Web3 gaming company Unagi today announced a €4.7 million ($5 million) seed round as the French startup prepares to expand its NFT fantasy sports platform beyond football (“soccer”) and into the basketball realm.
Unagi, which does not yet have its own website, was founded in Paris by Charlie Guilmotson of Ubisoft co-founder Yves Guillemot and formerly a studio manager at Owlient, a free-to-play game studio acquired by Ubisoft back in 2011; And Remy Pellerinalso formerly of Owlient.
Both Guillemot and Pellerin left Owlient in 2021 to jump-start Unagi, as co-CEOs, launching their first game last April.
Ultimate champions, as their inaugural title is called, allows players to create and manage their own football teams with players from multiple clubs across the continent. To date, Unagi has signed contracts with some 45 clubs in Europe, including current title contenders Arsenal in the English Premier Leagueand the games within Ultimate Champions are synced to real matches allowing gamers to earn rewards based on the real-world performance of their chosen players.
As a self-proclaimed web3 company, these rewards contain an in-game currency called Champ Tokens which can be bought, earned and spent on the platform, as well as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in the form of digital player cards that can be collected and sold. Unagi takes a 5% commission from all financial transactions on the platform.
Unagi said its user base has now flown past 220,000, a trajectory crypto giant led Binance is investing $4 million in the startup back in November through its VC and accelerator off-shoot Binance Labs, though this constituted a private token sale rather than an equity investment – Binance purchased $4 million worth of Champ Tokens. At the same time, Binance also confirmed plans to stake Ultimate Champions on the Binance-led BNB Chain, something Unagi confirmed today quietly happened in late January.
Because of this traction, Unagi has entered into a partnership with the European basketball league EuroLeague and plans to introduce a basketball version of Ultimate Champions next month.
The latest cash injection of €4.7 million is fully equity-based and was led by Finnish venture capital firm Sisu Game Ventures, with participation from Sfermion, UOB Ventures, Signum Capital, 2B Ventures and Machame.
Earlier this past April, Unagi raised a pre-seed round of €1.5 million in equity from several VCs and angels, including the German international footballer Mario Gotze. And in late 2021, Unagi also completed a $1.7 million private token sale from crypto-focused investors such as Polygon and GSR.
So this effectively means that Unagi has raised a total of €6.1 million ($6.5 million) in equity funding and $5.7 million through token sales.
Of the 220,000 registered users, Pelleri said about 70,000 are actively playing each month — the vast majority through free play, rather than paying for in-game assets. But he was quick to emphasize that it is still very early days, and with the new cash injection, the company plans to grow its international team from 25 to 40 employees and enter into partnerships with more sports clubs and leagues.
In addition, there is room to expand beyond sports into the wider gaming sphere in the future. What form that ultimately takes isn’t clear, whether it’s a role-playing game, a first-person shooter, or something else entirely.
“What’s really cool about web3 is 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 told australiabusinessblog.com. “Any type of existing game can be turned into web3, because the essence of web3 gaming is ownership, of in-game assets, and that’s what we’re exploring.”