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St. Pete company merges NFTs, fantasy sports

Mark Parker

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Own the Moment co-founders TJ Laessig (left) and Justin Herzig. Photos provided.

A St. Petersburg-based sports technology startup recently launched with the goal of becoming a Bloomberg-type resource for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), providing analytics and market insights for a burgeoning community.

Now, Own the Moment is marrying its NFT analytics platform with the lucrative and ever-growing world of fantasy sports.

Vancouver-based Dapper Labs launched NBA Top Shot in the summer of 2020, helping NFTs become a household name. Top Shot NFTs are akin to digital trading cards with added utility, to put it simply. Following endorsements by some of basketball’s biggest stars and mainstream recognition, Top Shop propelled Dapper Labs to a $2.6 billion valuation in less than a year.

Dapper Labs now enjoys licensing agreements and business relationships with the NBA, NFL, UFC and other professional leagues, and several of their top stars are also investors in the company. Justin Herzig, co-founder of Own the Moment (OTM), said he and his partner, TJ Laessig, built their analytics platform around Dapper Labs’ NFTs.

“Dapper Labs is one of our early investors,” said Herzig. “So, what we’ve built is for people who want to become better and smarter collectors.”

Similar to NBA Top Shot, OTM recently launched its NFL All Day NFT marketplace. Users can track price fluctuations for NFTs of players, peruse analytics and insights, buy and sell NFTs among the OTM community and track progress against other sets of players and teams. Herzig said it allows for a seamless and educated experience.

Despite several years of professional blockchain experience, Herzig said the co-founders were initially confused when they first heard of Top Shot. The partners then became critical, excited and finally, passionate about the new concept. Following that process of emotions, Herzig said they realized there was a large gap in the market.

“While we loved the idea of being able to own these digital collectibles, there was no content there,” said Herzig. “There was no one talking about it or helping you cross that path.”

Herzig compared the NFT space to fantasy sports. Herzig and Laessig were semi-professional fantasy sports players, with both winning prize pools in the six figures. Herzig noted the preponderance of self-proclaimed experts offering fantasy sports advice and analytics online. Physical sports trading cards also enjoy the same level of guidance and support.

Herzig and Laessig created a bi-weekly YouTube show to bring the burgeoning sports NFT community together and learn from each other. Herzig stressed the community aspect of OTM and said that informing and educating users to create an enjoyable experience is part of the company’s DNA.

“If you’re not making educated purchases,” he said, “if you don’t have confidence and conviction in your decisions, then, unfortunately, you’re probably going to have a poor experience.”

Herzig said their idea snowballed from there, and the duo added a podcast, and in January of 2021 they launched OTM’s analytics website. The website helps users realize the best time to buy or sell their collectibles.

OTM’s platform provides analytics and information on sports NFTs.

Herzig used Tom Brady as an example. When a company mints an NFT of Brady, perhaps only 25% of the collection is released at a time. Basic supply and demand principles dictate that when the other 75% becomes available, the value of the NFT will drop.

While Herzig called the analytics platform the company’s bread and butter, OTM launched a fantasy game around NFTs last August, The Owner’s Club (TOC). TOC allows collectors to use NFTs of professional athletes in fantasy sports games.

“Last year for the football season, we gave away over one and a half million dollars in prizes,” said Herzig.

Herzig explained that users buy a collection of a team’s position players, such as the Buccaneers’ wide receiver group. That helps compensate for injuries to star players that occur throughout a season. Players buy the packs, receive the NFTs and then use those players in free contests to win cash prizes.

Herzig said about 2,000 people signed up for TOC’s inaugural season, but OTM only minted 310 NFTs of the Bucs’ wide receivers. He said that creates a scarcity that drives the collection’s value, and players are free to buy, sell and trade those collections to fellow league members during the fantasy football season.

OTM invited all of the season’s weekly winners to Miami for a live season finale in January. Held at FTX Arena, home of the NBA’s Miami Heat, 16 players vied for a grand prize. For those that may have gotten lucky one week and made it to the finale, the event featured side games such as the lowball contest. This awarded prize money for the lowest score.

“All those contests were free and allowed you to kind of pick and choose your strategy,” said Herzig. “Overall, it was fantastic, and the community really loved it.”

Herzig envisions OTM and TOC as the future of Web3 fantasy sports. He said his and Laessig’s model is a proof of concept, and they are now putting their heads down to improve the experience.

Herzig admitted the onboarding experience into crypto and NFTs is challenging for some, and there are still complications to building on the blockchain for consumers.

“So, we’re trying to make that as easy an experience as possible,” he said. “Just like if you were to sign up for a new Google account.”

OTM attracts over 50,000 active monthly users, said Herzig, and the company plans to offer more games this summer in anticipation of football season. There are also plans for fantasy leagues covering the NBA and other sports.

 

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