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NBA Top Shot Maker Dapper Labs Bets on Celebrity NFT Market Genies

Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot, is one of the most prominent forces in the NFT market. Top Shot exploded in popularity and demand earlier this year and has racked up more than $500 million in trading volume to date.

Now, Dapper Labs has its sights set on what could be the next big thing in crypto collectibles: a cartoonish avatar creating platform with big celebrity endorsements called Genies.

Genies will be Dapper Labs’ next NFT marketplace to launch on the Flow blockchain after NBA Top Shot, and today Genies announced that it has raised a $65 million Series B funding round—with Dapper joining the investment fray, as well.

Dapper Labs, Coinbase Ventures, Polychain Capital, and Hashkey Capital reportedly participated in the round from the crypto world. Venture capital firm Bond led the $65 million round, with further participation from NEA, NetEase, Breyer Capital, and Tull Investment. Genies plans to use the investment to help fuel the upcoming NFT marketplace launch and further develop the technology behind the avatars.

An NFT is like a deed of ownership to nearly any kind of digital item, be it a still image, photo, or even a tweet. In the case of NBA Top Shot, Dapper sells packs of officially-licensed NBA video highlights with provable rarity, and those “moments” can then be resold. Last month, a LeBron James moment sold for $387,600, the highest to date.

Genies is already live as an avatar creation app and marketplace without blockchain tie-ins, and the firm has worked with celebrities like Justin Beiber and Rihanna on promotional efforts. The partnership with Dapper Labs was first unveiled in late 2020, and last week, the companies told Forbes that the Genies NFT marketplace will officially be the next NFT initiative to launch on Flow, with a beta version planned to debut in Q3 2021.

NBA Top Shot Exec: ‘We Weren’t Ready’ for Surge in NFT Demand

Once live on Flow, Genies will release limited-edition digital items that are tokenized on the blockchain, which is how they prove their rarity and scarcity. That would allow artists and fashion brands to launch virtual drops of licensed apparel, much like the limited drops of physical apparel we see today, and then only those owners would be able to use those items on their Genies avatars. Users will also be able to resell their purchased items on the platform, much like they can with NBA Top Shot moments.

Genies already has a partnership with luxury fashion brand Gucci and features in-app apparel drops from celebrities like Shawn Mendes (also a previous Genies investor), Jake Paul, and J. Balvin. It also has a partnership with Giphy to let users turn avatars into easily-shareable GIFs, and the company is working on an avatar and NFT SDK that will let other web platforms support the avatars.

On Friday, Genies announced a partnership with Warner Music Group to bring its thousands of signed artists, entertainers, and athletes—including rapper Cardi B, NBA star Carmelo Anthony, and influencer Pokimane—to the upcoming NFT marketplace, as well. According to dot.LA, Genies has now raised a total of $110 million in funding.

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Genies previously launched limited-edition NFT apparel through Nifty Gateway in February in a charity collaboration with soccer star Mesut Özil and pop culture artist BossLogic, although that was seemingly a one-off drop.

Aside from Genies and Top Shot, Dapper Labs also has partnerships with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Dr. Seuss for upcoming NFT marketplaces, and is also the company behind the seminal CryptoKitties NFT marketplace that nearly brought Ethereum to a halt back in 2017. Dapper’s most recent official fundraising announcement in late March valued the firm at $2.6 billion, however The Information reported in April that the company is raising additional funds at an expected valuation of $7.5 billion.

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