Interview with Evan Vandenberg from Dibbs

This week, Horacio sat down with Evan Vandenberg Co-founder & CEO of Dibbs, the world’s only 24-7 fractional trading card marketplace.

Discussion topics include:

  • The model behind fractional ownership and blockchain-based tokenization with sports cards
  • Using tokenized ownership from Dibbs for future utility in different ecosystems and platforms that already exist
  • Amazon as an investor in Dibbs and the opportunities it provides for future business opportunities, particularly in the multimedia space
  • Expanding Dibbs offerings to include non-sport cards, other collectibles, international markets, NHL and Formula One offerings
  • The ‘Sell with Dibbs’ initiative that allows collectors to fractionalize their own cards
  • Using the Dibbs 24/7 platform as a de facto stock market for sports cards
  • The feature of buying parts of every card of any athlete on the Dibbs platform and the potential for buying into broader categories
  • The emergence of Formula 1 in the trading card industry and in the sports scene
  • The differences between Formula One and NASCAR and NASCAR’s failure to catch on in the card industry

You can listen to the podcast through Spotify or YouTube.


[Horacio Ruiz]

Hi, I’m Horacio Ruiz. Host of the alts podcast. On today’s episode, you’ll hear from Evan Vandenberg, co-founder and CEO of Dibbs. The only 24-7 platform for buying and selling fractional shares of sports cards. Justin talks about why using blockchain technology in the sports card industry makes sense, the advantages of buying and selling on Dibbs and his general thoughts on the sports card industry. He’ll also share some insights on bringing in Amazon. Yes, Amazon as an investor. You’ll also hear us talk about F1. And for our international listeners, why is it so popular? Let’s go. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

All right. Happy to have Evan Vandenberg here with us. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Dibbs. Some big, big news has just come out about a week ago with Dibbs and looking forward to the chat with Evan. Thank you for being here.

[Evan Vandenberg]


Yeah. Likewise. Thanks for having me on, man. I appreciate it.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Evan. For those listeners that aren’t very kind of familiar or are still kind of exploring the different card marketplaces, could you describe kind of what Dibbs is and how you kind of set it up, but maybe is different from the other marketplaces?

 
[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, and cards is obviously what we’ve kind of been known for up to date. But at the core of what we do is we take physical collectibles, we tokenise them. So, we’ve all alt insure, and then tokenise them with all the required metadata for that NFT to be returned for the physical item. Once a physical collectible is tokenised, it’s an NFT at this point. We lock it in smart contracts, and we issue fractional interests out of those smart contracts. And that’s what’s trading on Dibbs. Those fractional interests can be put together in a couple of unique ways. And people can take back the entire asset. And that’s kind of like the core of the business. I mean, in terms of where we differentiate ourselves, we’re the only blockchain based business doing this. So, we leverage tokenisation in terms of title transfer and how we kind of manage our system. And the other side is that we’re a two-sided marketplace in the fractional space. And I think to date that’s kind of the first one.

[Horacio Ruiz]

I know you have a background. I know you used to be the director of business development at Wax, right. Which is basically the second largest NFT marketplace in the world. What makes the fractionalisation the tokenisation of these physical collectibles different from say buying a share?

[Evan Vandenberg]


Yeah. A couple things to unpack there. I mean, I can go into my background, but in terms of like, let’s just get down kind of like the nuts and bolts, right. Like what’s different about it. Why does it matter, right? Like why is tokenisation interesting, versus shares, right. There’s a handful of reasons. Right. But for us, we really believe that a tokenisation of physical assets right. Gives just an insane amount of utility on top of that. And maybe it doesn’t seem is obvious at surface level. So, we’ll kind of go into that, but once it’s tokenised, right, Sure, like we’re happy to tokenize it. You can sell it on Dibbs, fractionally and ultimately in whole card or asset form. But ultimately, we want to build all sorts of interesting utility on top of that. Like, we want you to be able to take these items, bring them into whatever digital ecosystems you want. Right. We want businesses to be able to build on top of Dibbs. I want you to be able to send in your own items, have them tokenised, brought into a digital world where you can showcase them, collect, transact, whatever it may be that you want to do. And there’s just this kind of like whole world evolving in that space. Right. Versus, a more walled garden approach, which would be kind of like shares, right. Where you go to one site, you go there, that’s the only place you can transact. It’s a little bit more straightforward. Maybe a little bit easier for people to understand at the beginning. But I do believe that long term, the tokenisation of physical collectibles is just wildly interesting.

[Horacio Ruiz]

I could definitely see like a utility behind it. Right. If you hold a certain number of tokens or a certain percentage of a collectible, maybe you can display it or something, or you could show it off. I don’t know. But the space is so new. Right. That we don’t know what we don’t know. Right?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I mean, it’s multipronged, right. Like there’s the fact that you can take to all sorts of different marketplace. You can transact in different cryptocurrencies, you have access to a much wider audience, right. I mean, whether or not it’s Dibbs or another platform, right. There’s still a lot of interesting things you can do just on that, the kind of like buying and selling front. Take things a step further, right. From a community and access standpoint, I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. Like you had mentioned getting opportunities and different privileges within the application and or getting different NFTs and other things sent to you that you can utilise in different ways, access different communities, ways that you can share these things in different ecosystems, on social platform forms that already exist in a much more meaningful and verified and authentic way, right. Twitter and a lot of the social platforms that blue check mark, right. Whether or not you like it, it does actually help do a pretty good job of authenticating who that human being is behind the handle. Right. Certainly, when they’re public figures. And I think in the physical world, we also have analogues that are pretty interesting as well. Right? You have PSA grading. And so, you know this thing is real, it’s authentic, it’s in this quality. And I think blending those two things and bringing them into a digital world is really important. Especially with the amount of time people are spending in their digital worlds and their digital personas becoming more and more valuable to them.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Absolutely. I think that the colloquialisation of your platform, the collectibles on your platform and kind of this 24-7 trading on your platform as well has caught the attention of a lot of people. It’s amazing that you guys have been around like maybe officially, I guess, for a little over a year. But already you guys have created a partnership with Amazon. Can you talk about this latest, like Amazon investing in Dibbs? Because from what I understand, Amazon isn’t really involved in the trading card space. And so, them investing in you guys is a pretty big deal considering how huge they are.

[Evan Vandenberg]


Yeah. I appreciate that. So, yeah, I’m sorry, I can’t go into deal specifics and in some of the kind of like behind discussions that we’ve had, but just broad strokes. Right. I mean, it was great to be able to align ourselves with somebody like Amazon. I think it’s interesting on more fronts than probably meet the eye. Right. I mean, obviously they’re in a massive marketplace, huge e-commerce business, but they also have an incredible media empire. Right. I mean, it’s one of the most valuable media companies in the world with very few in the same kind of category. And I think they’ve got interesting plans on that front as well. And I think there’s just so many synergies about what we were trying to do with our business and kind of how they were viewing the space. But it was really cool to be one of, or the first – I’m not exactly sure, but collectible and blockchain play in the NFT space. So having them in our corner is obviously a big vote of confidence. And I think it’s going to open up a lot of different avenues for us to explore together.

[Horacio Ruiz]

You mentioned the media presence that Amazon has, you’re right about that hub. I mean, are we talking about like a Dibbs TV show?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Dibbs reality TV show, who knows, man, that’s certainly nothing I’ve actually thought about. But a day in the life of Dibbs of be cool. Look they’ve got a lot of sports streaming properties. They’ve got Amazon prime video; they’ve got all sorts of things that they’re working on. I think integrated kind of simulcasting of different things is really an interesting play. You’ve got all sorts of fandom, right, that ties into media. It’s almost kind of the genesis for a lot of fandom, right. Certainly, in this day and age. And so, I think, can I harness that? And have real time experiences. Could be very interesting. Again, I don’t speak to them and certainly wouldn’t claim to, but they’ve definitely gotten unbelievable audience there. I think they’re looking at this space and others and just happy to be in the room.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. And to be clear, cause there’s some headlines out there to be clear, it’s not an acquisition. Right. You guys have not been acquired by Amazon. They’ve simply invested in your platform? 

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah, Correct. We don’t want to be acquired right now, man. We’ve got big plans. We want to do a lot of interesting things. We felt like taking an investment and trying to find really interesting ways of doing stuff together is the best path for the business.

[Horacio Ruiz]


Yeah. And one of the press releases you mentioned expanding a little bit more. I know today was a big day as well, expanding into Pokémon cards and magic cards and other non-trading products. Could you maybe give us some insight into what those non-sport card products could be?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I mean, the timing couldn’t be better on that front. Right. We did our first Pokémon drop today, Did a PSA10 Charizard first edition. This thing sold out pretty quickly. Got a couple of other Pokémon cards in the hopper here. But I think just to the broader kind of vertical expansion play, I think we want to be where fans are, right. And where people’s passions are. And I think there’s – sports is such a massive beacon of all that. But there’s also just a ton of other areas, right. I think the Pokémon sports card collecting worlds, they certainly overlap, but they’re also very distinct. And I think you can access just a much broader audience. Especially when you start looking at the globe. American sports are obviously global now and or becoming more and more global. There’s things that are very particular to different geos. And we want to make sure that we can bring people what they want and make sure that we bridge that kind of physical to digital gap and bring fans and collectors alike, the things that they want to buy own and showcase.

[Horacio Ruiz]

And Amazon’s definitely a gateway for that, I would imagine. Right now, you guys currently limited, like if somebody say in south America or in Africa or Europe wants to use your platform, could they?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Not today, No, it’s US only. Obviously, something that we would love to grow into a bunch of different countries. I think we’ve got tens of thousands of wait list, signups currently from all sorts of different countries. Largely Europe. Yeah. [Inaudible 00:09:47], there’s a fair amount. Parts of Asia as well, Australia, disproportionately, Canada in Australia. So, the interest is the right. It’s a matter of making sure that we do it right. That we do it in a way that satisfies regulatory requirements, everything else, and that we’re in a position to really grow and do that. So, I think one step at a time.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Absolutely. I mean, I can only imagine like – America is so sports crazy. But I mean, it pales in comparison, right, to like Europe and soccer and really the whole globe with soccer. And then all these other sports, like emerging sports that have been popular around the globe forever. And they’re just catching on now in the United States. Like F1, I know that in other parts of the world, rugby’s a big deal, cricket. Like you said, I mean, the possibilities are like almost endless, right. You can continue talking and expanding to different markets. 

[Evan Vandenberg]

Totally. Yeah. I mean, soccer’s obviously huge. And kind of like obvious one F1 is growing rapidly each year. I think it’s been a big thing in a lot of other countries. And we did a Lewis Hamilton drop and it was sold out in minutes last week. So, I mean, UFC, there’s all sorts of things that are really global. I think soccer’s truly – even within the United States a mass – I mean, you can look at any report, right. Soccer’s one of the fastest growing verticals for collectibles on the planet. Things will emerge and there’s all types of fandom, right. It extends past sports. I mean, Pokémon’s an obvious example where you get a global audience for – maybe they’re not even interested in sports. Right. And you start to bring people who are in different verticals and just making sure they have the right product in place that people are getting what they want, and the platform supports these things in a meaningful way and not just kind to throwing spaghetti at the wall.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. Would be so interesting to find out like what kind of access to the sports cards other people around the world have?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Very minimal.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Very minimal. Okay. Yep. 

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. It’s a super small percentage when you think about like sheer numbers, right. And the US just dominates that industry right now, and it’s just so much more accessible to US citizens. So, I think globally, an instant collecting of cards is a really cool business proposition. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

The second big thing you guys came out with last week was I guess, an initiative called sell with Dibbs. Where you give potential users the opportunity to fractionise their own cards on your marketplace. That’s also really cool. I mean, are there any barriers there to entry? I mean, what kind of cards are we talking about in terms of price range? Do the cards have to be graded, and how would someone go about doing that? Like how would someone contact you and say, hey, I want to fractionalise my card on your platform?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Great question. So yeah, in terms of limitations, like everything has to be graded. I think we’re right now we’re focusing on cards that we actually have existing markets for. So, if we have a PSA10 Charizard. if you have another PSA10 versus Charizard, that’s a really easy simple ad. We’re looking at all sorts of things outside of current things we offer. And we just have to kind of evaluate those. Right now, ultimately, we want to kind of let that system kind of run itself and let people bring on whatever they want. So, it’s just kind of building towards that, but right now it’s all online. You can just go on the website and go through the process, submit a form. A team will be reaching out to you. It’s all free for the user. So, no fees in terms of storage, shipping, insurance, vaulting, all that. And then we will go ahead and put that in your account.

[Horacio Ruiz]


And then it’s open for trading and you can kind of ride that eb and flow, right, of an athlete, a market, whatever it might be?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Absolutely. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

In terms of the grading of the cards, I’m curious, most of your cards are PSA. What are the grading companies? Are you limited to certain grading companies? Is there a preference?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I mean, so far, it’s been BGS and, and PSA. So back in Collectors Universe or PSA, they’re grading entity. But yeah, I think preference, I mean, for us, it’s always been really simple to leverage the PSA system, the one through ten system. It’s very well recognised and understood, certainly in the collecting world. It’s a little bit easier to explain to people new to the hobby as well. But I think we’re relatively agnostic on that front. And then as we step into other verticals, obviously there’s different authentication mechanisms and in grading agencies that’ll need to be established and or kind of found and worked with.

[Horacio Ruiz]


Let’s get into the platform because I find that the 24-7 trading is so interesting, right. It’s almost like a Realtime stock market that just doesn’t close. And so, you can have, I would imagine, you have swings at all times of the day. Do you find that on the marketplace, let’s say it’s a, I don’t know, a Steph Curry. Right. And he goes off for 50 points one night, or he breaks the record like he did the other night for three points made, that they’re – that momentum, right, that news of him achieving something historic kind of creates a bounce in the price. So that then you can have like these traders that are almost day traders right within the stock market?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I mean it’s less day trading. I think, but there’s certainly people who love to buy and sell things based on that week’s games and try to kind of like play that angle. It’s a bit of a dicey game right. I mean, from a macro perspective, right. I mean, player performance, player achievements are kind of what drive this industry, right. I mean, Steph obviously setting three-point record, I think Steph’s been the most traded card for the last couple weeks. So, most traded player on the platform. So yeah. I mean, it totally follows the moment. Right. And it’s very living, breathing organic marketplace where absolutely when things are in season, you’re seeing trends of like, those are the higher volumes in terms of people’s activity, time spent on the pages. So, definitely we’re seeing that. I think it’s always existed, right. Even if you look at kind of like the traditional eBay and auction format of buying and selling cards, this is just kind of under a microscope, right. And kind of on steroids where you can watch it live and really, you reduce that shipping step, all the kind of like potential fraud and other things that happen in between buying and selling a card. And you make it very simple. People definitely behave differently. Right. And I think – in a really interesting way, right, they have this very very real time way of interacting and capturing their kind of like fandom and insights in the players that they love.

[Horacio Ruiz]

I almost feel like having it open like 24-7, that mirrors you being on the blockchain, right. It mirrors the crypto market right. Where it never ends. You could buy Bitcoin or Ethereum or anything at any time you want. I wouldn’t say that the crypto market is stable, but it definitely gives you like a good idea of what the price is, right. Because it’s going – you have way more data points, I guess. And it’s so quick to react to the news that it doesn’t have to wait for the market to open. And it reacts instantly to whatever happens. Right. So, I really like that. I also like on your platform, I’m just kind of looking at it, the reference you have to card ladder and being able to reference like, hey, this card has an average of this over this many sales. So that people can have a really good idea of exactly what price point they’re investing in or a what price point they’re selling off at. Could you talk a little bit about the platform and how you’ve developed it for the users to kind of navigate and how they can benefit from it?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. So, I mean, look, right, I mean, what we want to make is the simplest easy and most transparent process. Right. And I think is really crucial to be able to pull in external third-party data, right. Where it’s not just ours, like it’s any registered sale that goes through their system that we’re able to show people like, hey, here’s kind of like what’s going on. Right. And whether you like it or not, right. Like this is the facts of what’s going on in the industry and make sure that people are know, educated, right. And for people who are maybe not huge card buyers on, on eBay, right. That they have some semblance of what’s going on in the world externally from Dibbs and can make the best decisions for themselves. So, I think we’ve really tried to kind of emphasise that and make sure that we’ve got different user experience and user interface, tweaks that are obviously coming out and constantly evolve to really kind of streamline the process for people who are, A, new to the hobby and, B, for those that have been around forever. Right. And they’re very familiar. Right. And you have to kind of cater to both. But I think that it all kind of boils down to making it the most fun, kind of easy experience for getting involved and participating in that marketplace. And then the second piece is just making sure that they have as much data as possible. And that they’re as well informed as you can make them. Right. People obviously make their own decisions and all of that. But we felt like it was important to showcase that data where possible.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. Just curious, how many ways can you invest on a platform? Can you invest in an individual card, right? Obviously, you can buy a part of the card. Can you invest in all the athletes’ cards on your platform? And can you invest on just – even on a league? Hey, I want to throw in a thousand dollars into all the NBA cards in your platform just because I think the NBA’s going to go up or whatever the case might be. How many different ways can you invest?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. So right now, I mean – and invest is a strong word, right. I think like people buy and sell for all sorts of reasons. But, in terms of transact on the platform, there’s kind of two primary ways of doing that. Right. And there’s individual cards, individual collectibles, as we expand. But that’s I think a little bit more straight for the user, right? It’s like, hey, if you want to buy this particular card, here’s the marketplace for that. But then what we did in addition to that is we created player collections. So, for, we can use Steph Curry as an example, I think we have 5 or 10 of his cards on the platform right now for people who just love Steph and want to buy a piece of all Steph’s stuff, right. They can in fact take a hundred dollars and buy the Steph collection. And so, they can just put – we basically, it’s a spot marketplace. So, we fill orders across all those different cards, and you can buy a piece of every card of Stephs and the collection. We don’t have the capability of doing it on the league level or anything like that yet, but it’s an interesting idea. It’s certainly technically simple from our perspective. It just could be really interesting. I think we just got to be conscientious of what that would do to the marketplace. And it’s certainly something we’ve thought about, broadening that from, player to even like team, right. I mean, there’s all sorts of kind of ways to slice and dice that data. But when it’s – when you have it fractionalised and you don’t have it in different format, it’s really easy to create very interesting matrices of being able to simplify that buying process across multiple things. 


[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. It’s so cool. I mean just the fact that you can in one transaction, right, go ahead and, and invest across five, six different cards. I think that idea is real cool.

[Evan Vandenberg]

Thanks. Yeah. I appreciate that. 


[Horacio Ruiz]

You know, let’s go back. Like, I always usually start with the history of the company, the why, right. Like why trading cards, why fractionalisation, and I alluded to it in the back, you have a background in the blockchain working as director for Wax, but really what I’m more interested is why trading cards? What was it about this industry and how you went about creating your company that said, you know what, I got to do this. I got to try my hand at this.

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. So, I mean, it’s a process of like, the story will probably make a little bit more sense. But I was working at Wax, was launching their blockchain, right. Brought in Tops as one of our early partners. Obviously collected a bunch of Tops cards growing up. So, it was super cool being able to go back and forth to New York. They were really forward thinking in terms of being the first in that collectible space to really materially go after the blockchain side of things. And so, we did their first NFT launches. And in that process, I started getting back into cards and I’d been in both myself and some of our core kind of like early engineers and team members had been in the digital item trading space, even pre blockchain, right. So, in game items and secondary marks around those. And then certainly very, very early NFT projects. And so, we saw the technology, we realised that it would be extremely useful for a few things. Right. It’s funny because today people kind of associate the technology like non fungible tokens and that concept with some of these profile picture and JPEGs and kind of like this piece of art. Right. But like underlying that, those kind of like end user experiences, this is really interesting technology, right. And it’s this decentralised kind of, almost like a computer in and of itself that you can actually really program some interesting stuff around title transfer and ownership. And we felt like, I was diving back into cards and just watching the whole process. And then ultimately having security deposit boxes and bolts and all these things, I was like, wait, this doesn’t need to be done like this. Like, there is a much simpler way of doing this for a lot of different use cases. And so, cards were a personal affinity, right. I mean, love them growing up. They’re also just a very very unique collectible in the sense of it’s an extremely understood in kind of like liquid market, I would say, versus a lot of other collectibles, like, fine art and other things. They have a very solid grading system and authentication system that’s based on a numerical 1 through 10 system. All this stuff is really appealing for a testing ground. Right. But I think ultimately where we wanted the company to go was to really bridge that physical digital divide and make a simple way for people to bring these things in to these new spaces that they’re occupying on their phones and on their computers more often than they’re interacting with people in real life. Right. And so, I think at the core of the mission of the business and where we want to take it is in that direction. Right. And we kind of started with like the hardest thing, which is decentralised, fractional physical items. Right. But I think ultimately that can even be simplified and take things into a non-fractional context and you can send your whole collection in, and you could have it digitized. And if you want to have it back, totally up to you. Right. But there’s so much things you can do with it in the interim. And if you want to fractionise it and sell some of it and buy something else. Like that’s an option if you want to do – ultimately the platform will be much more integrated with different social and community kind of environments, certainly with some more gamification and kind of fun things for people to participate and showcase this stuff in a very different way. And so that was really important to us. I think where we started, and the evolution of the business are kind of two separate things. I think cards is a really interesting testing ground, like I mentioned. And then ultimately, I think we can go in all sorts of directions with it. And I think that was what was interesting too. A lot of our investors to our employees, into Amazon and others.

[Horacio Ruiz]

Now that you’re in the weeds, right. You’ve developed your company. Do you still have like a personal collection? Do you still have this passion for it? Are you still a collector? You find yourself, or you feel yourself, like you got to remove yourself since you’re so involved in the business of it?

 
[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. It’s interesting. I actually buy and sell cards much less often now. I think for a multitude of reasons. I mean, primarily just simply like my time is unbelievably disproportionately spent building this business and everything that comes with it, which has been the joy of my professional life. But I think in terms of me buying selling cards, it’s really decreased. So, there are things that I’ll go seek out and try to go grab, but it has become fewer and far between. And I really, I feel like for myself staying impartial to a lot of it is important. If I was out there – not that I have the funds to even compete on the big collector stage at all, but it just seems like I want to avoid that. And I want to kind of stay a little bit on the sidelines for some of it and really kind of focus on building something that’s interesting for the industry. So yes, I definitely have my own personal collection, but I would say it’s decreased in terms of me being a part of the kind of day to day scouring eBay.

 
[Horacio Ruiz]

For sure. Just so the audience know, you have like a favourite card, you have anything that you PC?

[Evan Vandenberg]

I’m a big Steph and Clay fan. So, anything more, I was living in the Bay area from high school onward. And so, until recently I moved to LA. But yeah, I mean, anything Warriors, you have my attention.

 
[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. The warriors ruled down there in the Bay area, for sure. You created your company at the right moment, you captured that momentum and it’s still going. How different is it now, like, I’d say, I would say a year and changed later, as opposed to when you first started, the momentum has changed, that, kind of that cool down is maybe beginning, or it is just different. And also like, do you see that collectors, or their collections are in some ways different? Are people looking more to sell or as opposed to buy?

 [Evan Vandenberg]

It’s all happened so fast. I mean, that’s the one thing I’d say. Like even this morning we were having our company all hands. And I was talking my co-founder and, it used to be him, me and a handful of people around a kitchen table. Right. And zoom, he’s in Europe. And now all of a sudden, we fill up two full gallery mode views on zoom. Right. I think it’s 40 plus people now. And just seeing that evolution and seeing the kind of growth of so many of the folks that we brought in and ourselves to some degree has just been awesome. I mean, I feel like it’s all – the momentums just kind of always just been building and growing. I feel like it’s more exciting today than it was the day we launched. Like it just keeps, the whole thing just keeps getting more and more interesting. You get more and more resources, and humans around the table that can just do so many crazy cool things. And watching that and being able to kind of take a step back and look at things from more strategic level has been fun. Right. As opposed to being so in the weeds in the beginning, it was just two, three of us bootstrapping this thing for months and months and hoping we can figure it out. And then some people taking a chance on us, on the investment front in 2020. And then obviously that getting accelerated here this year, and it’s been an incredible journey so far, man. And it feels like it’s just getting started. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

You mentioned that your investors, you got some pretty big names. I mean, you got Amazon, but you also have Nat Turner and then you also have a Legion of Athletes, right? For some reason the name that stands out to me just because I respect his game from college and what not was Kevin Love. As one of your investors, part of that investment group. What’s it like to have these athletes as these early investors in your company? Is that any different than just having any other angel investors? 


[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. It, it is in many ways, and it isn’t in some right. At the end of the day, it’s human beings that give you the vote of confidence to believe in you and support that financially. But yeah. I mean, look, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was really coo. I mean, I’ve been a big fan of a lot of these people for a long time and like to have them as partners on this is super cool. And I think one of the big kind of pushes for us in 2022 is to also start leveraging that a bit more. Right. And they have some really interesting collecting stories. They’re genuinely passionate about the space. They come from all sorts of walks of life but been incredibly kind and fun to work with so far. And I think, expect a fair amount of trying to engage them and mix them into content and events and all sorts of things. Come 2022, I think we’ve been pretty mellow on it so far. And I think from both sides there’s a ton of interest in doing something right. The space on multiple fronts is blowing up and they’re big fans of it. I mean, big collectors themselves a lot of them. And so, yeah, it’s super cool. And it’s just an honour to like, even have that opportunity. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah, definitely. Like you said, it opens up these other opportunities for everybody. What are the trends right now that you’re noticing? We’re in the middle of the basketball season, we’re kind of ending the regular season for the NFL, but beyond that, right. Any trends in the trading card space? I want to talk to you about Pokémon today. You guys – your first three Pokémon drops correct today?

[Evan Vandenberg]

Correct. Yeah. Just a couple of hours ago. I think we did it about two hours ago. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

What was that decision like? I mean, I know that Pokémon had its moment and then some would say that it’s kind of crashed a little bit. But what’s that decision behind going into these other markets beyond sports?

 [Evan Vandenberg]

It’s just been so requested. Right. I mean we do a ton of user interviews and trying to engage with our community in a bunch of different ways via discord, direct messaging, all sorts of things, email. And it’s been a constant level of feedback of, hey, we really, like, we wish we could get some access to Pokémon cards on here too. Like that would be awesome. So, give the people what they want. And I grew up in that era that was like right in the sweet spot of first edition Pokémon. So, for me, it was cool too. And it was actually very easy for me to relate to. And to kind of bring to the table. But yeah, I mean, the decision was all right. Like we built this infrastructure, right. It works for sports cards. It absolutely can work for any sort of graded card. And really for almost anything you can think of in the collectible space. So, let’s start to see what people want and give them that. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. You know what’s crazy in terms of demand, you have more PGA cards than you have NHL cards, which I find kind of interesting, right. Like that fourth major league in the United States that someone would consider maybe the fit behind MLS at this point. But I know for example, NHL just is back on ESPN. Right. And I always thought that that might be a major mover for the organisation. Anything that’s come across your way, or you just haven’t had the opportunity to put an NHL card on your platform?

 
[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. That’s funny. One of the guys who runs our kind of inventory squad is probably going to be like I told you. Yeah. And NHLs common. I’ve been lucky enough to – we’ve had some offers to sell some really cool stuff on our platform, from people from the NHL, some really preeminent awesome stuff. Some Gretsky stuff in there, Crosby, Ovechkin, some really cool cards that I would love to get out there. It’s just been timing and making sure we do that at the right time. But Hawks season’s obviously in full in full swing. So yeah, I’m sure once he hears this, I’ll be getting an email. So, thanks for that. 


[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. I mean that, and also, like you said, F1, right. F1 is something where you see it. Right. You see the excitement behind it, you had that huge race in Austin. I know that they’re going to be in Miami next year. There’s so much momentum there. Right. And it’s almost like you got to be careful, right. Between spotting a fad from a trend. I wonder how much of that thinking goes into a company like yours.

 
[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. And it’s evolved. Right. I think our thought for us is we have a – we’ve got a data science team, we up look a lot of things, but ultimately, right, like we can’t predict where the world’s going. Right. Like we can’t always just say, okay, this is what it’s going to be. And I think that’s part of being a two-sided marketplace is letting people determine that for themselves. Right. So, if you want to bring that onto the platform you want to sell that, that particular vertical, like by all means, right. Like I think at some point 2022, it’s going to be very, very open and allow for a lot of different verticals. I think when we look at it from our own lens, I mean, F1 was, again, a lot of community driven responses. It was people on the platform being like we want F1. And I think personally started watching the Netflix series a couple years back. Hadn’t really thought deeply about F1 at all prior to that. So, I can thank Netflix for reinvigorating my level of interest. It’s an interesting sport, right. I actually think it works. But like whether or not it ends up being the best card work or a great card work, I have no genie lamp here, but I think it’s interesting, right. Because you have 20 people, right, at the top level at any given point in time. And that may seem as a negative for some. But like in terms of what we see as the top 20 players in each sport, tend to be the ones that people interact with the most on our platform. So, when you look at F1, right, you even have that under a microscope where every single formula one racer is actually pretty important to the overall scheme. Right. They’re relevant. And you don’t get some defensive linemen who’s drafted from the sixth round in a pack, right. You tend to get – and they have multiple tiers to it all, right. But you do get somebody that a lot of people tend to care about. And so, I think from a global scale, it’s also very interesting, but even just US alone, I think the growth has been explosive. I don’t know what to attribute it all to, frankly, I’d be interested to get your thoughts on it, but I have to assume that Netflix series helped. I think they’ve done a really good job of marketing them. The fact that this whole season came down to one race. And obviously there’s a lot of scrutiny around how that all ended and how Verstappen. But it’s still story worthy, right. And it’s capturing a lot of people and you see these races and just like, it’s such kind of a cool scene, like it’s become on my sports bucket list, like going to Monaco. That would be a lot of fun. That’s very high up there for me. I think unless something serious happens, I’ll be at the next F1 event in the US. Uh, just because I’d like to go to one.

 
[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. That’s totally cool. Right. And you’re seeing these jet engines right, going across and my counter argument is this, as it relates to sports cards, right. The US has had its F1, it’s NASCAR. And if you talk about leagues, like NASCAR was like number two at some point behind the NFL. I know it’s kind of decreased a little bit. You had that loyalty, like you had Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon. If you were a Jeff Gordon fan, right, you wouldn’t be caught dead holding a Coke. Right. You were a total Pepsi fan. The fans behind every single driver was so loyal to their brands, whatever sticker was on that car, they were out there buying it. And it just seems to me, and maybe I’m not aware, the trading card space hasn’t caught on. Like, yeah, you can get a couple cool Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt cards for a couple hundred bucks, maybe a couple thousand dollars, but nothing like what you’re seeing with Louis Hamilton. Right. And so, I’m wondering what is this F1 phenomenon? 


[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah, I think you, me and a lot of other people were trying to figure that out, right, is what’s really driving it. I’m sure there’s somebody far more educated on the subject than me. But, as it pertains to like NASCAR and NHRA – but on NASCAR, right. I’m not like – personally I don’t find myself watching a ton of NASCAR. But like it’s not lost on me that a huge portion of the country and the viewership, it certainly was off the charts. Right. And the fan loyalty, the brand loyalty was insane. Like you had mentioned. So, I agree with you. It that seems like a missed opportunity, right. Because there’s so many big collectors in those demos. Right. I mean, I was just literally looking at a huge collection. Somebody was trying to get rid of a massive collection in South Carolina. I actually flew out there when I was in Florida, before I came home and so much NASCAR unopened Wax that he had. And I was like, this has got to be interesting or cool. And like doing a little research, and there isn’t a ton of value there right now. And I don’t know why. And I couldn’t point at it. Maybe it just maybe it was on the card. The manufacturers themselves not really marketing or branding it correctly or pushing to the right arms. I have no idea, man. You probably know more than I do.

[Horacio Ruiz]


Yeah. The NASCAR phenomenon is awesome. It obviously has roots in the south and this whole idea of moon shining, and kind of taking the back roads and using these race cars essentially to take whiskey across state lines. So, it’s got that kind of, that story that legend behind it. But it’s almost like it’s been maybe a regional thing. I don’t know, even though you have NASCAR tracks all over the country. And so, relating it back to F1, I just wonder, maybe F1 is just happens to be able to market itself better in a more glamorous way. Right?

 [Evan Vandenberg]

It’s like the most elite sport ever, right. I mean, you can’t just like, go get an F1 car. Not that you can go buy a NASCAR either. Right. But like, it’s like the billionaires who’s who in attendance. The global kind of like movers and shakers that are [Inaudible 00:26:34] and it just is such a glamorous forward. At least the way they’ve marketed. And I think they did an excellent job again, with their series. They launched in the US. Kind of broadening their scope here. And, just like, I think it kind of gives everybody that like, oh man, like this fancy kind of like international vibe. And again, it’s hard for me to understand why in the US at least – the US card market, why NASCAR didn’t pick up more. And in retrospect now that we talking about it, because F1 clearly is taking off. And it doesn’t seem like the US really doesn’t have many participants as far as drivers are concerned or teams and all that. Right. I mean, we’re really kind of on the sidelines in many respects, I don’t know.

 
[Horacio Ruiz]

On your end if that demands there, right, you have to meet it. Louis Hamilton seems to be the torch bearer right now. I kind of wanted to go back just to respect your time – going back to like the platform and for anybody that wants to check out Dibbs and has maybe these sports cards that they want to see how they stack up right, to what you have online. What kind of trading is involved? Right. because I saw like some buying and trading, I saw like a very, very minimal buy-in like where somebody was buying like six tenths of a percent or something like that. Is there a minimum or a maximum on the transactions? Don’t you have to have a certain minimum so that there’s a, I guess, a transaction fee that you guys have to recoup? 

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I mean, theoretically we don’t really have to have a minimum, I think for us right now, I think on the buy side, the minimums $1. And then on the sell side, I think there’s exceptions, because if you have less than a dollar, like we’re not going like, hold your money. Right. So, if you want to sell into an order that’s there, like you can definitely partially fill. So yeah, I think you can do as little or as much as you want. Right. It goes down to a dollar. I mean the whole kind of concept there was, we wanted to make the accessible for anyone. Right. Anybody who’s 18 in the US right now. But ultimately, we want – if you look at Golden Auctions [Inaudible 00:38:25], like they run incredible auctions. Right. But like how many people can truly participate meaningfully in a lot of them. Right. And I think when you look at different groups of people and people certainly that are new to the space, right. Like getting your toes wet with a few dollars is a much different ask than putting $10,000 into a single purchase allows people to buy into a bunch of different things too. Right. So, they can really check out a bunch, learn more about the entry. Like we really do think it’s a great gateway to get people into the hobby. And certainly, the younger generations that haven’t been to card shows and certainly the ones in the last couple years that learn about the hobby but haven’t actually been able to join in a meaningful way. Right. I mean, you know, we were at the national and tons of people were there. Right. Regardless of some of the code concerns, which is interesting to see too. Right. It’s not the youngest group, right. It’s a lot of people from all kind of walks of life, but yeah. I mean, we really wanted to make sure that you can grab your phone and if you have some sort of insight or something you want to do, you can act on it. You don’t have to have a billion-dollar budget or a million-dollar budget or a thousand-dollar budget for that matter. And you can get involved and start to like participate. And so that was really, really important to us. 


[Horacio Ruiz]

What do you see with the industry? Obviously, you see, growing to me, if a company like Amazon is investing in Dibbs, right. That means that the higher powers know what they’re doing. Right. They see a bright future for the industry. Do you share the same thing? And I mean, are you a hundred percent bullish or are there some things that you’ve kind of seen now that you’ve been in the business for a couple years now that makes me think twice?

 
[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I mean, look, I think it’s going to grow. I really, truly in my bones believe that. I think there’s a lot of smarter people than myself that have come to the same conclusion and have financially put their money where their mouth is too. Right. Making those investments and spending the time to care about it. Right. And I think from it being, it’s never, I would call it cottage industry a few years years ago, it’s not the case. But I think it’s going to expand rapidly. I think it’s going to become a much more quintessential part of being a fan of whatever it may be. I mean, NFTs, we have kind of accelerated that in different walks of life for better or worse. Right. And when we – if we want to talk about cards specifically, there’s something really special about that, right? When you look at the digital stuff in this evolution, right. There’s going to be a lot more misses there, right. It’s going to be a lot of things that are nonsense, right. Or go to zero very quickly. And there isn’t much interest and value after a very quick period of time. Where I think, cards, we’re looking at a hundred plus years of value there and of passion and people who care about these things. Right. And so, I think the physical stuff is always going to be interesting to people. You’re seeing this rise amongst the physical collectibles in more than just card. And I think cards are only going to grow. I mean, fanatics coming in and the valuations, the amount of money they’re bringing into the space is really interesting to see. Right. And I don’t know what their plans are. I don’t know them personally. But I think it points in the direction of, they’re going to be working with the players, the leagues to bring this stuff to a lot more people. And I think if you take a step back and – like obviously people have affinity for the brands that are producing things today and that they’re used to collecting. But like, it’s good to get new blood every once in a while. Right. And I think it’s great to get new ideas and new concepts into that space. And I think you’re starting to see that. I think people are taking it extremely seriously. So, my fear about the whole industry isn’t so much about where holistically that it’s going in the right direction, like in terms of its growing, but like individually when you look at different particular verticals and sectors, like yeah,


There’s cause for concern, right. I mean the amount of money that were being put on modern young players that it just like, if you look at it, right, I don’t have to explain to you. It was kind of crazy to see, right. If you just supposed it to a legitimate hall of famer, clearly lower pops. Right. And all these other things. And the price differentials, there were just kind of inexplicable as far as I was concerned. But that happens in all sorts of markets. Right. Things heat up and people get overzealous and unfortunately, I’m sure there will be cases of that. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

Yeah. I mean, I think that as the industry grows and as people get interested – and I don’t know if this is a part of any of these mega deals being constructed, but to your point, I think the education, right, and I was joking, I guess a little bit when I mentioned a Dibbs reality TV show, but if you do it right, like following your team, following you, doing certain acquisitions. If you’re potential buyer, right. Let’s say collector, you can learn a lot from somebody who’s in the industry. Right. You guys are doing this day and night, right. Like this is your job. Now. I just think things like that are important, right. Where you’re not just necessarily glamorising everything and saying, Hey I bought this for a million, sold it for 2 million. Easy money. Because the reality is, well I can’t buy that million-dollar card and I’m not going to flip it for $2 million a year later. And you’re right. Like people might legitimately be putting in their money in the wrong place. Right? 

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. I don’t like the easy money mentality. Look, it can work in short glimpses of time for people in different places, crypto for instance, and other things. It’s important to buy what you like, what you care about, what you believe in, what you want to be a part of right. And yeah, the idea of just getting in and trying to make a million dollars off flipping – look, maybe some people have done it. You never know, believe half of what you hear and half of what you see and none of what you hear. Right. But yeah, I hope right, my hope and I know that a lot of this is going on now through conversations is like, there’s going to be a lot more content and media strategy around this space, right? Like, you’re going to see series around this soon. Like this will be – I can with almost complete certainty, tell you that there will be series around this. So, you’ll see Netflix or whoever it may be the big players in the space. Like they’re taking this seriously. Right. People care about this. And I hope that we create content and that the space starts to grow in the direction that it is more informative and less about these stories. Right. Of course, those stories are captivating and eye catching and all that. But like, I really hope it brings in, more fans through really cool storytelling and higher quality content and [Inaudible 00:44:33]. Because there’s so much cool shit, right. There’s just so much that you can talk about. And so many things are going to happen. And so, I think there’s a lot of cool storylines and those are going to get – you’re going to see that stuff come out in the next year or two.

[Horacio Ruiz]

I don’t if you’ve felt this way. I mean, there’s been a handful of times where I’ve seen certain cards, right. Even within my collection, right, where I get something, I bought it for 150 bucks, let’s say, or 200 bucks and I opened the car and I almost – my breath gets taken away. I’m like, I own this, you know? And it’s kind of like a special hobby, special industry. Our time is basically up here. I don’t want to take up more of your time. Is there anything else that you want to add? Like, what’s next for Dibbs? What’s next? Are you going to this – I know that the big industry event is going be the main collective in Vegas. Are you going to go to that? 


[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah, look, we’re going to – we’re definitely going to get way more involved on the event scene this year. Last year we were loosely or minimally involved and really just kind of heads down building technology. But like we feel we owe it to the whole space to be more involved. To bring people up to speed on what we’re doing, but like also to support the hobby as a whole. So yeah. We’ll be at the MINT collective in Vegas. I was actually just chatting with them yesterday in person. The guy’s running it. And so, we’ll be there. We’ll definitely be at the national. We want to start. And I think there’s a consortia, businesses like our own, right. That are emerging in this space that like, we want to create some cool fun events. Right. I was in New York for nft.nyc and like, holy shit man. Like that is like – hate NFT is all you want all that. Like, it doesn’t matter. Like the energy was real. Right. And like people love connecting over things they care about. This is no different right. Card shows and card conferences are really, they’re big events. And we want to make sure that we’re to kind of support that and bring it into this kind of new age and make sure we foster that well. So, you can definitely count on seeing us at a lot of the big events this year and being a sponsor and certainly having a presence and trying to make sure we get back to the community too and hosting events and trying to bring cool, cool things to people’s plate. Hopefully we’ll do something interesting for the super bowl for folks that are in town and try to fly some folks out as well. 


[Horacio Ruiz]

Awesome. Evan it was great talking to you. It was great. Finding out more about Dibbs. It looks like the future’s pretty bright. 

[Evan Vandenberg]

Yeah. Appreciate your time, man. Thanks for having me on. And dude, keep up work. 

[Horacio Ruiz]

Appreciate it. Have a good day. 

[Evan Vandenberg]

You too.

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Author

Horacio Ruiz

Horacio Ruiz

Horacio is a veteran math teacher of the New York City public school system. Prior to teaching, he lived in New Orleans where he worked in sales for the New Orleans Hornets before joining The Institute for Sport and Social Justice to rebuild homes in the Lower Ninth Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He currently lives in Staten Island with his wife, Alicia, his three sons; Oliver, Henry, and Jacob, and their pitt-mi,x Tipitina. In 2019, Horacio published a biography, The White Knight: Calvin Patterson and the Integration of Florida State University Football.

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