in the field, it will be basic supply-demand behavior.”

When asked about reaching the (presumably) huge swath of sports fans that have no real familiarity with cryptocurrencies, Terry said, “It’s the core crypto enthusiasts that are going to get this right away.” At the same time, he’s hoping to “bridge that gap” to all those other fans, partly by making sure the buying and selling process is as “frictionless” as possible.

Unblockable hasn’t announced any partnerships with specific leagues or athletes, aside from naming NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott as the head of its advisory panel. But it sounds like Terry’s working on that.

“There are a lot of opportunities for players to get involved,” he said. “As a former player, as a guy that’s worked with players in the past, it’s something that we really know and live. We want to make sure [they] trust us to take care of their brands. That’s important here. You can’t just take that lightly in this space.”