The Jordans have launched Heir Inc., a new holding company that plans to build a consumer-facing community platform for athletes to connect with fans — as well as other lines of business, including an entertainment studio and consumer products. (“Heir,” of course, is a play on the Air Jordan brand at Nike.)
The company was co-founded by Jeffrey Jordan (above left) along with marketing exec Daniel George (above middle), founder of agency Limitless Creative, and Jeron Smith (above right), former CEO/co-founder of Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media.
Heir Inc.’s first tech product, called “Heir” (heir.app), is envisioned as a Web3 personalized community platform for athletes. For the Heir product, the startup closed a $10.6 million seed funding round led by Thrive Capital, marking the venture-capital firm’s foray into NFTs (and its largest seed investment ever). Investments also came from Solana Ventures, the investment arm of public blockchain platform Solana, along with angel investors including tech entrepreneur and investor Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit), New York Knicks EVP and senior basketball adviser William Wesley and Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball.
Here’s how the founders say the Heir platform will work: Athletes will sell a limited number of membership-based “seats” to fans, who will get access to digital assets and first-person NFT drops, using an exclusive Heir token built on Solana’s energy-efficient blockchain network. (NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, are used to verify ownership of unique digital content.) Supporters will have the opportunity to purchase one-time digital assets or join an athlete’s “huddle” for exclusive drops, digital goods, immersive experiences, and other perks.
“The Heir platform reimagines the creator-fan experience, to empower athletes to engage with their fans,” Jeffrey Jordan told Variety.
For now, the founders are mum on which athletes may be on board for the initial launch of Heir, slated for 2022. “We’re being very deliberate with our early-adopter athletes,” Jordan said, adding that Heir is aiming for “tier one” NBA and WNBA players and the next generation of rising stars in the NCAA.
Will MJ be on the Heir platform? It’s unclear. According to Jeffrey, “My dad is a strategic adviser and partner. We meet with him regularly, and he provides guidance and insightful ideas… When he was playing, he didn’t have the same tools to connect with his fanbase or monetize that.”
Alongside the three founders, Heir Inc.’s executive team includes VP of operations Briana Richardson, formerly business manager at Robinhood and consultant with Bain & Co.
The focus for Heir is on young stars like Lonzo Ball who appeal to Gen Z and millennial fans, according to Smith. “Individuals his age have grown up with social platforms,” he said. “This is the first step for athletes building their meta-brands in the metaverse/Web3 world.”
Heir will generate revenue from consumers purchasing memberships in an athlete’s “huddle.” Athletes will get an 80% cut of primary sales of NFTs and Heir Inc. will keep 20%; on subsequent sales the split is 50-50.
The idea is keep the Heir memberships scarce: The number of seats in a given “huddle” will be capped at about 0.5%-1% of an athlete’s existing social following, according to George. Once you hit the cap, “the only way to get in is if somebody sells you their seat,” he said. “The value of the huddle seat appreciates over time.”
Digital content from athletes on Heir will encompass multiple formats, ranging from exclusive behind-the-scenes videos to what they’ve watched on Netflix. Athletes also will be able to host live Q&As with their huddle members and post polls and quizzes. Fans who are highly engaged on the platform will be rewarded by unlocking digital goods.
Gaurav Ahuja, partner at Thrive Capital, commenting on Heir Inc.’s model, said: “Fan loyalty is increasingly moving toward love for individual players rather than teams. There’s an opportunity now to develop an ecosystem that enables fans to feel like insiders with the athletes they love. Heir’s ‘huddle’ provides a first-of-its-kind experience to be closer to athletes, becoming active co-owners and co-creators in the platform.”