Beckett has a new CEO with a technology background. The company named Kunal Chopra to the role on Monday. Most recently, he served as CEO of Kaspien, a software and tech-enabled services platform for retail marketplaces.
“We’re excited that Kunal has agreed to take the helm at Beckett,” stated Justin Holbrook, interim Beckett CEO. “He brings the kind of wide-ranging, far-reaching technology experience that we need at this time. The collectibles industry is embracing technology in an unprecedented way, and that’s why we thought Kunal was perfectly positioned to lead Beckett as it invests heavily in digital products and services for collectors.”
With a new corporate headquarters in Dallas, Beckett is hoping to triple its current size as well as launch a suite of new products and services before the end of 2022.
He says he sees Beckett as “a one-stop-shop platform of amazing products and services for collectors to manage their portfolio of alternative investments. This includes refining our core offerings—Pricing, Grading, and Authentication Services—but also expanding to newer services and categories beyond trading cards and comic books. We intend to do so by innovating on behalf of our customers and utilizing cutting-edge technology in web3 and blockchain, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation.”
We chatted with Chopra about his previous experience, why the company is so interested in technology, the card backlog and what his priorities will be as the company’s new CEO.
SC Daily: Tell us a little about your professional background
KC: My background is at the intersection of both tech and business. Prior to coming to Beckett, I was the chief executive officer for a publicly traded company called Kaspien. At Kaspien, our mission was to accelerate the growth of brands on today’s leading online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Target, among others. And we provided a complete platform of software and tech enabled services to help brands grow online.
Prior to that, I was a general manager at Microsoft, a general manager at Amazon in fashion, and a director of product at Groupon. I was also the chief operating officer for a venture-backed startup in the Seattle area called Unikrn. I joined that company when we were four or five people and helped grow that to a global organization.
In what feels like a prior life, I was a software engineer at Microsoft, and then transitioned into building tech-focused businesses through my MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. At my core, I’m a tech executive who helps grow businesses, scale businesses, and take businesses through their next evolution. And that’s exactly where Beckett is today—at the cusp of the brand’s next evolution.
Is there anything in your background that you feel has prepared you to become CEO at Beckett?
Beckett is going through a major digital transformation right now. And my background in tech is, I believe, crucial to that effort. There’s been a proliferation of technology in the collectibles industry lately, through the use of blockchain or the use of artificial intelligence or the use of data and analytics. Beckett has always been the original analytics platform for this industry, and our goal for the future is to elevate that to the next level. My background in building consumer products and tech products fits exactly with what Beckett is trying to accomplish.
What attracted you to this particular role?
1) This industry has seen tremendous growth over the last few years. And it’s projected to grow globally in a big way over the next few years. And at the same time, there’s this thirst for alternative investments, and the rise of the digital-first consumer. There’s a huge market opportunity in front of us with a changing demographic with a more digital demographic. Then there are digital collectibles and asset backed NFTs. But at the same time, technology hasn’t kept pace with what consumers want. And so there’s a lot of opportunity for a company like Beckett, which is an iconic brand in the space, to serve that customer.
2) I try to take on challenges where I feel like I can add the most value—and where I’m catching a company at an evolutionary moment. That’s where Beckett is at. I’m excited to help Beckett grow into a global organization to serve the collectors across the world and to build amazing products and services for collectors. I’m also thrilled to help transform Beckett from a company that’s focused mostly on cards and comic books and pricing into a cross-category, global analytics company.
3) Finally, I was struck by Beckett’s culture. I am an entrepreneur by nature; I like to roll up my sleeves and get stuff done. And that’s exactly how we are running Beckett, building a culture of entrepreneurship within the company. And that ability to move quickly, launch products and services quickly, fail fast, be very agile in our approach—all of that taken together is what attracted me to this role.
I know Beckett is planning on relocating to new, larger offices. Can you share a little insight about the company’s current facility and what it might mean for customers?
Yes, we are planning to move to a completely new office soon. By the end of July or so, we should be moving from our current facility into a larger space. It’ll improve our interactions and operations, but it’s also one step in modernizing our warehouse and improving the way we do grading and authentication.
Also one of new products—the Vault—the flagship version, is also going to be hosted there. Think about the experience at a flagship Apple store, but for vaulted collectibles. We’re really transitioning from being a services company to being more of a software platform and analytics company that powers our tech-enabled services, and the new Dallas offices are meant to serve that purpose.
Will you be living in Dallas and interacting with the staff at the company on a daily basis?
Yes, I will be moving to Dallas. I’m currently in the Seattle area, and I’ll be moving to Dallas in a few weeks. I have already been doing a lot of back and forth, and I’m very excited to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the team in Dallas.
How important is technology to the future of Beckett and how will customers see that play out in the coming months/years?
We have now started a long term, strategic, digital transformation effort. That’s going to come to fruition through a multi-year product roadmap, and all based on cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain, tech-enabled services, and automation. All of this is going to help us serve consumers well. We are not only going to be launching new products to serve the needs of the collectors, but we’ll also be enhancing our existing products and services through the use of technology like artificial intelligence, analytics, pricing, automation, and much else.
At the same time, we’re going to be more cross-category. We are moving from being a cards and a comic books company to operating in multiple categories. We have a product roadmap that includes VHS, sneakers, and other collectibles. Collectors will start seeing a lot of these products and services launched in the coming months.
I know Beckett recently opened its Economy card submission level after digging out from under a large backlog just as PSA did. I’m sure collectors are wondering if there is still a backlog of any kind and how is it that being managed. Can you offer any insight?
Good news on this front: There is no more backlog. We are done with our backlog completely. Submissions are open, and everyone can submit. The team worked hard to get through the backlog and we are excited to welcome all submissions.
Are you a collector and if so, what do you collect?
This goes back to my childhood: I used to collect coins when I was growing up. And recently, I’ve embraced collecting in the digital space, in the form of NFTs. And the combination of those two—coins and NFTs—has helped me understand and appreciate the industry.
That said, I have to be honest: I’m not as intense a collector as others in this space. But I see that as an asset. Truthfully, Beckett has so many experienced collectors who have been in the card or comic book space, or who have been authenticating signatures for years. But I hope I can bring a fresh perspective to that work and help take us to the next level.
What’s your vision for Beckett going forward and what’s your first priority in this new role?
The vision for Beckett is very simple: We want to build the most amazing products and services on the planet for collectors. That’s it. Period. It’s that simple.
Our goal is to serve the needs of the collector, ensuring that we can build the most amazing products and services for them. And we are centering everything that we’re doing at Beckett right now around that vision.
How are we doing that? By creating the ultimate one stop shop platform for collectors to manage their entire portfolio of alternative investments. And that’s the key: It’s an entire portfolio of alternative investments that includes a number of different services, including pricing, grading, authentication, the Vault, as well as conferences and trainings. This is all coming as part of our one stop shop platform across multiple categories, including cards, comic books, coins, VHS, sneakers, and many more. And then we want to do that globally.
Our priority right now is to be able to launch the initial version of this platform with a completely new brand. And that’s what we’ve been focused on. So what you will see from us initially is transitioning, today’s beckett.com into a completely new web experience and new platform experience. It’s going to be a refreshed brand that everyone in the industry is going to be proud of, and we’re laying the foundation of a cross-category global collectibles company. That right there is my top priority.