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GOALS Raise $20m & Karate Combat Raise $18m, Series A Rounds

Web3 funding in sports and gaming heats up...

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Introduction 🔌🔧

There was so much news last week that it’s spilling over into this week’s newsletter.

My prediction is the news cycle in crypto heats up over the next 6 months as bigger and bigger brands start experimenting or building solid propositions using this nascent technology.

GOALS Raise $20m & Karate Combat Raise $18m, Series A Rounds

Almost every startup in the space I’ve spoken to over the last 6-9 months is looking to raise capital.

Especially those who are pre-revenue.

This is a normal part of a company’s lifecycle, but raising funds at this point in time is very difficult. The frivolous easy cheques that were seen at the height of the crypto market in late 2021 and early 2022 are no longer there.

And even though deal count as a metric has stabilised and actually seen an increase in Q2 2023, numbers still aren’t as strong.


Usually, the crypto market and VC investment in the crypto space track each other — but I do think there are a few factors that make it more nuanced this time:

  • Regulatory Uncertainty: The UK, Portugal, and many other territories are flip-flopping about becoming crypto hubs. The US is seemingly at war with crypto, driving its most successful businesses off-shore. The EU has created regulatory frameworks. Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and France seem to be some of the leading lights when it comes to sensible regulation.

  • FTX Implosion: The implosion of FTX sent ripples in the market, and there are still some dominos yet to fall. It has made every VC deal require a deeper level of scrutiny, which is good for the long term but stifles easy cash in the short term.

  • ‘Internal’ investments: The likes of Amazon, Nike, Adidas, Starbucks etc. are all writing big Web3 cheques but not externally. Internally, or via acquisitions. These don’t make the charts.

  • The broader market sentiment means risk ‘on’ assets are less appealing: Inflation, cost of living crisis, geopolitical uncertainty, banks globally failing at an incredible rate… the market for investment in anything ‘risk on’ has been difficult over the past 18 months.

With all that in mind, smart money is still placing bets on ambitious projects.

The sports x Web3 world is no different.

⚽️ GOALS Raise $20m

GOALS are building a soccer simulation game that leans more arcade-style rather than a hyperrealistic competitor FIFA (or now EA Sports FC).

It will be a free-to-play game with a Web3 twist, where (presumably) users will be able to own in-game assets including skins, players and such.

The company is founded by Andreas Thorstensson, a former Counterstrike pro turned entrepreneur, who has a great blend of gaming and crypto experience.

Last week, they announced they’d raised a $20m Series A round led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six venture capital firm, with participation from Northzone, Moonfire and Cassius.

The investment will be used to increase headcount from 50 to 75 and to accelerate the development of the game, which is currently in a pre-alpha state.

CEO and Co-Founder Andreas: 

Unlike most sports gaming or sports web3 products on the market, GOALs have chosen to not join the highly competitive licensing war, instead, concentrating resources on their team and game development.

GOALs already has a Discord which boasts 10s of thousands and has been conscious of using user feedback very early in their game development cycle. This community-oriented, rapid iterative method could well see this title become more than just an indie game with a niche cult following.

When I wrote about GOALs and their $15m Seed round this time last year, I asked the question: are they sacrificing realism and licensing, for NFTs?

GOALS will primarily be free-to-play but have play-and-earn aspects to the game.

In short, you’ll be able to play for free, but you’ll also have the ability to buy in-game assets that are NFTs.

The licensing side of things is particularly interesting.

It’s pretty much impossible for a company like GOALs to compete with EA Sports FC on that front, and so creating greenfield IP that the community has a say in the direction of development, and ownership of in terms of assets, is a really interesting direction to take.

If you can’t beat them, join them… doesn't ring true for many startups looking to take market share from the likes of EA Sports FC and eFootball due to the resources required to bid for licenses. And I personally quite like the approach that GOALS are taking by creating storylines and characters themselves..

The raises so far for GOALS are big, but game development isn’t cheap and the market for sports gaming is massive, so investors could see big upside.

In EA’s 2021 earnings report- they claimed that FIFA 21 has now reached over 25 million players and that 29% of their total revenue came from Ultimate Team…clocking in at $1.6bn.

Sorare went from monthly revenues of $50k to $13m in 12 months from Jan 2020 to Feb 2021.

Fortnite made $50m worth of their NFL skins — 3.2m skins were sold.

The market for sports games and in-game assets is monstrous.

There’s never been greater demand, and all the statistics point to that demand growing.

Gaming is seen by many in the crypto VC world, and by many strategists to be the inflection point for NFTs in the mainstream. So investors placing big bets here doesn’t surprise me.

Why NFTs?

If people are so ready to throw money at in-game assets, why not ones that they actually own, can transport and do what they want to with?

Gaming is for many, case and point why NFTs will continue to exist, and flourish.That being said, I personally don’t think NFTs will completely replace centralised digital assets like Fortnite skins or Ultimate Team cards. There are lots of difficulties in creating the appropriate systems where incentives make sense for game devs to allow for interoperable/transportable items. But they’ll have a role to play, for sure. Games that are games first, but have NFTs as prizes, purchasable in-game, ownable assets will be the first to make their mark, in my opinion.

And I think GOALS fits into this category.

Perhaps in the future, interoperable digital items that are truly owned by users exist with incentive mechanisms we can’t quite wrap our heads around at present time.

But right now, the models that emerge where NFTs are part of the attraction, and not the attraction will be the ones that are most successful and sustainable in this space.

That’s where I think GOALs are building something fascinating.

A good game first and foremost, that gives players some ownership of the game they’re playing and a greater say in how it’s developed.

I’m intrigued and excited to see what Andreas and the team build with their latest raise.

🥋 Karate Combat raise $18m Series A

Karate Combat launched in 2018 and has been one of the fastest-growing combat leagues in the world since their inception. They mix full-contact karate with immersive computer-generated environments to create unique experiences for spectators in person and digitally.

They have 4.5 million followers and over 10 million views per event from their deals with major sports broadcasters, including Eurosport, Globo's Combate, BeIN Sports, CBS Sports, and ESPN Deportes.

What is Karate Combat? A Beginner's Guide to KARATE COMBAT – MMA Channel

Their raise is led by Bitkraft and includes the likes of Delphi Ventures, Gate.io and Lattice.


The $18 million Series A will go towards launching a Karate Combat "Up Only Gaming" app and a $KARATE token on the Ethereum and Hedera networks.

Viewers can use the app to allocate $KARATE tokens to their favourite fighters and boost the fighters' potential prize pools beyond their contracted pay. If their chosen fighter wins, the viewer earns more tokens.

Karate Combat are using a ‘no loss’ model, meaning no tokens can be lost when you allocate them to a fighter. This does raise concerns about the inflationary nature of the tokenomics model, but like with any token model, if Karate Combat can create enough utility or ability to ‘spend’ or ‘use’ said token, things can balance out. Undoubtedly there will be teething issues here as it’s almost impossible to know how users will interact with tokens until they’re out in the wild.

In January, Karate Combat made the leap to Web3 by becoming a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization. DAOs use smart contracts, with members using governance tokens to vote on things such as fund allocation, future events and fight matchups.

In other words, token holders will be able to influence the league's direction from the ground up.

As most readers know, I’m not the biggest fan of DAO models in sports, especially when fantasists want to take over legacy clubs with models reliant on technology that is 6-7 years old and still immature. Similarly, we’ve seen many fan token models that use crypto in an attempt to influence a team’s direction, but in actual fact, the topics that are voted on are in reality not very important.

Like GOALS, greenfield propositions are more likely to succeed due to their early, strong following who have an influence on the product — and their speed and flexibility in comparison to larger organisations. LinksDAO is another example of DAO propositions working (so far) when the idea of a DAO and community is at the roots of the proposition.

Karate Combat isn’t a 30-year-old sports league. 

They’re small, young, nimble and do things differently. They have a young audience who are digitally native.

There’s a far greater likelihood of an ‘early’ league or team like this executing a Web3 strategy successfully than it is a fan group taking over a 100-year-old sports team.

Many are excited by the likes of Nike, Adidas, Reddit, Amazon and Starbucks launching Web3 propositions and rightfully so. If they get it right (like Reddit have done so far), it shows the true power of this technology. Creating products or services that actually improve the user experience without the hyper-financialisation and volatility that many hate about crypto. On the other hand, the likes of Yuga Labs (Bored Ape parent company), Doodles and other Web3 native brands could also create propositions that gain a mass audience, using crypto from day one.

Karate Combat and GOALS are ‘inbetweeners’ here. They are building a league and game that are exciting, attracting a young audience, and are first and foremost good propositions - and adding a crypto element they feel can supercharge growth.

This blend of having a functioning business or idea that incorporates this nascent technology, and not being a jarring, ‘lipstick on a pig’ bolt-on has a higher chance of success than some of the lazy projects we’ve seen in sports thus far.

More Sports & Web3 Stories

  • Adidas and Pharrell Release Digital Clothing for Doodles NFT Holders (Link)

  • Angel City Launches "We Are L.A." NFT Collection with Crypto.com (Link)

  • NFL Rivals NFT Mobile Game Launches, Plans Move to Polkadot Blockchain (Link)

  • Roma suspend DigitalBits sponsorship due to missed payment (Link)

  • NFL ALL DAY (Video Moments) was ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ off target (Link)

  • ONE Championship partners with Animoca subsidiary for Web3 mobile game (Link)

  • BlockQuarry Announces Sponsorship of Zed Run Community Races (Link)

General ‘Stuff’ that Could Impact You

  • Hong Kong regulator requires banks to open accounts for crypto firms (Link)

  • Mike Seavers, Epic Games' EVP of Development (and former Riot Games CTO) leaves to join Yuga Labs (parent company of Bored Apes Yacht Club) as CTO (Link)

  • Ethereum has slashed its energy use by 99.99 per cent (Link)

  • Mastercard Teams Up With Aptos, Polygon, Avalanche, Solana to Strengthen Web3 Foothold (Link)

Thank you!

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