- The Metaplex Foundation, which oversees the titular Solana NFT protocol, has raised $46 million in funding.
- Co-led by Multicoin Capital and Jump Crypto, the round also features participation from NBA legend Michael Jordan, among other investors.
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Solana emerged as an alternative network to Ethereum last fall and saw surging interest as the overall NFT market swelled. Now, the protocol behind millions of Solana NFTs has raised funding with some big names involved—including NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Today, the Metaplex Foundation announced that it has raised $46 million in a round co-led by Multicoin Capital and Jump Crypto, with Solana Ventures, Alameda Research, and metaverse investment firm Animoca Brands also participating.
Along with those firms, more than 90 individual investors took part in the funding round, including Jordan and fellow retired NBA star Allen Iverson, plus current players like Kevin Love and Joel Embiid. New York Knicks Executive Vice President William Wesley also participated, along with entrepreneur Shari Glazer, DJ duo The Chainsmokers’ Mantis VC firm, and more.
Metaplex is the standard protocol behind NFTs, with more than 5.7 million such NFTs minted to date, according to the foundation. That’s spread across 85,000 projects with 600,000 unique collectors, with Solana NFT trading volume topping $1.2 billion to date.
Leading Solana NFT collections include profile picture projects like Degenerate Ape Academy and Solana Monkey Business, with anticipated NFT-driven games like Star Atlas and Aurory on the horizon. Magic Eden and FTX NFTs are leading Solana NFT marketplaces, while celebrities like Steve Harvey and Mike Tyson have supported Solana NFT projects.
Stephen Hess, director of the Metaplex Foundation, told Decrypt that the funds will be used to further develop Metaplex’s feature set and developer tools. Metaplex also aims to expand the potential use cases for Solana NFTs, not only for the budding NFT-driven metaverse and video games, but also social applications and more. It wants to help bring more Solana apps to life on mobile devices as well.
“We'll have an iOS SDK and an Android SDK coming out this year, which are going to allow this next generation of mobile apps to be built quickly,” he said. “It will solve a lot of the tension and difficulty that the software engineering community at large had working with the blockchain and specifically Solana, which can be tricky.”
An NFT works like a tokenized receipt that proves ownership to a digital item. It can represent things like profile pictures, illustrations, video files, and more. The wider NFT market grew from about $100 million in trading volume in 2020 to $23 billion worth in 2021, per data from DappRadar.
Solana is billed as a more energy-efficient rival to , with its proof-of-stake and proof-of-history hybrid consensus model leading to faster transactions and lower fees for users. Ethereum remains the leading NFT ecosystem in terms of trading volume and has higher-profile and more valuable collections, but Solana’s growing ecosystem is typically seen as more affordable and approachable.
Interestingly, this isn’t Michael Jordan’s first move into the Solana space. Last month, Michael and son Jeffrey Jordan announced HEIR, a fan engagement platform that will let athletes, influencers, and entertainers cultivate and interact with supporters. The platform will have an HEIR token minted on the Solana blockchain, as well as NFT collectibles. Jordan also invested in crypto game maker Mythical Games last November.
For the Metaplex Foundation, tapping an array of athletes and entertainers as strategic investors gives them the ability to work closely with creators while building out new Solana tools. That way, they can integrate early feedback to ensure that creators have the features and functionality they need.
“From the very beginning, a principle that we've held to and has served us well is really looking to creators—and people that work in the entertainment, media, and sports industries—for inspiration in terms of where we take NFTs next,” said Hess.