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The Bitcoin Frontier Fund, formerly known as Stacks Ventures, announced on Monday an accelerator focused on the NFT-like Ordinals, with plans to award several startups with mentorship opportunities and $100,000 seed investments.
Led by entrepreneur and influencer Trevor Owens, the Fund aims to foster growth around Ordinals, the Bitcoin-based protocol launched this January by developer Casey Rodarmor that has led to rampant experimentation around crypto’s oldest coin.
Ordinals allows for the creation of NFT-like assets on Bitcoin called inscriptions, and the protocol has gone on to yield innovations like Bitcoin-native tokens called BRC-20s. Owens told Decrypt that despite headwinds in the venture space, the potential for new firms to emerge through Ordinals and associated creations remains lucrative.
We are excited to announce the launch of the FIRST Ordinals Accelerator Program!
Ordinals have revolutionized what can be possible with Bitcoin.
We will be investing in Infrastructure, defi, dev tools, proven web3 use cases, and enabling technologies.
Learn more 🧵👇
— Bitcoin Frontier Fund (@BTCFrontierFund) August 14, 2023
“Building in the bear market now will be when the next unicorns are started,” Owens said, invoking the term used to describe private startups valued at over a billion dollars. “There are fewer people, but that makes it easier to see others.”
Under its previous moniker, the Bitcoin Frontier Fund raised $7 million to support companies focused on Bitcoin and the Stacks network. The organization is backed by Trust Machines, Hiro, the Stacks Foundation, and Stacks co-founder Muneeb Ali.
Stacks is a layer-2 blockchain that lets developers create smart contracts and decentralized applications on top of Bitcoin. Rebranding from Stacks Ventures to the Bitcoin Frontier Fund captures just how much Ordinals has changed the conversation surrounding Bitcoin and Web3 in recent months, Owens said.
“Before Ordinals came along, we didn't see a way to build these types of advanced assets on Bitcoin’s layer-1,” he said, pointing out that inscription data is hosted directly on the network. “It’s the missing piece of the puzzle for creating assets on Bitcoin.”
The Ordinals accelerator program will last four months for each company that’s accepted, and prepare them to raise funding. Notable mentors include OnChain Monkey co-founder Amanda Terry, Dust Labs founder and CEO Kevin Henrikson, the pseudonymous on-chain data enthusiast Domo (who created the BRC-20 token standard), and Udi Wertheimer of Ordinals project Taproot Wizards.
Wertheimer’s “Great Ordinals Debate” was an anticipated spat at Bitcoin 2023 in Miami this past May—back when Ordinals garnered controversy for clogging Bitcoin’s network and sending transaction fees sky-high due to fervor surrounding BRC-20s.
While the pushback Ordinals received was palpable, the attention—as some of Bitcoin’s largest figures like MicroStrategy Executive Chairman Michael Saylor affirmed—also drove adoption, Owens said.
A recent drop-off in Ordinals-related activity has led some to speculate that Ordinals are “dead,” the pseudonymous Ordinals technical fellow known as Ordinally previously told Decrypt. Yet Owens argued a lack of buzz is only natural as the Ordinals space progresses, while critics—the so-called laser-eyed Bitcoin maximalists—tuck their tails between their legs.
“There's always an initial hype cycle for every new technology,” he said. “But I hope that people will start to recognize Ordinals is a paradigm shift [in] how we can build applications on Bitcoin.”
Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to clarify that the accelerator will provide seed investments, not grants.