|Company Founded:||One of None||Year Graduated:|
|Title:||Co-Founder and CEO||Degree:||Studied Finance|
|Location:||Nashville, TN||Residence Hall:||Stanford|
|Company Founded:||One of None||Year Graduated:||2017|
|Title:||Co-Founder and CCO||Degree:||BBA, Finance|
|Location:||NEew York,NY||Residence Hall:||Stanford|
|Company Founded:||One of None||Year Graduated:||2014|
|Title:||Co-Founder and CTO||Degree:||BBA, Management Entrepreneurship, Graphic Design|
|Location:||New York,NY||Residence Hall:||Keenan|
In high school, DeShone Kizer, a football player out of Toledo, Ohio, was one of those buzz-generating quarterbacks that universities with big-time programs pursue with relentless intent. And they did. The University of Alabama. Louisiana State University. Southern Cal. Stanford University. The University of Notre Dame. Every last one of these powerhouses came knocking at Kizer’s door.
When it came down to two, Stanford and Notre Dame, the kid with the arm threw his loyalty to the Fighting Irish. His reasons were these: Notre Dame would allow him to play at the highest level of the game, South Bend was just two-and-a-half hours from his family, and it was home to a highly ranked business school. You see, while Kizer was all about the game of football, he was looking ahead to another game.
“Notre Dame opened my eyes to how big the world was. I grew up in a working-class family, and here I was alongside peers studying to be doctors, lawyers and engineers. I began to think bigger about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a company,” Kizer says.
A year earlier, another young man scored a spot at Notre Dame, a native of Morristown, New Jersey, named Pat Darché. A member of a very large Irish-Catholic family with a significant number of Notre Dame alumni in its ranks, Darché followed his older brother Mike, who was entering his senior year, to South Bend. Like Kizer, Darché was drawn to Notre Dame because of its business school and a desire to become an entrepreneur like his father.
Fate has a funny way of bringing people together. Notre Dame does not isolate student athletes in separate residence halls. Instead, they are randomly placed in a hall just like any other student. Kizer found himself in Stanford on the same floor as Darché. It wasn’t long before the two bonded over ping pong. “Pat was the smartest guy I knew,” says Kizer. Each sensing a kindred spirit, they became best friends.
After deciding to enter the National Football League draft in his junior year, Kizer was chosen by the Cleveland Browns in the second round. Meanwhile, Darché joined Unified Global Archiving, a company that secures and stores information for companies and other entities. Quickly rising to director of international sales and marketing, Darché gained an appreciation for the complexities of establishing and maintaining data integrity and the tenacity it takes to build a business.
Since childhood, Mike Darché had been the “artsy” brother. After graduation in May 2014, he headed to New York City where he joined Catalyze Marketing and Consulting as a website designer and developer. He also honed skills in branding, strategy and digital marketing.
Around the same time, Mike Darché founded a social media platform called Scooper with a brother and a college friend. “Scooper was like Snapchat and TikTok. People would take videos of something like a trick shot in basketball, send it to friends, and let other friends vote on who did it better. It was a fun way to compete.”
Starting a social platform required heavy lifting. Darché and his co-founders had to build a fairly sophisticated iPhone app and video hosting platform. The marketing was more rewarding. “DeShone agreed to wear a Scooper branded bright pink bracelet during games. There we were, on national TV, on game days,” he says. “That was pretty cool.”
Ultimately, Scooper failed to develop a sticky following and was shut down. Darché vowed to return with a new venture. Little did he know that his future partners in the yet to be determined startup would include his celebrity influencer, Kizer, and youngest brother Pat.
When the global pandemic hit in 2020, Kizer and the Darchés found themselves stuck at home along with the rest of the world. At this point, Kizer was a free agent after playing with four NFL teams. The forced downtime gave him plenty of time to think. “Football for me was always a means to an end,” he says. “Covid gave me the opportunity to consider what life would look like after football. I focused on the experiences I’d had with the NFL and how I could turn them into a business.”
Kizer kept coming back to one thing: the Air Jordan football cleats he wore as a professional football player. “They were limited edition Jordans, the kind the sneaker-collecting culture covets. I thought there might be a business there.”
For those unfamiliar with the sneakerhead culture, public fascination with athletic shoes began in the 1980s. The collecting genre is attributed to two major sources: basketball legend Michael Jordan and his signature Air Jordan line of shoes first released in 1985—and still going strong—and the growth of hip hop music. Artists’ street credibility was measured by the sneaker brands they wore. Drops of limited-edition sneakers became as popular as the drop of a new rap song or video game.
“The secondary market for sneaker collectors is huge, especially for limited editions created by brands or artists. There’s also cachet in who previously owned the sneakers, an athlete or celebrity. Most sales go through eBay or The RealReal, with the reseller making all of the money,” Kizer explains.
“I wondered how we could help artists, athletes, and other creators realize the lifetime value from their creations. As it was, after the initial sale, they had no access to the resale market. They often sold their limited editions low and watched collectors realize the real gains in value. There were also the issues of authenticity and tracking the ownership and provenance of a collectible.”
Kizer set up a white board in his parents’ garage, using it to brainstorm ideas for his company. “Whenever I had new ideas, I’d call Pat. The more we talked, the more we realized we needed a tech platform for selling, authenticating, displaying, and storing collectibles, and we needed Mike to build it. We also decided not to focus just on sneakers, but include all limited editions in fashion, art, skateboards, handbags—any asset with appreciating value. ”
The seemingly casual Kizer-Darché confab soon morphed into a true startup with three co-founders. And the co-founders needed a name for their alternative marketplace for creators and collectors.
Kizer took the lead on naming the company, returning to his white board. “You can own one of 10,000 Air Jordans, one of 1,000 Hermès bags, one of 50 Rolexes, or a one of one painting. It all impacts value. Our focus is one-of-a-kind authenticated originals, so I originally thought ‘One and Done.’ I went to bed thinking about what separates us from others, and it’s the artist created, athlete worn, and famous owned extraordinary pieces. That’s when the name ‘One of None’ came to me and what we ran with.”
As they continued with product ideation, the co-founders committed to prioritizing creators in a novel way: giving them a royalty each time an asset managed by One of None is sold. In this way, they would leverage a creator’s earning power with each one-of-a-kind asset they produce. It’s a novel idea and attractive benefit for artists and creators who traditionally have one shot to earn.
By 2021, the biggest hurdle the trio faced early on was how to establish and prove authenticity of collectibles in a world where knockoffs are all too common. When blockchain emerged as a possible solution for authentication, Mike Darché says they didn’t take the technology, commonly associated with bitcoin, seriously. Then something crazy happened. A digital artist who went by the name of Beeple, sold a non-fungible token (NFT) secured by blockchain for $69 million through the Christie’s auction house in the United Kingdom.
“That really opened our eyes,” he says. “Blockchain gave One of None a unique, secure, non-hackable, digital way to authenticate a collectible, establish and track ownership that would persist over time. At the time, no one was doing this in the collectibles market that we knew of.”
Implementing their breakthrough idea of intrinsically connecting the physical and digital world was daunting but not impossible. Ultimately, their solution involves placing an RFID chip on every product, then creating a streamlined onboarding process that includes a unique blockchain-based digital token for that product. Each time a collectible is sold, the blockchain is updated, providing an immutable certificate of authenticity and protection against counterfeiting for collectors. It is also a means for creators to track their work.
The other aspect of One of None is its vault, a network of storage facilities that maintain the link between the physical and digital. Once cataloged and on chain, all products are secured in a climate -controlled environment. Upon purchase of a One of None Hybrid, collectors can choose to vault their physical asset and freely trade the digital record of ownership, an NFT, in the secondary markets without the worry of wear and tear, insurance, shipping, or authentication.
Throughout 2022, Kizer and the Darchés tested and tweaked One of None platform to determine the best way to scale. They also homed in on bigger partnerships and longer-term deals. Now, in early 2023, they are on the verge of closing major partnerships with a vaulting company to securely store physical assets anywhere in the world plus with well-known creators that include major fashion, shoe and hip hop brands. And this is only the beginning. Because of his NFL career, Kizer has a close relationship with athletic shoe brands like Nike, which can open doors in the future on exclusive limited-edition sneaker drops.
What’s exciting, says Kizer, is having the ability to offer major brands a white label version of One of None, where the brand provides the collectible and owns the promotional launch while One of None manages the blockchain authentication, management and physical storage if desired. The company will continue to serve smaller creators, artists and brands using the One of None brand. Kizer is also uplifted by the feedback he’s gotten from his professional athlete friends.
“They love One of None and the concept of knowing they can run with a brand or artist as influencers and investors. Also, as collectors, they know who’s owned a collectible before them provides more value and when they’re ready to sell, there’s the potential for a greater return on their investment.
Pat Darché says the biggest win to date is successfully launching the “crazy concept” of using hardware attached to physical objects to tell blockchain-based smart contracts how to operate.
“This physical/digital bridge we’ve created is something we theorized for several months, troubleshooting each and every scenario you could imagine like what happens if the physical component gets destroyed in a fire, who pays for vaulting over time, etcetera. We finally worked through every issue into the all-encompassing idea of the One of None Hybrid Asset, and the process is sound!” he says.
“We truly believe we've pioneered something that will transform how all assets will be collected and traded. We're proud to be in a position where we can finally roll it out on a larger scale to brands, creators, artists, and collectors,” he adds.
To date, One of None has operated using the proceeds of a $1 million family and friends round raised through a convertible note. Those who have contributed will receive share in the company at the first valuation-based round of financing. The co-founders are seeking to raise an additional $2.5 million in their pre-seed round, which is set to kick-off in the second quarter of this year. Says Pat, “We’re going to our ‘friendlies’ first before heading to Silicon Valley.”
When asked what advice they’d give to those who’d like to start a company, the three One of None co-founders each had a take:
“My advice is to trust your research. Your unique set of experiences is what makes you the perfect person for your business. If you are solving a clear problem with a thoughtful solution that is authentic to you, customers will buy, partners will invest, and employees will believe.” – DeShone Kizer
“Try your best to stay flexible as you learn about your customers and the strengths and weaknesses of your business model. You probably won't uncover the right product-market fit until you begin testing your idea, no matter how many times you've pitched it to investors or prospective customers. It's not always fun or easy to change course, but flexibility allows you to be agile, responsive, and innovative in the face of uncertainty and change. – Mike Darché
“Above all else, never forget the importance of balance. Assuming you're a hardworking individual and understand the immense difficulty in starting a venture from scratch, you're probably prepared to work all hours of the day, seven days a week, to get your company up and running. It's hard amidst the chaos to know when you're overdoing it. But you don't want to go several months before realizing you've sacrificed your personal time, health and relationships. The reality is you perform with much greater efficiency when you take care of yourself and grow as an individual along the way.” – Pat Darché