Solana’s Macalinao Brothers Launch $100M VC Fund

Protagonist, the new venture capital firm and incubator from the prominent developers, will primarily focus on emerging blockchains and technology.

AccessTimeIconJul 12, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:55 p.m. UTC
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Solana developers Dylan and Ian Macalinao have debuted Protagonist, a $100 million venture capital firm and incubator fund. CoinDesk previously reported on the existence of the fund last month based on regulatory filings.

“Our focus is mostly on emerging blockchains and technologies where we feel that we can add value within those general ecosystems or within those protocols,” angel investor and Protagonist co-founder George Bousis told CoinDesk in an interview.

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  • For its early-stage investments, Miami-based Protagonist is targeting checks between $1 million and $5 million across 20 to 30 portfolio companies. The firm also has an early opportunities strategy targeting potential high-growth companies, which will look to invest $5 million to $15 million for two to three companies, said Bousis.

    The fund has deployed capital to an initial group of portfolio companies, including layer 1 blockchain Aptos, Solana-based non-fungible token (NFT) protocol Cardinal and mobile banking platform Cogni.

    The Macalinao brothers – best known for the stablecoin swapping protocol Saber – co-founded Protagonist alongside Henry Hurst (co-CEO of fintech company Pipe) and Bousis, who founded Raise and Slide, a digital gift card company.

    Protagonist arose from a rebrand of the developer collective Ship Capital. In September, Dylan tweeted that Ship Capital was “a group of friends building new [decentralized finance] protocols” and not a VC that was investing in projects. Ship Capital filed for a name change to Protagonist with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on May 23.

    “I don't really see ourselves as a VC in general," Bousis explained. "I think we see ourselves as a partner and as fellow entrepreneurs that are helping other entrepreneurs build their business."

    “Founders have somewhat of an unfair advantage versus traditional investors because you’re in the network. You’re helping people. You’re mostly an entrepreneur [first], and an investor second.”

    Bear market

    With Protagonist launching its first fund during a cryptocurrency downturn, Bousis acknowledged that valuations have come down and fewer deals are being done.

    “I love it,” Bousis said of the bear market. “It really has something to say about the confidence of our investors and our [limited partners] who have joined us.”

    “I think this is where a lot of managers and entrepreneurs really shine,” he continued. “We get some of the best businesses in the world built coming out of recessions or during bear markets.”

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    CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

    Brandy Betz

    Brandy covered crypto-related venture capital deals for CoinDesk.


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