Web3 gaming business Unagi announced a €4.7 million ($5 million) seed round of funding today, as the French startup plans to extend its NFT fantasy sports platform beyond football (“soccer”) and into the field of basketball.
Charlie Guillemot, son of Ubisoft co-founder Yves Guillemot and former studio manager at Owlient, a free-to-play gaming firm bought by Ubisoft in 2011; and Remi Pellerin launched Unagi, which does not yet have its own website, from Paris.
Guillemot and Pellerin departed Owlient in 2021 to form Unagi as co-CEOs, and they released their debut game in April of this year.
Ultimate Champions, the game’s debut release, allows users to design and manage their own football teams utilizing players from a variety of clubs across the continent. The games within Ultimate Champions are synchronized with real matches, allowing players to gain incentives depending on their chosen players’ actual performances.
As a self-proclaimed web3 enterprise, these benefits include an in-game currency called Champ Tokens that can be purchased, earned, and spent on the platform, as well as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in the form of collectible digital player cards. Unagi charges a 5% fee on all financial transactions conducted on the platform.
Unagi reported that its user base has now surpassed 220,000, a trajectory that prompted crypto giant Binance to invest $4 million in the startup in November via its VC and accelerator offshoot Binance Labs, though this constituted a private token sale, rather than an equity investment — Binance purchased $4 million in Champ Tokens. Meanwhile, Binance also announced plans to deploy Ultimate Champions on the Binance-led BNB Chain, which Unagi stated occurred in late January in a stealthy manner.
In response to this success, Unagi has formed a collaboration with the European basketball league EuroLeague and will release a basketball version of Ultimate Champions next month.
Its most recent funding injection of €4.7 million is wholly equity-based and was led by Finnish early-stage VC firm Sisu Game Ventures, with participation from Sfermion, UOB Ventures, Signum Capital, and 2B Ventures.
Previously, in April of last year, Unagi raised €1.5 million in pre-seed equity capital from a number of VCs and angel investors, including German national footballer Mario Gotze. In addition, late in 2021, Unagi concluded a $1.7 million private token offering to crypto-focused investors including Polygon and GSR.
So, Unagi has effectively raised €6.1 million ($6.5 million) in equity investment and $5.7 million through token sales.
Around 70,000 of its 220,000 registered players play actively each month, according to Pelleri; the great majority do so without paying for in-game assets. But, he was keen to point out that it is still very early days, and that the company wants to increase its international team from 25 to 40 employees and build collaborations with more sports clubs and leagues with its recent cash injection.
In addition, there is potential for expansion beyond sports into the entire gaming industry in the future. It is unclear whether this will ultimately be a role-playing game, first-person shooter, or something else different.
“What’s really cool about web3 is that it’s super early, the industry hasn’t really found a compelling business model yet, there’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of experimentation,” Pelleri stated. “Any type of existing game can be transformed into web3, because the essence of web3 gaming is ownership, of in-game assets, and that’s what we’re exploring.”