Patrick Comer, who sold his market research company Lucid for more than $1 billion last year, says it was an early love for Dungeons & Dragons that led him to his last investment in a New Orleans startup.
On Tuesday, Comer announced his participation in a $2.5 million investment round for Gripnr, which creates online strategy games like Dungeons & Dragons using one of Comer’s and the tech industry’s latest obsessions: blockchain technology.
Blockchain, a much talked about but little understood form of distributed online recordkeeping, will be the next wave of technology to spawn behemoths like Amazon and Facebook, Comer said. And it could give New Orleans another chance to expand its tech footprint.
“We went through the same kind of digital transformation from 1995 to 2000, with a similar vibe, lots of money entering the space and lots of confusion about what it all meant,” he said in a broad interview.
New Orleans didn’t see any real internet-based businesses emerge from that first wave until the mid-2000s, he said. After more than a decade of creating an ecosystem in the city to support tech companies, Comer says there’s no excuse this time around: “The only way to go wrong is to not get involved.”
A ‘Nieux Society’
Comer is now part of a group of several hundred local tech entrepreneurs, financiers, artists, musicians and other civic boosters, who are joining the Nieux Society, a new blockchain-focused initiative from Tim Williamson, former CEO of The Village of Ideas. Local developer Zach Kupperman is also involved in the venture.
It will soon have a physical base of operations in the old Eiffel building on Avenue Saint-Charles, which was built in the 1980s from parts harvested by a local entrepreneur from a restaurant that was once part of the Tower. Eiffel in Paris.
The club will officially launch in a few weeks with the sale of 504 founding memberships in the form of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, and it will occupy the 12,500 square foot Eiffel premises. Big Freedia and jazz-funk band Galactic have created a song for the club’s launch and they will be included as inaugural members, as will writer and historian Walter Isaacson.
Williamson describes the concept of Nieux Society as a place where entrepreneurs, investors, artists, and musicians can meet to share ideas and find backers for blockchain-related projects like Gripnr.
“It’s a physical space where people looking to connect with this new technology and be financially rewarded can meet, while reflecting on how the city can be a forward-looking part of its development.” said Williamson, who served as president of NOLA Media Group. from 2016 to 2018, before being acquired by Dathel and John Georges in 2019.
The founding members will participate in the development of the space and the programming of the building and the courtyard. The number of members is expected to increase to 10,000 in an upcoming edition of NFT, he said.
Comer admits the new technology can be confusing to the uninitiated.
Blockchain is best known as the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that allows masses of computers to establish ownership and log transactions. While cryptocurrencies are uniform, NFTs, on the other hand, are unique individual items, but blockchains can still be used to establish ownership and perform other functions.
Comer argues that blockchain is as important a development in creating a new kind of market as the first wave of the internet. But it will take time to see how, he said.
let the games begin
Gripnr will launch its first game, The Glimmering, in May and create a gallery of 10,000 individually drawn characters with characteristics such as their own ancestry and skills. The idea is to enhance the player experience of Dungeons & Dragons, a strategy board game that has spawned an entire industry of tabletop and online fantasy role-playing games since its inception half a century ago. He has a committed following of players from all over the world.
NFTs will allow owners to store their play histories and potentially their value could increase over time.
Among the investors in Gripnr’s initial investment round is musician and entrepreneur Brent McCrossen, who will serve as the company’s CEO. Kyle Mortensen, musician and advertising creative director will be Gripnr’s creative director. Stephen Radney-MacFarland, creator of the Dungeons & Dragons game and former developer of the Wizards of the Coast game, is also an investor.
“Gripnr was created to support gamers, game masters, artists and game designers who have created (tabletop role-playing games) over the past 50 years,” McCrossen said in a statement announcing the funding. . “We’re focused on building an active, respectful, and super awesome community of tabletop game fans and NFT collectors who want to join our vision of bringing (5th edition) gameplay to the blockchain,” it said. -he declares.
Besides local angel investors, other investors included XBTO Humla Ventures, a leading Web3 venture capital fund, Sopris Capital, Voodoo Ventures, Better Angels, Abstraction Ventures and Carl Sparks, managing partner of Interlock.
Gambling has been a focus of economic development agencies such as GNO Inc. and Louisiana Economic Development looking to attract tech companies to the area. The decision last year by Jeff Strain, a big name in video game development, to start his latest venture in New Orleans was seen as a milestone for the development of the industry.
“Gripnr is laying the groundwork…(and) will be a flagship” in the wave of blockchain game development as it facilitates the development of other games based on their platform, Michael Hecht said.