Nicolas Giulia: “Sorare wants to become a world leader in entertainment”

Nicolas Julia knows how to smile. Less than nine months after a previous $50 million fundraiser, his startup Sorare just held a new fundraiser. And this time, the amount is astronomical, as the young shoots recovered $680 million. A new record for French Tech and, above all, a mountain of cash worth $4.3 billion (€3.7 billion). Amazing for a company established in 2018.

But apart from the numbers, it is above all the sector and ambitions of Sorare that can impress. Like Ledger, the startup is one of those young shoots in the booming crypto ecosystem. Very fast. And with big ambitions. In the coming years, Sorare wants to become a world leader in entertainment. After signing a partnership agreement with the Spanish Football League in September, it was the German Bundesliga’s turn to join the adventure. Sorare co-founder Nicolas Giulia details his strategy and ambitions in an exclusive interview.

L’Express: With $680 million, you broke the record for the largest French Tech fundraiser. But what exactly does Sorare do?

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Sorare is a fantasy football game where you can both collect digital cards and use them to play online matches against other players. Today, several hundred thousand people collect cards and play matches every week.

Basically, you are a cross between Panini cards and playing football online… Nothing revolutionary on paper, right? What makes Sorare special?

The key is in technology. Our game is based on NFTs (non-fungible tokens), i.e. unique digital tokens registered on the blockchain. We discovered this technology in 2017 and when we saw it we thought it would change the way we own digital objects. Our lives are becoming more and more dematerialized, so it is normal for property to adjust.

NFT technology is very interesting for three reasons. First, because it makes our player cards unique. When you buy a Mbappé card on Sorare, you are guaranteed to receive a rare item that cannot be duplicated. Then the map belongs to the users, they are its real owners, unlike the classic games, where when you buy items in war or football, like swords or t-shirts, you lose them in the next season. Finally, there is the portability of these game objects: players can use them anywhere, anytime. They can especially sell them! This is a huge change.

How are maps created?

Just like in the physical world, we will collect images of football club players to create maps. We are creating an NFT on which we will print these images, except that instead of paper we will print them on the blockchain (Ethereum, Ed). Once the cards are printed on the blockchain, we will sell them to our community, who will collect them and use them to play.

When we talk about NFTs, do we still wonder a lot about the value of these digital tokens, about their use? Actually, for what?

Our goal in launching Sorare was to add a dimension, a fun aspect, a game to the collection. Our NFTs are useful in that. It is used in the game to make a team of five players and compete against others with rankings that depend on the actual performance of the players on the grass. In addition to the game, we are building an entire ecosystem of services to connect the physical and digital worlds. For example, we have just signed an exclusive deal with the Spanish League and the winner of the tournament of the week will win VIP tickets to the Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, ​​all expenses paid. There is also the possibility of access to the training center, players…

Much has been made of NFT due to recent record sales such as artist Beeple who sold one of his works for $69.3 million. Isn’t that over the top? No bubble?

If we’re asking ourselves this question, it’s because there’s been a huge amount of enthusiasm for this new technology. I think it’s very good, it’s very positive. Not wanting to compare ourselves to other technologies, we had exactly the same debate at the beginning of the website and mobile devices. We have these questions as soon as there are radical innovations in technology. It is obvious that some projects will fail, some amounts are excessive. But we must look in the long term and see the entire economy that is being created around this.

Right, let’s get back to your fundraising. $680 million is a lot. What are you going to do with all this money?

A lot of everything ! But the first priority is to expand the team. We recruit people and try to attract the best profiles. For example, we just hired Lyft’s Human Resources department and are looking at other major profiles, other Silicon Valley talent, to create a world leader in entertainment in Paris. There are about thirty of us there, and by the end of the year we plan to recruit 200 employees in several offices around the world.

The second priority is the product. We are still at the beginning of the development of the game, this is a new model, so we will improve it. We will also introduce a mobile app in the coming months. And the third major project is agreements with leagues and partnership measurement of business. We have over 180 football clubs and we want to expand to other major leagues.

Still, such an amount seems huge for a company of 30 people …

Of course it’s huge. But we must return to the needs and ambitions of society. If you have the ambition to build a world leader, and it’s true that you don’t see that every day in France, you have to provide yourself with the funds, you have to hire the best around the world and sign clubs as soon as possible. Sorare wants to be the world leader in entertainment, so we need the best talent. All this is expensive, very expensive.

Do you have competitors?

The advantage of opening the market is that you have no competitors, you are alone. After all, the real task for us is to complete it very quickly. Given that the market is very busy, there will be competitors, large groups will arrive, but at the moment we are making progress. With this fundraiser, we are now the most funded NFT company in the world. We are not talking about France and Europe, but about the world, and this gives us great weight. After that, you must keep moving forward quickly to maintain that advantage, hence fundraising.

In the digital world, boundaries are blurred. You are involved in football, games and entertainment, but could you expand your field of activity to other sports, to other sectors?

Obviously we are looking at other sports like baseball and basketball. After that, you can’t leave. We have managed to establish ourselves as the world leader in this sector at the crossroads between fantasy and NFT, and this has been noticed by clubs in all sports, especially in the United States. So much so that large companies even turn to us. Even non-sports companies have noticed us, but this is not our short or medium term goal. We already have so much to do. Then, in a few years, we will not forbid anything to ourselves …

After Ledger, Sorare is the second crypto company to become a unicorn. How do you explain that the two largest companies in this ecosystem are French?

The first explanation is quite simple: in France we have a lot of talent in engineering and cryptography. We may even have the best in the world! The second explanation is the change in the ambitions of French entrepreneurs. A new generation of people is coming in who are no longer thinking about a year, but about 10 years, who are thinking not about a valuation of 1 billion, but about a market capitalization of 100 billion.

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What do you need today to get more unicorns in France?

In fact, we have a very favorable business environment in France. But you must succeed in converting the test. In Asia and the US, things are moving very fast.


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