American footwear manufacturing company Nike, Inc. acquired London-based startup RTFKT, which has Bulgarian DNA and uses technology to create sneaker designs, memes, and collectibles. This news follows three rounds of investments for the UK startup, adding to over €8M, from Angel and VC investors, including American A16z, Galaxy Digital, and the GFR Fund.
RTFKT uses game engines, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), blockchain authentication, and augmented reality to create unique virtual products and experiences. Their goal is to redefine the boundaries of traditional products for the global community of creators.
John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE, Inc., shares in the press release that the company’s goal is to accelerate its digital transformation to serve athletes and creators in fields like sport and gaming. Nike will continue to invest in RTFKT to grow its innovative solution of next-generation collectibles.
“Since we started, we always looked up to NIKE with the goal to create the NIKE born on the Metaverse. 2 years later, a new chapter begins, proof that with passion, hard work, and the best people, you can achieve anything. Can’t wait for 2022,” shares Benoit Pagotto, RTFKT co-founder, on LinkedIn.
What can you do with NFT clothes?
RTFKT was launched in 2020 by Benoit Pagotto, Chris Le, and Steven Vasilev, who has Bulgarian and Russian roots. The startup is a creator-led organization, which means they curate artists to collaborate in developing physical and digital products that exist in the metaverse. The name comes from playing with the letters of “artifact”.
The founders, who are keeping their visual identities private, have previously worked for different game companies and fashion brands to provide designs and concepts to accelerate digital fashion on the metamarket.
Vasilev shares on his LinkedIn page that he is over 25 years old, has a background in business administration, and as CEO his responsibilities include marketing, sales, NFT and product strategy. He is also the co-founder of Box of Heat, a personal styling tool, and has become Senior Director of Product RTFKT at Nike. Pagotto has a background in arts and advertising and Chris Le has experience with digital media and film production.
Before the acquisition, RTFKT Studios had developed partnerships with different artists, like Fewocious, NFT sneakers which were sold for over $3M in 7 minutes. Over 600 pairs of sneakers were purchased with Ethereum cryptocurrency, but as these are NFT, they cannot be worn.
What a non-fungible token does is give you the right to show off your portfolio of digital assets. Digital clothes cannot be duplicated, you cannot own the copyright to an asset, but you might be able to wear them in the future as a virtual character in your favorite game.
This year has seen fashion NFTs rise from over $340M in sales in 2020 to over $10B in Q3 in 2021 so far. The most popular categories are collectibles and art.