Patrick Comer, who sold his market research firm Lucid for more than $ 1 billion last year, says it was an early love affair with the Dungeons & Dragons that led him to his latest investment in a New Orleans startup that combines fantasy role-playing games. with his latest. occupation: blockchain technology.
Comer is one of a group of New Orleans investors who have been joined by national venture capital firms to invest $ 2.5 million in Gripnr. A New Orleans-based startup, Gripnr is creating a digital platform that will allow Dungeons & Dragons fans to use NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to store their gameplay details on the blockchain.
Dungeons & Dragons, a strategy board game that spawned an entire industry of fantasy role-playing games on tabletops and online since its inception half a century ago, has a dedicated following of players around the world.
Blockchains and NFTs are new technologies that allow networking of computers to establish ownership and allow the exchange of online assets. The draw for the new platform, Comer explains, is that the NFTs will allow gameplay stories to be saved. The NFTs can also potentially grow in value over time.
Let the doctors begin
Games have been the focus of financial development agencies like GNO Inc. and Louisiana Economic Development, which wants to attract technology companies to the area. The decision last year by Jeff Strain, a big name in video game development, to start his latest business in New Orleans was seen as a milestone for the sector’s development.
“Gripnr lays the foundation … (and) will be a groundbreaking product” in the blockchain wave of game development as it facilitates the development of other games based on their platform, said Michael Hecht, CEO of GNO Inc.
The new venture is part of what Comer sees as an opportunity for New Orleans to be at the forefront of the development of blockchain-based businesses, especially those based on entertainment and creative arts.
Other investors in Gripnr include the musician and entrepreneur Brent McCrossen, who will be the company’s CEO. Kyle Mortensen, musician and advertising creative director, will be Gripnr’s creative director. Dungeons & Dragons game creator and former Wizards of the Coast game developer Stephen Radney-MacFarland is also an investor.
Spring for “The Glimmering”
Gripnr plans to launch its first game, “The Glimmering”, and the first NFT collection in May.
“Gripnr was created to support the players, game masters, artists and game designers who have been making (role-playing games for tabletops) for the past 50 years,” McCrossen said in a release announcing the funding. “We are focused on building an active, respectful and super amazing community of board game fans and NFT collectors who want to join our vision of bringing (5th edition) gameplay to the blockchain,” he said.
In addition to the local angel investors, others who invested in the $ 2.5 million round for Gripnr, XBTO Humla Ventures, a prominent Web3 venture fund, Sopris Capital, Voodoo Ventures, Better Angels, Abstraction Ventures and Carl Sparks, Managing Partner at Interlock.
Comer is also part of a new blockchain-focused initiative by Tim Williamson, former CEO of Idea Village, called the Nieux Society. It is a member club that has taken over the old Eiffel Society building on St. Charles Avenue and will formally launch in a few weeks with the sale of 504 founding memberships in the form of NFTs.
Williamson describes the Nieux Society concept 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 who want to connect with this new technology and be financially rewarded can meet while thinking about how the city can be a forward-looking part of its development,” Williamson said.
Opposite the Pontchartrain Hotel in the Lower Garden District, the Eiffel Society building is a unique 12,500-square-foot structure built in the 1980s from a deconstructed restaurant that had been part of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Members include Comer and other tech entrepreneurs who have recently sold their businesses and are looking for new investment opportunities. Also artists like Big Freedia and the jazz-funk band Galactic, who together have created a launch song for the Nieux Society, will be members, as well as the author and historian Walter Isaacson.
Comer admits the new technology can be confusing for the uninitiated.
“We went through the same kind of digital transformation from 1995 to 2000, with a similar vibe, a lot of money coming into the room, and a lot of confusion about what it all meant,” he said.
New Orleans did not see any real internet-based businesses come out of that wave until the mid-2000s. About the latest blockchain-based wave, Comer said, “The only way you can mess with it is not to get involved.”