Image: Space Runners

Space Runners announced a $10 million funding round on Monday in furtherance of its quest to offer up open-sourced fashion items as non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) in collaboration with artists and brands, and build out a larger platform for fashion in the metaverse. “Our goal is to build the first end-to-end fashion ecosystem on the blockchain,” Won Soh, who co-founded Space Runners alongside Deniz Özgür, said in a statement in connection with the seed round. The round was led by Pantera Capital and Polychain Capital, along with participation from Jump Crypto, Accel, Animoca Brands chairman Yat Siu, and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan. 

Founded in March 2021 with the aim of helping brands and famous figures to design NFTs that can be used across various virtual environments – from metaverse platforms and video games to social media, Space Runners launched its first collection with National Basketball Association stars Kyle Kuzma and Nick Young, selling 10,000 NBA Champions Sneaker Collection NFTs in a span of nine minutes in December 2021 – and generating $8 million in revenue in the process.

In addition to doubling-down on its initial NFT success in hopes of becoming “the largest supplier of interoperable fashion items for different metaverses and games,” Space Runners says that it will use the new cash – which brings its total funding to date to $30 million – to build out SPACEverse, “a fashion metaverse, incorporating a wear2earn economy.” On the SPACEverse platform, users will be able to “showcase fashionable NFTs, join events, interact, and play games with other users” in what the company is calling “the first fashion metaverse that brings community, brands and celebrities together.”

At the same time, the company is looking to boost its collaborations with fashion, music, sports, art, and web3 players, while also “enriching the Space Runner community.” 

Speaking about the Accel’s involvement in the round, Principal Pratik Agarwal stated that the firm is bullish on the metaverse and virtual fashion, as consumers “spend more time online as the digital world continues to envelop more of our daily lives,” and as “status symbols [have] also started appearing in the digital world.” Reflecting on Space Runners, in particular, Agarwal stated that the company “owns the means of production for online fashion, which allows them to help partners create fashion collections with lightning-fast turnaround,” and is “ pushing the boundaries on immersion experiences,” including by way of their “unique AR filter,” which allow users to “enhance their experience by virtually trying on their shoes and establishing a deeper connection with their digital fashion items.” 

Meanwhile, Pantera Capital partner Paul Veradittakit echoed this sentiment, asserting that “fashion will be just as, if not more, important in the metaverse than the real world.”

THE BIG PICTURE: The round comes as firms are pouring money into the metaverse and other web3 ventures, with more cash expected to be devoted to building out what many seemingly view as the future of the web. Among the “core categories” expected to drive metaverse-related funding in 2022 and beyond, according to CrunchBase, are “hardware, networking, computing power, payments, content and assets, and virtual platforms.” While most of the funding in this realm to date has gone into crypto and blockchain technology ventures, virtual platforms and product endeavors are likely to continue to draw attention and investment.

Not the only burgeoning player in the virtual fashion and NFT space, Space Runners’ rise follows from the success of fellow digitally-native entity RTFKT, which raised $8 million in May 2021 after netted $3.1 million in sales in a matter of minutes for the 621 pairs of virtual sneakers it created alongside artist Fewocious, and was since acquired by Nike in December.