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.
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:
Safely convert their trading cards, watches, and more into Connected Collectibles that earn 1% of every subsequent sale
Trade physically-backed Connected Collectibles on NFT marketplaces (e.g. OpenSea)
Hold their valued collectibles as NFTs on chain
Dissolve (or burn) an NFT on Courtyard’s platform to redeem the underlying asset (pending KYC and identity verification); Courtyard ships corresponding collectibles globally
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.
Join the waitlist HERE if you’re interested in turning one of your physical assets into a Connected Collectible.