CNBC Disruptor 50

9. Dapper Labs

Founders: Roham Gharegozlou (CEO), Mik Nayeem, Dieter Shirley
Launched: 2018
Headquarters: Vancouver
Funding:
$650 million
Valuation: $7.6 billion
Key technologies:
Blockchain, decentralized finance (DeFi)
Industry:
Fintech, Gaming
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Persephone Kavallines

Despite ongoing market volatility, investors are chasing the next big thing in crypto.

Dapper Labs made its way onto the scene by way of its NBA Top Shot platform, which lets users trade and collect basketball highlights in the form of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. The highlights, or "moments," are licensed by the NBA, which receives royalties on each transaction. It counts basketball legends Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant among its more notable early investors.

The Vancouver-based company has also developed its own blockchain designed for NFTs, called Flow. It previously relied on Ethereum for platform sales, but shifted away from that network after its popular digital pet game CryptoKitties in 2017 led to slower transaction processing. It's currently in the process of migrating CryptoKitties to Flow.

Dapper Labs says its mission is to "drive mainstream adoption of decentralized technologies where everything is transparent, auditable, and accessible to everyone."

NFTs are tradable assets that keep track of who owns a certain digital item — say, a work of art, or video game avatar — on the blockchain, largely purchased with cryptocurrency. They entered mainstream consciousness in a big way last year. In fact, sales of nonfungible tokens jumped to more than $17 billion in 2021, according to a report from NFT data company Nonfungible.com. The study, developed with BNP Paribas-owned research firm L'Atelier, said trading in NFTs hit $17.6 billion last year, reflecting an eye-watering 21,000% surge from 2020′s total of $82 million.

Dapper Labs recently unveiled a partnership with LaLiga, Spain's top soccer league, to introduce a similar experience to NBA Top Shot for soccer fans.

For years, crypto critics have maligned the world's shift toward digital currency for "proof-of-work" mining, which requires sophisticated gear and a whole lot of electricity.

"Unlike other blockchains, we designed Flow to be the cleanest and most energy efficient alternative, where minting an NFT on Flow emits less carbon than posting on a social network," Dapper Labs told CNBC.

The company secured $250 million in September that valued it at $7.5 billion. The company said it plans to invest part of the fresh cash into new experiences, like paid trips and big sporting events.

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