SPACInsider contributors Anthony Sozzi and Sam Beattie this week compiled their three favorite potential SPAC targets among companies in the NFT space. We look at why they are compelling and why each could be a fit for a blank-check merger.
According to NonFungible.com, there were 482,121 NFTs sold over the past 30 days for $1.44 billion, or about $2,996 on average. All-time, the brand-new sector has put $13.2 billion-worth of NFTs out into circulation between 1.3 million active wallets.
Of these, about $611 million-worth were objects or digital real estate in the metaverse. We lined up some potential SPAC plays for AR/VR in the metaverse last month, and the most expensive metaverse NFT purchase of all time occurred on the platform of one of those targets for $2.4 million.
None of this has done away with the controversy surrounding NFTs overall. But, while cryptocurrencies have garnered broader acceptance by the sheer volume, NFTs have roughly the same market cap as crypto sported five years ago. As such, they are facing similar levels of skepticism as faced by Bitcoin and others in 2016.
There is of course no guarantee that NFTs will follow the same course as crytpo and in many ways they remain very different. While cryptocurrencies may hold what critics would deem “no intrinsic value,” NFTs are actual objects that arguably provide at least some sort of aesthetic or experiential value for their owners. On the other hand, the rising tide doesn’t necessarily float all boats for NFT holders like a surge in crytpo prices can.
Each NFT is in theory its own currency, or at least something that bears the same pricing dynamics of a smaller number of fellow NFTs like artworks sharing a common artist, era or theme. A bigger challenge for the sector will be in finding a better way of making sure the blockchain tools can ensure each NFTs’ exclusivity can hold up to copying attempts.
But, as long as there’s a chance that what we are looking at is a way to invest in crypto circa 2016, there will be plenty of FOMO to drive trading. Aries I was the first SPAC to test this out, announcing a $554 million combination with InfiniteWorld earlier this week. While the market reception wasn’t quite Trumpy, it did drive Aries I up above $10 for the first time since July in a SPAC market where Day 1 bumps on deal announcements are rare.
With 98.8% of NFT sales value occurring in the past year, one might expect specialist companies in the space to be similarly early-stage ventures. But, the red-hot NFT industry has already spawned several unicorns, among them, Forte.
It has raised $954 million in private funding since its 2018 founding in its quest to build a blockchain game platform that will make NFTs across these various existing game environments interoperable and mutually compliant. If successful, it could be something like Unity (NYSE:U), whose game development software has effectively become the operating system of a large portion of the overall gaming world.
For Forte, providing the picks and shovels for this new world could potentially be even more lucrative that Unity, which has turned a cool $1 billion in revenue over its past 12 months of reported financials. Unity has various ways of monetizing the extent to which game publishers utilize their platform, but the ability to charge royalties or commissions on NFTs within a network that may suddenly be sold for millions in cash is an opportunity of a different order.
This isn’t this management team’s first unicorn rodeo either. Forte’s founder and Chairman Kevin Chou sold his last venture Kabam Games for just under $1 billion in 2017 and the company also includes many SPAC connections among its investors.
Its last capital raise in November included participation by Tiger Global Management and recently de-SPAC’d gaming studio PLAYSTUDIOS (NASDAQ:MYPS). It may have also caught the eyes of relative newcomer Blockchain Coinvestors I (NASDAQ:BSCAU), which listed just over a month ago, but also has a shorter shot clock with 18 months to put its $300 million trust to work to complete a transaction.
Part of the specific promise of NFTs has come from sports arena, which has long turned good business from collectible player cards and has now set its sight on making video or stills of specific exploits a tradable NFT.
Rights issues are a minefield in sports, but Autograph has nonetheless cruised to a $735 million valuation by finding unique ways to offer exclusive digital facets of an athlete’s brand. Its collection includes digital statues or signatured items by Simone Biles, Tom Brady and Wayne Gretzky among others.
In fact, Brady is a co-founder and co-chairman of the company, which also counts Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, Tony Hawk, Usain Bolt, and Naomi Osaka among its Board members. While congressional oversight has put a target on the back of SPACs marketing themselves with celebrity Board members, Autograph makes an interesting pitch. If athletes were able to sell media linked to themselves on their own terms, what would that look like and would you buy it?
With an early opening already made for NCAA athletes to earn money from their likenesses in media this year, this market is poised to grow. Going back again to “intrinsic value”, if collectors are willing to spend millions on paper cards marking a player’s early entry into a league, then what is the market for an exclusive digital rendering of their most epic moments?
Off the beaten path and all the way down under, Immutable has been working to host an NFT marketplace in Australia with a high focus on guarding against the cybersecurity issues that stand as significant risk across the space.
Australia has in fact been a relatively under-examined geography for SPACs. No shortage of Israeli tech firms have found SPACs to be their route to public markets, but Australian firms face similar issues in their distance from fluid markets. Nonetheless, they comparatively lack the same connections to the SPAC pipeline.
This opens up an opportunity for an enterprising SPAC willing to look across the Pacific as Immutable has quietly built a mature platform designed to welcome novices to the NFT space. It already runs the NFT item offerings for RPG games Gods Unchained and Guild of Guardians and provides tools for minting NFTs that dodge many of the typical minting fees.
As such, Immutable is the sort of company that may be targeted by a SPAC based in its hemisphere. It has raised about $105 million to date, and could already be on the map for Crypto I (NASDAQ:DAOOU), which listed on December 7. Crypto I CEO Michael Zhao was an early investor in Bitcoin and Ethereum and currently serves as the chairman of the International Digital Currency Markets, directing its crypto payments business.