Cricket non-fungible tokens (NFTs) platform Rario has raised $120 million funding led by Dream Capital, the corporate venture and M&A arm of Dream Sports and participation from Alpha Wave Global.
The startup also counts Animoca Brands, Presight Capital, and Kingsway Capital among its investors.
This marks the first bet by the Dream11 parent in the Web3 space and its largest investment so far.
Dream Sports CEO Harsh Jain had said at an industry event in January 2022 that they were exploring a foray into the nascent blockchain and NFT market.
At the event, Jain had said the entire sports world is now awakening to this opportunity for sports leagues, teams, and players to monetise a virtual asset that "they never even knew they own".
Moneycontrol had reported on December 24 that the emergence of blockchain-based and NFT-based gaming firms is expected to be one of the key trends in the sector in 2022.
This investment comes on heels of rival FanCraze raising $100 million led by Insight Partners, with participation from B Capital.
Founded in 2021 by Sunny Bhanot and Ankit Wadhwa, Rario enables cricket fans to engage as a community, providing them an opportunity to own digital collectibles such as officially licensed cricketing moments and player cards on the blockchain, represented as a NFT, similar to traditional trading cards or memorabilia.
One can buy, trade and sell these NFTs using credit cards, debit cards, and bank transfers on the Rario marketplace to build up your collection. The platform is built on the Polygon Network.
"Cricket is the 2nd largest sport in the world with more than 1.5 billion fans globally. NFTs are creating new forms of engagement allowing fans to own and trade digital collectibles. Rario’s global cricket NFT ecosystem will be further strengthened by the 140 million sports fans on Dream Sports," said Ankit Wadhwa, co-founder and CEO - Rario.
The company has secured NFT rights to six international leagues and a roster of over 900 international cricketers as of now. This includes a multi-year exclusive partnership with Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association to create an Australian cricket metaverse of collectibles and gaming.
Among other league partnerships include Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association, Abu Dhabi T10, Hero Caribbean Premier League and the Lanka Premier League. Since 2021, Rario has sold over 50,000 NFTs to sports fans across 20 countries with the USA, UK, Australia, and India being its top four markets.
"DreamCap is glad to partner with Rario to help sports fans engage deeper with their favorite players and teams. Web3 use cases in sports are transformational, and we are looking to back more startups in the space globally with innovative utilities of NFTs" said Dev Bajaj, Chief Strategy Officer, Dream Sports.
Over the years, Dream11 has diversified under a new structure as Dream Sports that houses brands such as sports content and commerce platform FanCode, its corporate venture and M&A arm Dream Capital, sports experiences platform DreamSetGo, game publisher Dream Game Studios, and payment solutions provider DreamPay, apart from the flagship fantasy platform.
In August 2021, Dream Sports had earmarked $250 million to Dream Capital with a key focus on sectors such as sports, gaming, and fitness-tech. The unit invests between $1 million-$100 million in startups and has built up a portfolio of around 9 early-stage startups including Fittr, SoStronk, KheloMore, and Elevar.
"The whole idea of Dream Capital is to have patient capital to grow this entire sports tech ecosystem in India and expose these younger companies to 120 million users on Dream11 and 140 million users on our ecosystem," Jain said in January 2022 "I think, we need entrepreneurs who will step up and put a few years into it, and show product-market fit. And then companies like Dream Sports can come and fund them to grow them and scale them"Dream Sports is currently valued at $8 billion after raising a mammoth $840 million funding round in November 2021.