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NBA Top Shot, which launched at the end of 2019, has more than a million registered accounts, and has seen more than US$780-million worth of sales across over 13 million transactions.The Associated Press

Blockchain entertainment company Dapper Labs has raised US$250-million to expand its platform that allows users to exchange virtual trading cards.

The Vancouver-based company operates NBA Top Shot, a website where users can buy and sell short video highlights, called “moments,” from National Basketball Association games. Moments are non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, unique digital assets that exist on the blockchain, and have exploded in popularity over the past year. NFT sales reached $2.5-billion in the first half of 2021, according to DappRadar, which tracks cryptocurrency analytics.

The capital raise was led by U.S. private equity fund Coatue Management LLC, and includes existing investors such as a16z, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Version One Ventures. According to media reports, the new financing round values Dapper at US$7.6-billion. The company raised US$305-million in March, at a reported US$2.6-billion valuation.

NBA Top Shot, which launched at the end of 2019, has more than a million registered accounts, and has seen more than US$780-million worth of sales across over 13 million transactions. The most coveted moments on the platform have sold for six-figure sums. The company is expanding into new sports leagues, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Women’s National Basketball Association. On Wednesday, Dapper announced a partnership with La Liga, Spain’s top-tier soccer league, to create digital collectibles.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what this new technology can do for people,” Dapper chief executive Roham Gharegozlou said in a press release. “We’re excited to partner with our incredible investors to scale NBA Top Shot and launch our upcoming titles as well.”

The investment comes in the same week that Sorare, a French fantasy soccer platform that uses NFTs, raised US$680-million at a US$4.3-billion valuation.

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Dapper is the latest in a string of Canadian companies to raise two significant venture capital financings within months in what is shaping up to be a record year for fundraising by Canadian technology companies.

The Dapper raise is the 33rd $100-million-plus venture capital financing this year by a Canadian company, according to market data provider Refinitiv. That blows past the previous full-year record of 12 set in 2019.

Canada has also seen a record number of technology IPOs since the start of the pandemic, while a growing number of Canadian technology companies are making foreign acquisitions, countering long-standing fears the domestic sector could be hollowed out by opportunistic buyers.

The Dapper funding is also another big win for Vancouver-based Version One Ventures, a seed fund that has bet big on the cryptocurrency and blockchain space and was an early investor in Dapper. Version One scored a windfall profit when cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. went public earlier this year.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Version One general partner Boris Wertz disclosed that all three of his firm’s funds – plus a special-purpose fund that invests in a handful of its top-performing portfolio companies – are on track to generate returns that are 10 times the amount of capital received from investors, net of management fees.

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