In April, Nas made a fortune on his early Coinbase investment. In March, Diddy bet on Eco with hopes to do the same.
The rapper and a bevy of celebrities, athletes and entertainers joined Eco’s $26 million round earlier this year, according to Eco CEO Andy Bromberg. Among them: comedian Tiffany Haddish, National Football League players Larry Fitzgerald and Kelvin Beachum Jr., musician Justin “3LAU” Blau and soccer player Keisuke Honda.
Speaking to the current rush of celebrity interest in the crypto space, the respective VC firms of National Basketball Association stars Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony also participated. The full roster of backers has not been previously announced.
“We are excited to help transform banking to make it more accessible for all,” Anthony said in a statement.
Eco is not a pure-play crypto name like Coinbase. Fashioning itself as a banking alternative, the start-up “rewards” users with a cash-back system similar to credit card points. It generates returns by lending users’ deposits out in the stablecoin USDC, but the crypto backend is almost completely absent from its messaging.
The A-listers’ participation may show strength in Eco’s model of downplaying its crypto bona fides, both among consumers and investors. Without flashing the USDC angle Eco is capturing names, investments and, most importantly, users: 170,000 at last count, Bromberg said.
The company actually fits in with some of its celebrities’ apparent investment theses. Larry Fitgerald, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, has scattered bets across early-stage fintechs since 2019, but never in ones with crypto exposure.
Others, including Durant, Anthony and 3LAU, have chased the upside of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) through bets on Dapper Labs (creator of NBA Top Shot), digital avatar company Genies and other platforms, according to Crunchbase.
“We’re trying to build a product that is really accessible for everyone that has benefits powered by crypto,” Bromberg, formerly the president of token sale platform CoinList, told CoinDesk. He said Eco’s celebrity backers signal broad market appeal.