Article

Courtyard: Creating a World of Connected Collectibles

by Alex Sharata and Jonathan Golden

Courtyard redefines collectibles ownership through NFTs

At NEA, we have been long-time believers in backing platforms that help bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds in novel ways—an important trend that has given rise to an exciting crop of companies and associated business models. Over the years, NEA has been fortunate to back category-defining companies in and around this theme, including: Opendoor, Patreon, Genies, MasterClass, and countless others. It’s a trend that continues to catalyze new opportunities, especially as we transition into a web3-centric world characterized by decentralization.

When looking into areas that will be heavily impacted by the web3 evolution, physical collectibles are not likely the first thing that comes to mind. However, the realm of collectibles is not all fallen Beanie Babies and Happy Meal toys—it is a $400B+ global market [i] (ranging from baseball cards to exotic cars and everything in between) that’s been plagued by shipping delays, scams, and lost items and hasn’t seen much digital innovation since the introduction of eBay in the nineties. So, when we met Courtyard founders Nicolas le Jeune and Paulin Andurand and heard about their future-focused vision of redefining collectibles ownership through NFTs, our interest was piqued.

Courtyard founders Paulin Andurand and Nicolas le JeunePaulin Andurand and Nicolas le Jeune

At its core, Courtyard bridges the offline and online worlds by redefining asset ownership entirely, allowing brands and collectors to turn physical assets into redeemable NFTs known as “Connected Collectibles.” Courtyard provides the infrastructure to securely tokenize physical assets into Connected Collectibles, a type of NFT that allows users to own collectibles on the block chain. The physical collectibles are stored in secured vaults and a corresponding NFT is created for each asset. The NFT is a 3D model—or “digital twin”—that acts as a voucher to redeem the underlying asset at any time. Through Courtyard, users can:

  1. Safely convert their trading cards, watches, and more into Connected Collectibles that earn 1% of every subsequent sale

  2. Trade physically-backed Connected Collectibles on NFT marketplaces (e.g. OpenSea)

  3. Hold their valued collectibles as NFTs on chain

  4. Dissolve (or burn) an NFT on Courtyard’s platform to redeem the underlying asset (pending KYC and identity verification); Courtyard ships corresponding collectibles globally

  5. Display 3D “digital twins” of their valued, verified collections in the metaverse and connect with other collectors and communities

Courtyard makes it incredibly simple for anyone to move their physical assets, primarily collectibles, on chain—which is really powerful for unlocking new ways of owning and trading physical assets.

Thanks to the blockchain's transparency users can also discover new markets, bid on hidden physical collections they never knew existed, connect with likeminded collectors, and trade like never before. Since the physical assets behind Connected Collectibles are vaulted until redeemed, the friction and fees associated with trading in the physical world are removed—i.e. no more shipping/packaging, third party intermediaries, or sales tax on vaulted transactions.

Courtyard partners with Brink's, the largest security provider in the world, to secure the assets backing the NFTs. Every collectible is authenticated by experts, insured, and secured in a Brink’s vault, granting collectors confidence in the safety of their assets while they collect and trade. Brink's provides automatic authenticity verification on the blockchain at every transaction without third party fees. This is a huge win for all types of collectors across the globe.

Another interesting feature enabled by Courtyard is that its NFTs are instantly tradable across continents and enable access to global marketplaces, creating additional liquidity. Courtyard’s assets can be bought or sold on any NFT trading platforms, such as OpenSea or recently launched Courtyard marketplace, but the assets themselves are physical and have a deterministic location in the world that Courtyard manages in partnership with Brink’s—which creates a fascinating new paradigm in the NFT landscape.

We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Nico and Paulin and are thrilled to have led Courtyard’s $7M Seed funding. We look forward to working with the team as they redefine the traditional model for asset ownership and pioneer the market for Collected Connectibles.

Courtyard is hiring rockstar engineers. Want to join the Courtyard team? Apply HERE and follow them on LinkedIn / Twitter.

Join the waitlist HERE if you’re interested in turning one of your physical assets into a Connected Collectible.


[i] https://www.marketdecipher.com/report/collectibles-market

The information provided in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be investment advice, or recommendation, or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any fund or investment vehicle managed by NEA or any other NEA entity. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) is a registered investment adviser with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, nothing in this post should be interpreted to suggest that the SEC has endorsed or approved the contents of this post. NEA has no obligation to update, modify, or amend the contents of this post nor to notify readers in the event that any information, opinion, forecast or estimate changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate or outdated. In addition, certain information contained herein has been obtained from third-party sources and has not been independently verified by NEA. The companies featured in this post are for illustrative purposes only, have been selected in order to provide an example of the types of investments made by NEA that fit the theme of this post and are not representative of all NEA portfolio companies. The company founders or executives or any other individuals featured or quoted in this post are not compensated, directly or indirectly, by NEA but may be founders or executives of portfolio companies NEA has invested in through funds managed by NEA and its affiliates. Any statements made by founders, investors, portfolio companies, or others in the post or on other third-party websites referencing this post are their own, and are not intended to be an endorsement of the investment advisory services offered by NEA.
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About the authors

Alex Sharata

Alex joined NEA in 2020 and is a Principal focused on growth-stage investments across enterprise, fintech, and consumer. Prior to NEA, Alex was an investor at Vista Equity Partners, focused on mature enterprise software companies. Alex previously co-founded mobile app security company Fractal, which was eventually acquired. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BS in computer science and economics. While in college, he was also an investor at A-Level Capital, a venture fund backing Hopkins students, alumni, and faculty.
Alex joined NEA in 2020 and is a Principal focused on growth-stage investments across enterprise, fintech, and consumer. Prior to NEA, Alex was an investor at Vista Equity Partners, focused on mature enterprise software companies. Alex previously co-founded mobile app security company Fractal, which was eventually acquired. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BS in computer science and economics. While in college, he was also an investor at A-Level Capital, a venture fund backing Hopkins students, alumni, and faculty.

Jonathan Golden

Jonathan Golden is a Partner at NEA, where he focuses on consumer, marketplaces, fintech, and application-layer software. He leads NEA's investments in Ledge, Ledgy, Metabase, and Patreon. Before joining NEA, Jonathan was Director of Product at Airbnb. Prior to Airbnb, Jonathan worked in product at both Dropbox and HubSpot, and was a venture investor at Greylock Partners. Jonathan holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Stanford.
Jonathan Golden is a Partner at NEA, where he focuses on consumer, marketplaces, fintech, and application-layer software. He leads NEA's investments in Ledge, Ledgy, Metabase, and Patreon. Before joining NEA, Jonathan was Director of Product at Airbnb. Prior to Airbnb, Jonathan worked in product at both Dropbox and HubSpot, and was a venture investor at Greylock Partners. Jonathan holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Stanford.