When you think of publicly traded companies, your mind might go to Apple, Shell, Bank of America, and… World Chess?
Outside the defunct United States Basketball League, which went public in 1996, sporting associations don't typically go public. Which makes the manner in which World Chess is doing it all the more surprising: It's using a "hybrid IPO" in which it will make a security token offering ahead of a 2020 stock offering.
The STO will leverage Algorand, a proof-of-stake blockchain network, which just yesterday released a slate of upgrades catering to enterprise-grade decentralized applications (dapps). Its new features make the World Chess partnership possible.
Specifically, Algorand has integrated smart contracts into the protocol and made it possible to put multiple types of assets on the network. According to Algorand's press release, those "include fungible assets like currencies, stablecoins, and utility tokens; non-fungible assets like tickets; restricted fungible assets like securities; and restricted non-fungible assets like licenses and certifications."
World Chess, which is preparing to put on the 2020 World Chess Championship alongside the World Chess Federation (FIDE), has tapped the Coinbase-backed Securitize to put its security token offering on Algorand's network. World Chess says the STO will be available to accredited (read: high net-worth) investors in the US and EU. The company plans to also list its shares on the London Stock Exchange, where one share will cost the same as one token. According to the release, “the tokens will be convertible to World Chess shares after its IPO or can be privately traded between accredited/qualified investors.”
Though World Chess's public offering plan is unorthodox, it's seemingly thinking several moves ahead.
Classic chess is played in-person, but hobbyists play mostly online. Currently, FIDE chess ratings are derived from live "over-the-board" tournaments, with scores from online games only counting toward a separate rating. World Chess thinks there might be a market for computer-bound chess players who want to go pro—or, at least, up their rating. Those ratings, however, can theoretically be tampered with.
Though there's not currently much in the way of prize money for online players, it's not hard to envision a future where people watch highly rated players compete online à la e-sports, increasing the need for secure ratings.
Algorand is partnered not just with World Chess but also with the current championship cycle and will "supply technology to store some of the online ratings data on-chain" precisely so they can't be altered. The combination of a token offering and blockchain-facilitated ratings mean chess could be going public in more ways than one.