Andreessen Horowitz has just invested in StarStock, an NYC tech startup that is seeking to transform a decidedly un-techie American pastime: sports card trading. The round amounts to $8 million total, and has participation form several angel investors including NBA All-Star Trae Young and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan.
Traditionally, sports card trading has either been done in person or on sites like eBay, but the whole process is very inefficient. The cards have to be packaged individually in penny sleeves, and completing a trade can take days or even weeks due to slow shipping times. Plus, handling physical cards is a huge liability — they can get damaged or lost, rendering them useless.
StarStock’s co-founder and CEO Scott Greenberg is all too familiar with these inefficiencies. He collected sports cards as a kid, attending fairs and card shows with his dad and brother, but moved onto fantasy sports and sports betting as a teen and adult. He started collecting and trading cards again just a few years ago, thinking it could be just another way to make some money. But he quickly fell back in love with it.
“I figured out pretty quickly that I thought it was a better opportunity than playing fantasy sports and sports betting. I thought it was more fun, and it really felt like you owned the athletes, which is pretty cool,” Greenberg told Built In. “But I noticed that there was a lot of friction on eBay that was keeping a lot of other people similar to me from getting into the space.”
So, he and his co-founders Nigel Eccles and Mike Kuchera created StarStock to be the middleman, handling all the things sellers don’t want to. If a user wants to sell 100 cards, all they have to do is put them in a box and ship them to StarStock, which then authenticates the cards, takes all the photos and lists them on the site. All the seller has to do is sit back, wait for their cards to sell and collect the money.
Basically, StarStock serves as a “stock market for sports cards,” as Greenberg puts it.
“People can trade these sports cards, essentially, like they’re a stock of athletes,” Greenberg said. “Just like you can buy 200 shares of Tesla, we want you to be able to buy 200 shares of LeBron in one transaction.”
Like the stock market, all of this can be done instantaneously on StarStock’s platform. Essentially, users can day trade players’ cards as they watch the game, without having to physically send the cards themselves because each card has been digitized. This has the potential to be a big moneymaker, with some cards costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on the sport and player.
StarStock is also useful for the folks who like to collect cards rather than trade them, thanks to its up-to-date market data.
“We’re a great site for collectors to fill gaps in their collections,” Greenberg said. “The other thing is, collectors love showing off their collection to friends and family, or whoever. We enable them to basically carry their collection around with them on their phone, rather than having an old box of cards in their bedroom or attic or something.”
So far, StarStock’s method appears to be resonating with users. Since the company’s founding in 2019, more than 600,000 cards have been traded on its platform, and Greenberg says tens of thousands of cards are being added to the marketplace weekly. Between November of 2020 and January of 2021 alone, the business grew 5x in nearly every category including sales, member signups and card submissions.
Interestingly, Greenberg says a lot of this growth can be attributed to the pandemic. For months professional sports weren’t being played at all, and now games are either closed to the public or have extremely limited capacity, altering the way fans watch and interact with the teams and players they love.
“Us sports fans, we’re not just going to stop sports, right? You’re looking for other forms of entertainment. And sports cards [trading] was one of the things that really started taking off,” Greenberg said.
There is still a lot of work to be done, though. Greenberg says this fresh funding will be used to further build out the platform in order to make trading “as easy as feeling like you’re buying a player.” Plus, to keep up with rising demand, the company plans to grow its team, especially in card processing.
Jonathan Lai, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz’s consumer investing team, will also be joining StarStock’s board of directors.
“As a trading card enthusiast myself, it was clear to me from the start that StarStock founders Scott, Nigel and Mike are incredibly passionate about sports cards as both consumers and industry veterans,” Lai said in a statement provided to Built In. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with then on a journey to build the stock market for athletes.”