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Aglet has taken a step further toward its “sneakerverse” — a metaverse for sneaker superfans. Aglet said today it is using blockchain-based nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to create one-of-a-kind virtual sneaker collectibles.
The sneaker startup wants to create a metaverse for commerce that combines sneakers, shopping, and games. (The metaverse is the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.) And it’s targeting sneakerheads, the biggest fans of collecting tennis and basketball shoes.
Back in December, the company raised a new round of funding. To date, it has raised $7 million since late 2019. It investors include Sapphire Sport, Lakestar Ventures, Forecast Ventures, and angel investors Matt Miesnieks (6D.ai, Niantic Labs), Nate Mitchell (cofounder of Oculus and Mountaintop Studios), and Greg Castle (Anorak Ventures).
CEO Ryan Mullins, who started the company in 2018 with Owen Batt, said in an earlier interview that the company is gamifying shopping experiences for sneakerheads.
Mullins is a self-described sneakerhead, and he owns hundreds of pairs of shoes that he has been collecting since he was 10. He previously served as director of future trends at Adidas, where he led the innovation strategy.
When it comes to shoes, Aglet has built a platform for existing brands to plug into and for the next generation of sneaker creators to design virtual streetwear and brands. The vision is to give them their own virtual retail shop inside the gaming world and bring their designs into reality.
Sneakerheads rarely land their desired products in real life, owing to malicious shopping bots that scalpers use and the overall increased global demand for what ultimately is a limited product. Aglet has created a gamified alternative that offers these passionate consumers a chance to earn in-game currency, compete against other players around the world, and collect virtual sneakers in a game environment. Like with Pokémon Go, you walk around with the app running while you have your shoes on. And it records how much you’ve traveled in your shoes.
You can walk around in your virtual sneakers, but they can wear out. So you’re going to need buy more with your virtual cash. Your sneakers can get dirty, so you have to go to a geo-fenced station in the real world to clean or repair them. You can also find treasure stashes where you might get lucky and find a limited-edition sneaker. You can also get goods from other brands like Adidas or Gucci.
Aglet is trying to create products at the intersection of gaming, fashion, software, and media. In doing so, the company wants to change how people interact with brands in both the virtual and physical worlds.
Over time, Mullins says, Aglet will start making shoes. His company is already partnering with an Italian company to do that.
Aglet has a new collections feature, and it will unveil its NFT collection in the future. Presumably, fans will make money by trading those collectibles, including the unique NFTs which can be proven by the blockchain, the secure digital ledger technology, to not be copies.
In the past few months, NFTs have exploded in other applications such as art, sports collectibles, and music. NBA Top Shot (a digital take on collectible basketball cards) is one example. Published by Animoca Brands and built by Dapper Labs, NBA Top Shot has surpassed $500 million in sales, five months after going public to a worldwide audience. And an NFT digital collage by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million. Investors are pouring money into NFTs, and some of those investors are game fans.
Last week Aglet released a much-requested Collections feature in its iOS App, designed to allow in-game players to collect and display their favorite virtual sneakers in the same way they aim to do in the physical world.
Launching a special Collection with actual NFTs as rewards returns Aglet to its roots. Three years ago the company, then just an idea and some early prototypes, was called “Sneakercrypt” and sought to put virtual sneakers on the blockchain. However, Aglet elected to focus less on NFTs and more on an experience in which NFTs, digital assets, and new commerce and creation experiences can achieve utility. In a statement, Mullins said it’s very cool to see the NFT space explode, and he is thrilled to be an active participant in something quite new and still in its infancy.
“We think we have an experience that can provide some utility and democratize access to NFTs,” Mullins said. “That’s why Aglet is celebrating the release of our Collections feature with the announcement of an in-game contest with a reward of Aglet’s first NFTs.”
Players will compete to find virtual sneakers placed at geo-fenced real-world locations using the in-game Aglet map as well as in the Aglet shop using in-game currency earned solely through walking.
They will have to explore their outside world and use Aglet’s in-app metaverse to complete a special collection of three in-game sneakers. The first 50 players to complete this set will receive a serialized, minted NFT for each of the three sneakers they collected. The NFT will be delivered to the crypto wallet of their choice. The first player to complete the collection will also get an additional one-of-one sneaker NFT.
Aglet has gone with a “proof of hustle” model, where people can earn assets through physical activity.
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