Solana’s Macalinao Brothers Double Down on Crypto Venture Fund
Crypto VCs told CoinDesk that building projects and investing in them is a tricky mix.
Solana’s most prominent brother-developer duo are launching their own venture capital fund.
Dylan and Ian Macalinao, who are best known for creating stablecoin swapping protocol Saber, are rebranding their developer collective, Ship Capital. Protagonist, as the fund is now known, has raised at least $33 million, according to its website and regulatory documents.
The Saber brothers’ new push means two prolific Solana ecosystem contributors will now officially split their time between building crypto projects and investing in them.
That sparked some concern among the space’s more entrenched VCs; multiple told CoinDesk that doing both efforts well requires “focus” that’s hard to find.
"I don't think it inspires confidence that they're committed to the protocol, but it is commonly accepted, with lots of prominent examples," a third VC said, naming Robert Leshner and Tarun Chitra’s Robot Ventures as one.
Protagonist lists four people with the title “co-founder and GP” – brothers Dylan and Ian, plus fintech company Pipe’s CEO, Henry Hurst, and George Bousis, a self-described angel investor. Corporate attorney Sevan Avakian is Protagonist’s general counsel and partner, and Jiani Chen is an investment partner, the website said Sunday. Monday night it had dropped the "General Partner" descriptions for the brothers, Hurst and Bousis.
“Protagonist is building and investing in future-defining crypto companies and protocols,” the website said. It has so far deployed into layer 1 blockchain contender Aptos, a programmable non-fungible token (NFT) startup called Cardinal, the neobank Cogni and decentralized finance platform Delta One.
The rebranding of Ship Capital (regulatory documents capture the name change) reflects its shift from a GitHub contributor collaborative into a bonafide venture capital firm.
That pivot has not come naturally: both brothers have publicly stated their “group of friends” who coded was simply that.
“It’s not a VC, and we as an entity have never made any investments, nor do we plan to any time soon,” Ian tweeted last November. Two months prior, Dylan had said much the same.
Corporate records indicate “any time soon” was not long at all. “Ship Capital Labs US, LP” registered in Delaware in late January 2022; it recognized its name change to “Protagonist US LP” in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on May 23.
Ship Capital previously acknowledged making a venture investment in Delta One.
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