Sorare hits the back of the net
Sorare, a global fantasy football game, has grown massively throughout 2020. It recently announced French giant PSG as the 100th Team on its network. To celebrate this achievement we interviewed Co-Founder Nicolas Julia and Boris Golden from Partech, about this exciting development.
STARTUP’S CORNER with Nicolas Julia from Sorare:
Can you explain briefly, how Sorare works and how you sign up?
Sorare is a global fantasy football game built with officially licensed digital cards. These cards are backed by blockchain technology to empower users to trade and use them as they wish. Our first game with these cards is SO5, a 5-a-side fantasy football experience where you can manage a team with football players chosen from over 100 different clubs.
To sign-up it’s pretty easy, you just need to go to sorare.com and create an account with an email or your gmail account.
Where did the idea of Card Trading come from?
I met my co-founder (and CTO) Adrien at Stratumn, where he was leading a 10+ people crypto engineering team. We spent two years working together on pushing an enterprise-grade blockchain-based software to the market.
In the summer of 2018 we decided to leave the company to pursue our deeper internal drive: bring a crypto product into the hands of millions of people. We were fascinated by the emergence of Non Fungible Tokens (CryptoKitties pioneered the space) and are convinced they will drive the next wave of consumer adoption.
Unlike most of the other projects in the space, we decided to build much more than a collectible project: the core of the product is a competitive fantasy manager where all the assets (cards backed by a non-fungible token) are officially licensed by football clubs and leagues. These cards are useful to compete as a fantasy manager but can also be sold back and forth to other managers.
How do you go about approaching teams to join your Network?
Our goal is to partner with the top 20 leagues in the world and all their clubs. We are at 100 clubs today and our goal is to reach 150 clubs by year-end. Building a presence in Sorare offers those clubs exposure to a global audience and a new revenue stream. As the director of diversification of PSG, Fabien Allègre said: Sorare enables them to reach out to new, young communities, especially in Asia and the Americas.
Throughout 2020, your growth has been incredible, how have you sustained it during the pandemic?
As a Fantasy Football Game, the pandemic really impacted the gameplay because there was no football anymore. We had to reinvent ourselves: we decided to introduced replay tournaments. We’ve basically decided to replay previous game weeks from the 2019–2020 and 2018–2019 football season at random We had about 1500 monthly active users in March and in May we had 2700, so despite the pandemic, we’ve nearly doubled our user base on a game that was re-thought in a few days. We’re however a lot more excited about the live games and we’ve been improving our live gaming experience a lot recently. More to come!
With this growth do you intend to expand your team and open offices in new countries?
As a gaming company, we don’t need to open offices in many countries. We’re still a small team of 8 people right now but we are recruiting actively. Our goal is to double the size of our team in 6 months to improve our gaming experience so that it becomes more accessible and more fun. We are recruiting designers and full-stack engineers in Paris.
How have you found the process of setting up your company and then watching it grow?
Every step of the way we learn new skills, we see our role changing as co-founders change. It’s been very exciting to build a team and see the team become more and more independent and coming up with new and great ideas. The current growth is exhilarating and we’re doing everything we can so that it continues to grow at this rate. Most importantly, our northern star is to build the best possible gaming experience.
You’ve recently added global giant PSG to your network, when do you envisage having all Europe’s leading clubs on board?
Good question! We’re in discussions with many of them, some could be launched sooner than later but we can’t commit on dates. These processes take a lot of time and we prefer to surprise our users with such announcements.
Is there any particular market you want to crack, such as the Premier League?
We’re focusing on markets where football is big, where fantasy sports and card collecting are a big thing. That means Europe with the top 5 leagues: England’s Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga France’s Ligue but also the US since fantasy sports are really big over there. There are +60 million people playing fantasy sports in the US.
You’ve had backing from World Cup winner Andre Schuerrle, what has the reception of the players/clubs been after they join?
We’re building a consumer brand with the ambition to reach millions of people. It’s important for our community members to see that we are backed by big clubs and players, it adds trust and credibility to our product and vision. After these players or club join the platform, we always see a spike of new paying users, more retained users that also increase the network effects.
INVESTOR’S CORNER with Boris Golden, Principal at Partech:
Boris, what attracted you to Sorare ?
Sorare was referred to Lucas and I by 2 of Partech portfolio founders we respect & trust. This is in itself already a great signal! However, this is not enough to be willing to back a company 🙂 The topic was not in our typical investment scope (gaming + soccer + crypto-collectibles), so at first, we scratched a bit our head. But the quality of our interactions with the founders, and their ability to convey their positioning & vision in an extremely articulated way, have really impressed us… And ultimately turned us into strong believers (in spite of others in the ecosystem expressing a lot of skepticism)! Now that we are on (their) board and can witness from within them working, we can humbly say we’re blown away by their ability to deliver with a small, nimble team on so many complex topics: licensing, technology, user acquisition, game design, card economics, hiring, general management…
Where do you see this company going?
Extremely far! Their vision & positioning are spot on, at the interaction of fantasy soccer & crypto-collectibles, and their execution flawless. We’ve actually not often seen a company growing so fast, when growth is not even the main goal of their current efforts & roadmap… There is a giant to be built here and we have no doubt that Nicolas, Adrien & the team are the ones to make it happen!
You are a very hands-on investor. How do you help Sorare in its development?
The Sorare team is already impressively mature, driven & professional! Also, we’re still very new on board, and further not the lead investor, on a topic where we don’t have extensive experience, so we should be extremely humble! KPIs, strategic planning & international expansion are already topics where we started working with Sorare, but it’s the very beginning of our work relationship, so stay tuned 😉
Thanks for your time Nicolas and Boris!
For more information about Sorare, visit their website.