NFT Genius CEO and Co-Founder Jeremy Born discusses the growth of Ballerz, the Gaia marketplace, and how this is only the beginning.
It’s possible that all it takes to be a true game-changer in the NFT industry is 10,000 eight-bit NFT basketball players and a love of the game.
NFTs in the NFT Genius Ballerz collection have sold in the $800-$1,000 range of late, according to NFT Genius co-founder and CEO Jeremy Born.
The Ballerz are divided into 44 fictional teams — 32 men’s and 12 women’s — closely mimicking the NBA and WNBA. Just like NBA Top Shot, it’s built on Dapper Labs‘ Flow blockchain. For right now, utility includes NBA game tickets for holders as well as home and away jersey NFTs. It is also bringing current and former NBA players into the fold, including Miami Heat guard and former Michigan Wolverine Duncan Robinson, whose NFT plays for the Michigan Colliders, and former NBA forward Charlie Villanueva.
Ballerz Co-founder and CTO Kurt Braget has been in the NFT industry for more than a decade, and when he saw what was happening on Solana and the emerging derivatives of the original CryptoPunks, he wondered whether they should create some sort of Flow Punk. As a basketball and Top Shot fan, Born suggested making an entire series of basketball players. Dapper loved the idea and provided NFT Genius with its wallet because it saw crossover appeal from Top Shot fans and an extension of their love for basketball.
“It was risky to say, ‘Let’s do our own thing,’ because it might not work,” Born explained, “but it actually did the exact opposite. People love this fantasy world that we created with these fake teams still associated [with] real cities, so they had some sort of tie to it.”
Once you add in the NFTs’ unique attributes such as jersey numbers, necklaces, headbands, and other accessories, you can find at least one thing that will resonate with every fan.
NFT Genius also features the Gaia NFT marketplace, where Top Shots will be bought and sold in addition to its own marketplace. It boasts a star-studded list of investors that includes Mark Cuban, Dapper Labs’ Roham Gharegozlou, Anthony Pompliano, Ashton Kutcher, and Guy Oseary‘s Sound Ventures and HOF Capital. Born is certain that Ballerz and NFT Genius are just getting started. Ballerz is just a profile picture project right now, he said, but will slowly evolve into minting, gaming mechanics, airdrops, and more.
“More” encompasses Sneakerz NFTs, which will give Born and Genius the chance to make major collaborations and partnerships. Its official partnership with Dapper kicked off with a Valentine’s Day-inspired sneaker NFT. Users had to tag a friend on social media for the chance to win one for each of them.
“It got more interaction than most tweets on the Flow ecosystem, including Dapper-owned properties. It just shows the power of collaboration,” Born said. “I assume Ballerz and Top Shot can really work well together over the long term.”
NFT Genius is close to finalizing a Series A funding round within the next 20 to 30 days, Born said, with Dapper serving as a co-lead, hoping that Gaia will provide Flow with a good amount of liquidity.
“Major VCs will be participating,” Born said. “They’re betting not only on Ballerz and that integration, but the Gaia marketplace. They’re making a big bet that this will be the OpenSea of Flow.”
Like Born said, Ballerz is just beginning to tap into its potential. Eventually, the 44 teams will compete against each other, with admitted similarities to the Rumble Kongs platform. And the concept may not even stop at basketball, as Dapper and Flow bring more IP into the fold like the NFL and UFC.
“We’re building the Ballerz sports universe, and the Ballerz sports universe is gonna encapsulate all sports,” Born said.
That could mean Baseballerz or Footballerz at some point. The potential also exists for minting technology, or other assets people will be able to mint because they own a Ballerz NFT — similar to the utility Bored Ape Yacht Club owners and Crypto Cannabis Club owners possess that enables them to generate passive income.
“Having these, as I’m gonna call them, Genesis Ballerz or Core Ballerz — these first 10,000 will be really important moving forward as this ecosystem expands,” Born said. “In the future, Ballerz holders will have the unique ability to mint additional items.”
In addition to a more formal relationship with Dapper, NFT Genius has an informal relationship with CAA and other companies that have helped open doors across the industry. Born said there have been discussions with the NBA, and that the league is intrigued by what NFT Genius is creating. A podcast or series of basketball-related podcasts around Ballerz is in the works, Born said, hosted by a roster full of big, recognizable names that the company is still assembling.
NFT Genius has a media strategy for Ballerz, as evidenced by everything from the proposed podcast series to this story, as well as an apparel line and other ways to make Ballerz a household name. Ultimately, Born, Braget, and the rest of the NFT Genius team are collectors first. They love anything to do with tokens and DeFi, and they are exploring every option to optimize NFT Genius and Ballerz for the masses as the world transitions from Web2 to Web3.
“The idea is: give people what we want to get as NFT collectors ourselves,” Born said, “which is providing as much value as humanly possible.”