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Billionaire Steven Cohen Goes Long in $50M Funding Deal for Sports NFT Player

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Steven Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund manager and onetime crypto skeptic, has jumped into the NFT market in a move that could shake up sports marketing, as well as the Metaverse. 

DIGITAL, a Metaverse investment venture backed by Cohen, has led a $50M Series A fundraising round in RECUR, a tech startup that develops “on-chain branded experiences” and enables customers to buy, collect, and resell NFTs. The deal bestows RECUR with a valuation of $333M, the company said in a statement released Monday. Cohen is joining RECUR’s board.

Virtual Spaces

RECUR is focusing on the burgeoning market for NFTs that offer sports fans a way to own game digital highlights of their favorite teams and players. To that end, the venture formed partnerships with artificial intelligence developer Veritone and CLC, a company that specializes in trademark licensing at  universities. 

RECUR plans to start with schools in the Pac-12 Conference, which includes the University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University, and Arizona State University. RECUR and Veritone plan to  “coordinate” with student athletes to obtain authorization to use their video highlights in NFTs.

Cohen’s foray into NFTs is likely to spur more mainstream investment interest in the applications and the Metaverse, shorthand for virtual spaces in gaming and social media that operate under their own “tokenomics”. As a trader who turned S.A.C. Capital Advisors into one of the most influential and controversial hedge funds on the planet, Cohen has legions of followers on Wall Street and beyond. Seven years ago he converted his fund into a family office called Point72 that invests his own fortune. 

After staying on the sidelines, Cohen made his first crypto move in August when Point72 Ventures, his early-stage investment arm, led a $21M funding round in Messari, the crypto market intelligence provider. 

Scale the Venture

RECUR was co-founded earlier this year by Zach Bruch, a crypto trading entrepreneur, and Trevor George, a digital licensing expert. It rapidly attracted an all-star cast of backers, including Joe Lubin, the founder of ConsenSys, the Winklevoss twins and their crypto exchange Gemini, and DeFi Alliance, a top accelerator.

In its statement, RECUR said it planned to use the capital to hire more than 150 employees to scale the venture and bring new offerings to market in the coming year. It’s working on a royalty payment engine that will sync NFTs with existing intellectual property practices. 

“We see a future where the standard for a decentralized recurring royalty is embedded, giving the creator due credit as the assets are exchanged over and over,” Bruch and George said in the company’s statement. 

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