Stacked gets $13M to be the Twitch for web3 gamers

Few areas in tech today are as polarized as the blockchain gaming space. Legacy developers and gamers are calling play-to-earn games Ponzi schemes, while crypto-believers say games that incorporate “tokenomics” are the future for empowering players and creators.

Before the debate is settled, the ecosystem around blockchain games is already getting built and funded.

Los Angeles-based Stacked, co-founded by serial entrepreneur Alex Lin, is making a video streaming platform for gaming content — basically Twitch for web3 users, the founder and CEO told TechCrunch. The idea is to turn creators into shareholders of the platform by giving them governance tokens, a model that will “align the interests of content operators and creators for the first time,” Lin suggested.

Creators won’t need to be crypto-savvy to use the service. The platform, available on both mobile and desktop, will look similar to a conventional video streaming platform, Lin said. Tokens will be awarded based on performance metrics, and the management team will ensure Stacked is always majority owned by creators rather than investors.

Stacked’s vision has attracted a group of investors to pump $12.9 million into its Series A funding round. Pantera Capital, which made its name by investing in digital assets and crypto ventures early on, led the financing.

Other institutional investors include Z Venture Capital, a merger between LINE Ventures, which is associated with the Japanese messaging giant LINE, and YJ Capital, the owner of Yahoo! Japan. GFR Fund, owned by Japan’s mobile gaming firm GREE, also participated.

Alexandr Wang, founder of Scale AI, Eddy Lu, CEO of GOAT, and Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus and Nothing, joined in as angel investors.

Lin didn’t set out to develop Stacked for the crypto crowd, but Pantera Capital convinced the founder that blockchain will play a critical role in next-gen mobile games. The founder remains skeptical of certain P2E games that tend to exploit users, but he’s bullish that high-quality titles will eventually emerge, akin to how free-to-play went from a widely despised monetization strategy to a genre with successful hits.

Infused with fresh capital, one-year-old Stacked is reconfiguring its video streaming service with crypto and NFT features. It’s scheduled to launch in North America in December before entering Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Though the Series A round is a purely financial raise, it’s not hard to see potential synergies between Stacked and some of its investors. LINE, for instance, has a solid user base across Southeast Asia that can benefit Stacked’s expansion, and Nothing, the buzzy Android phone maker, has shown a strong interest in NFTs. Aside from its content streaming service, Stacked is also working on an NFT profile picture project that is targeting “gaming and streetwear enthusiasts.”

Having founded two ventures before — YC-backed mobile gaming company LVL6 and social shopping mobile app Hush — Lin has seen enough market ups and downs to not fret too much over the current crypto bear market. “We’ve definitely seen company valuations compressed for now,” the founder said. “But prices are being normalized.”

Foot Locker invests $100 million in GOAT Group

Foot Locker, the mostly mall-bound retailer of mass market sneakers, has invested $100 million in the sneaker marketplace and retailer of primarily rare and exclusive high-end athletic and lifestyle shoes, GOAT Group.

The companies said that the investment would eventually lead to Foot Locker and Goat Group combining their efforts across their digital and physical retail platforms.

GOAT said in a statement that the company would use the investment to accelerate its global operations, expand its omnichannel experience and its technologies.


IT Manager Clint Arndt, CEO Eddy Lu

In an interview, GOAT co-founder and chief product officer declined to disclose the company’s valuation, its revenues, how sales break down across geographic regions, or how it will work with Foot Locker going forward.

In 2018 several top sellers on GOAT sold over $10 million worth of sneakers up from $2 million in 2017, according to the company. GOAT Group now counts over 600 employees, up from 200 a year ago, with 12 million users currently active on the platform. That figure is up massively from last year when 2.5 million folks were on the platform.

Over the same period GOAT boosted its sneaker listings to 750,000 from 200,000 and now has 150,000 vendors selling to over 12 million customers. With growth like that no wonder Foot Locker wants a sip of that GOAT stew.

“At Foot Locker we are constantly looking at new ways to elevate our customer experience and bring sneaker and youth culture to people around the world,” said Richard Johnson, Foot Locker, Inc.’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement. “We are excited to leverage GOAT Group’s technology to further innovate the sneaker buying experience and utilize their best-in-class online marketplace to help meet the ever-growing global demand for the latest product. Together, Foot Locker and GOAT Group’s shared commitment to trust and authenticity in the sneaker industry will provide consumers with unparalleled experiences and diversified offerings.”

One savvy online observer commented that the deal was the equivalent of Blockbuster investing in Netflix back when that now-defunct video rental service was still in its waning days, before it became obsolete.

“In 2015, we pioneered the ship-to-verify model with a mission to bring a seamless and safe customer experience to the secondary sneaker market,” said Eddy Lu, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GOAT Group. “With over 3,000 retail locations, Foot Locker will support our primarily digital presence with physical access points worldwide, bringing more value to our community of buyers and sellers. Having Foot Locker as a strategic partner will also expand our business as we continue to scale our operations both domestically and internationally.”

Last year, GOAT raised $60 million as it announced its largest strategic move to date — acquiring the physical retailer Flight Club to begin pushing into real-world in-store experiences.

Scott Martin is joining the GOAT Group’s board of directors and extends Foot Locker’s investments in startup companies and brands, which already included the women’s luxury activewear brand Carbon38; tactical play and children’s lifestyle brand Super Heroic; and footwear design academy PENSOLE.

GOAT has raised $197.6 million since it was launched it 2015. The company competes with other vendors like Stock X.

In an interview with Highsnobiety, NPD Group senior sports industry advisor Matt Powell said, “The sneaker resale market has been disruptive to the primary market. Foot Locker is investing in that disruption and believes that the resale market will continue to grow and its wants a piece of that growth.”