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Volume 25 No. 177
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With 30 CLC Licenses, ZVerse Emerges As Leader In 3D-Printed Sports Collectibles Space

South Carolina-based ZVerse has emerged as an early leader in the 3D-printed sports collectibles space, as the year-and-a-half-old company already has 30 CLC licenses and has even held informal talks with the NFL. The company’s flagship product is 3D printed stadium replicas that, by virtue of being made with such technology, are highly accurate in both visual depiction and even architectural proportions. The company, which is on course to take in seven figures in sales in its first full year selling collegiate wares, has attained licenses through its agency, Octagon (and now by Octagon subsidiary Advantage Int'l). ZVerse sells its replicas both to schools directly and to online retailers including Fanatics. The company’s notable collegiate licensors include South Carolina, LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State and Oregon. ZVerse, which charges $149.99 for standard versions of the replicas, makes them by first taking a photo of a given facility. Within days, it then designs a 3D model based off of the photo and transfers that model to computer software, which conveys instructions to the printer. The ability to create a replica that so accurately depicts specific features of different venues is among the company’s chief points of differentiation.

CUSTOMIZATION A CALLING CARD: The company’s replica for South Carolina features what at that time was Williams-Brice Stadium’s recently added videoboard, nicknamed the Beastboard. The Beastboard is a popular part of the stadium, and ZVerse CEO John Carrington said that its inclusion to the replica helped it sell thousands. Similarly, LSU’s replica shows Tiger Stadium’s $100M south-end-zone expansion, which helped it sell thousands as well. Furthermore, ZVerse was recently tasked with printing replicas of Baylor’s new McLane Stadium, which were then given away to dignitaries before the school’s first game. ZVerse is selling 250 limited-edition McLane Stadium replicas for $199.99, and will also release a standard version to boot.

CAN'T TEACH SPEED: The speed with which the replicas can be produced is another one of ZVerse’s major competitive advantages. That notion is exemplified by the South Carolina-styled Christmas ornament the company made last year. After South Carolina beat Clemson in ‘13 for a fifth time in a row, the buzz among fans was all about the significance of the number five. Seeing that, ZVerse then made an ornament with a gamecock holding up an open hand to signify the milestone. Carrington said the company sold thousands of these ornaments. He noted that because of how quickly 3D printing allows for an idea like the South Carolina ornament to go from concept to finished product, schools and teams will now be able to try to create merch off of short-lived fads when, previously, they may not have taken the risk on such a product.
CLONING CLOWNEY: Carrington and company CMO Kevin Maloney dreamed up the idea to start the company after they witnessed former South Carolina player Jadeveon Clowney’s famously mammoth hit on a Michigan player in the '13 Outback Bowl. The play went viral, and Carrington, whose background is in e-commerce, saw that and knew collectibles could be based off of the play. However, the company ultimately did not produce the Clowney replica due to concerns over reproducing his likeness. Carrington added that the 3D printed replicas are much more detailed than their regular counterparts. Before this sort of technology, licensees typically bought thousands of similarly shaped replicas that could then be molded into different mascots of many schools. This had the effect of leaving many looking similar because, by definition, they couldn’t be customized as much but rather were just painted by hand.

FUTURE MOVES: The company is coming off of a “very strong” round of seed funding in '13, in which it took in more than $1M, allowing it to expand and pursue further licenses. ZVerse is so new that it has not yet even gotten to making products for all 30 of its collegiate partners. It expects to add more licenses in the coming year. The company will be participating in a Series A round in the next quarter, and Carrington anticipates that its valuation will increase significantly from where it was after its last round. Through Advantage International, ZVerse did hold informal talks with the NFL, but more serious negotiations are on hold for now.

This is the second piece of a two-part series on the future of 3D printing. See yesterday's issue of THE DAILY for a look at one of the teams that is pioneering with 3D printing in the sports industry.