Jan 20, 2022 - Economy & Business

Tom Brady's NFT startup has raised $170 million

Illustration of Tom Brady in football uniform catching a stack of cash.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Autograph, an NFT collections startup, announced that it's raised $170 million in new venture capital funding co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins.

Why it matters: If the dollar amount isn't enough — after all, it seems as if every NFT-based startup is raising money right now — the company is co-founded by Tom Brady.

  • Yes, that Tom Brady. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback. Former New England Patriots quarterback. Seven-time Super Bowl champion. Also, a crypto enthusiast who last year took a stake in FTX.
  • Autograph's other co-founders are father-and-son duo (and former MySpace owner) Richard Rosenblatt and CEO Dillon Rosenblatt.

Between the lines: Celebrities and the cryptocurrency world have a messy relationship. Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian and Floyd Mayweather were sued over allegedly promoting a token and artificially boosting its price.

  • It doesn't help that there's a sense that celebrities are diving into a world that they don't fully understand when it comes to crypto. As the SEC said during the first crypto surge of 2017, "Celebrities who endorse an investment often do not have sufficient expertise to ensure that the investment is appropriate."

Yes, but: If investors pitched crypto's potential to upend banks in the industry's last surge, much of today's bull run has been about the consumer, with whom celebrities have outsized cultural equity.

  • At $13.3 billion, NFT marketplace OpenSea is now considered the second most valuable crypto startup in the world.
  • Dapper Labs, the startup behind NFT marketplace NBA Topshot, raised $250 million last fall at a $7.6 billion valuation.
  • Meanwhile, many celeb-backed NFTs have traded at lower prices in secondary markets. Still, some celebrities have held successful NFT auctions: A number of Paris Hilton drops for example resold for a higher valuation.

Bottom line: Investors are now looking to make the celebrity successes more common — and betting crypto could go mainstream with the help of the right star power.

Lucinda and Ryan Lawler co-author our new Axios Pro newsletter on fintech deals. Subscribe at AxiosPro.com.

Go deeper