Sknups Raise $3.5M for Blockchain Gaming Collectibles, Unveils Dolce & Gabbana Partnership

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Digital fashion collecting platform Sknups has raised $3.5 million in funding and announced a global gaming partnership with fashion house Dolce & Gabbana.

Sknups (pronounced Skin Ups), based in London, is a new digital collecting platform for fashion and beauty designers in the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds all connected together, as in novels such as Snowfall and borrow player one

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Funding comes from fashion and web3 investors, including angel investors and traditional funds including Redrice Ventures, Blue Wire Capital and Adelpha. Sknups also plans to team up with Dolce & Gabbana to bring his signature Italian style to games.

To commemorate the Dolce & Gabbana announcement and kick off the first collectible campaign, a new inaugural digital drop is now live on sknups.com.

Founded in 2020, Sknups aims to enable gamers, crypto and fashion enthusiasts to upgrade their skins in the digital worlds Web2 and Web3. Sknups launched in stealth open beta in December 2021 and has since signed a mix of global fashion brands and young emerging streetwear designers such as Benny Andallo and James Mack. Sknups will soon be announcing new collaborations with leading brands and cultural icons.

“We saw the opportunity for brands to move more into a digital world to better connect with Gen Z consumers in the places they had fun and socialize,” said Fred Speirs, CEO of Sknups, in an interview with GamesBeat . “And that happens so much in games now. It was the excitement of knowing how to bring these two worlds together.

Its mission is to enhance online self-expression by bringing unique skins and collectibles to people’s favorite games and digital worlds.

“We have a very good team that brings together strong expertise and experience on the fashion side, very strong in-depth technical know-how behind the platform and what we develop, and then a lot on the gaming side as well,” said Speirs. “I’m more from the business side of fashion. For nearly ten years I was a global lifestyle brand analyst. So we’ve covered a lot of the brands we’re talking to and focusing on right now. And then, more recently, I started building businesses. And I am very happy to lead Sknups now.

Sknups works with Benny Andallo.

“We have our first big brand that we can talk about publicly, in the form of Dolce and Gabbana. So we thought it was a good time to come and talk about it,” Speirs said. “We have a technology platform that is super scalable. We have the ambition to help create repeatable and scalable drops for partners. †

The Sknups team has built a hybrid Web2/Web3 proprietary platform that combines the highest quality digital production with massive metaverse reach:

  • The world-class team creates digital collectibles with couture 3D models created in Sknups’ metaverse workshop.
  • Capable of serving billions of users, the Sknups platform includes Airdrop tools that provide democratic Drop access to the entire fan community, with climate-friendly Solana NFTs for collectors, social flexibility tools, Composability of Web2/Web3 game fans, and integrations.

“Brands and creators looking to establish a scalable presence in digital worlds need to strike a balance between premium and access,” Speirs said. “Fashion in the metaverse must be accessible beyond a small core of celebrities and wealthy VIPs to convey the transformative power of style and craftsmanship to the next generation of fans.”

Luke Alvarez, co-founder of Hiro Capital, is co-founder and chairman of Sknups. Other founders include Speirs, Simon Low and gaming technology innovator Alistair Hopkins. The team has 20 people around the world, some of them in London.

Switch to games

Former Ubisoft esports leader and gaming veteran Robb Chiarini helps lead the company’s relationships with the gaming ecosystem and game publishers.

“We’re in different stages of discussions, both internally about how they’re going to handle things like in-game skins and intros, as well as all the stuff we’re trying to deliver,” Chiarini said. “I’d say there’s quite a bit of interest, but there are different levels of preparedness.”

Chiarini said skins have been around in gaming for a long time, and now there are storefronts in games for digital skins and even physical goods. But many things are changing at a very rapid pace, he said.

Bridging Web2 and Web3

skups 3
Are you taking your brand into the metaverse?

Speirs said the company is looking to resolve issues from several parties. The company, on the one hand, brings together desired brands and creators and then connects them with gaming experiences, and on the other hand, the company is focused on making experiences fun, he said.

“We’re making it easy and making it something that both parties can rely on and want to move forward with,” said Speirs.
The company starts out in the Web2 space by creating digital collectibles. And it offers an option to embed this digital collectible with a non-fungible token (NFT). But right now, that’s not something every brand needs to do, Speirs said.

“Every brand we talk to and every game we talk to has a different take on NFTs,” Speirs said. “An important part of our solution is that we have the flexibility to integrate a very wide range of consumers. If an involved party wants to transfer this to an NFT, then that is possible. But we don’t have to.

In this way, Sknups enables partners to decide whether their customers are ready for NFTs. In games, NFTs have encountered some resistance from gamers and game developers. But others were more open to the idea of ​​using blockchain to authenticate unique digital items.

To NFT or not to NFT

I noticed how many players reacted badly to NFT announcements from Ubisoft, Team 17, GSC Gameworld, etc.

“It’s an interesting question because space evolves, interests evolve, and products evolve,” Chiarini said. “Our space is made up of digital collectibles. NFTs may not be the direction these different brands are going. At our core, we are a digital collector’s item. And we partner with various gaming initiatives to bring brands into play. That doesn’t necessarily mean in-game NFTs. I think space is changing.

Speirs said Web3 now has a limited reach and the company wants to bring its products to a wide range of people.

“Web3 is super interesting, but it’s a smaller addressable audience than Web2,” Speirs said. “That’s why it’s important for us to have a hybrid solution. We want to allow a combination of crypto fan and fashion fan players to upgrade their skins and avatars in the web2 and web3 worlds, as we don’t want to be exclusive to a subset of them. As the company grows, as the environment changes, we will of course respond to that.

In the metaverse?

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Dolce & Gabbana works together with Sknups.

In some ways, brands see the Metaverse as a kind of Wild West. They may want to move to a user-generated content (UGC) platform, but they may discover that the brand has been hacked and is already on those platforms.

Going back a long way: “You always had this question if you mind people making counterfeits or physical items. And often the conclusion was, no, you don’t, because at least it means you’re a popular brand and people are excited. about you,” Speirs said.

Brands have different opinions about this. They want to control their own brand, but they are very clear about the importance of embracing the gaming community, Speirs said. The question is how do you make the metaverse safe for brands and help them maintain quality with things like UGC.

“It’s not about the old ways of communicating,” he said. “It’s about finding the right ways to empower communities, to really be part of the conversation. And that’s why we don’t want to be just another platform for us. We are also a partner to really connect these two very different worlds. †

Speirs knows that some brands will jump right into games without using partners. Gucci is an example of that. But others are looking to Sknups to properly speed up their access to the metaverse, Speirs said.

“We’re a great way for brands to enter this space,” Speirs said. “At the same time, we also want them to have a great experience with us.”

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