Autograph, an NFT agency co-founded by athlete Tom Brady with a particularly deep bench of star power, has banked new funding from crypto investors who hope the platform can bring a new generation of celebrities and their fans into the fold of crypto collectibles.
The startup tells TechCrunch it has 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 comes on the heels of a Series A round co-led by 01A and Velvet Sea Ventures that closed this past July. The raise adds three new members to the board, including Haun, a16z’s Arianna Simpson and Kleiner Perkins’s Ilya Fushman.
They join an expansive board with some major names, including Brady, Apple’s Eddy Cue, FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried and artist Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd.
Autograph is essentially an agency go-between for celebrity athletes and entertainers looking to find a personal presence in the incredibly noisy NFT world. Celebrity NFT drops have been a mixed bag since the crypto collectibles skyrocketed to popularity early last year. While some have come into the space with thoughtful projects that reward their fans, there have been a multitude of ridicule-generating cash grabs.
Crypto has generally been a tough place for discerning celebrities to make a dent or earn a buck 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 lawsuit brought by disgruntled investors who had backed a token that the two had earlier endorsed.
While fellow NFT unicorn Dapper Labs has inked partnerships with a handful overarching American sports league players associations, including the NFL Players Association and the NBA’s Player Association, Autograph seems to be more focused on the individual athletes and the cult of personality built around them outside the context of the teams they play on or leagues they are part of. 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 aim seems to be in building out an onramp to the space where triple-A listers can dip their toes into crypto influencing in a more highly curated environment.
In July, Autograph announced a partnership with DraftKings, though the startup tells TechCrunch it has been working with a number of marketplaces. Autograph has been primarily serving up its NFTs on the Polygon blockchain, which taps into Ethereum’s infrastructure but uses significantly less energy per transaction, a fact that’s likely important to celebrities who may be wary to open themselves up to environmental critiques of blockchain technologies.
Outside the sports world, Autograph has done drops with The Weeknd, Slam Magazine and officially-licensed NFTs for the horror series Saw.