Solana emerged as a non-fungible token network (or NFTs) alternative to Ethereum in 2021 and has seen increasing interest as the NFT market has soared.
Now, the protocol responsible for Solana’s millions of NFTs has raised funding with some big names involved, including Michael Jordan, a National Basketball League (or NBA) legend.
On Tuesday, the Metaplex Foundation announced it had raised $46 million in a round co-led by Multicoin Capital and Jump Crypto, as Solana Ventures, Alameda Research and metaverse investment firm Animoca Brands also participated.
Along with these companies, more than 90 individual investors participated in the funding round, including Jordan and former NBA star Allen Iverson, as well as current players like Kevin Love and Joel Embiid.
William Wesley, executive vice president of the New York Knicks, also participated, along with entrepreneur Shari Glazer, venture capital firm Mantis, DJ duo The Chainsmokers, and others.
Metaplex is the standard protocol behind NFTs on Solana, with more than 6.7 million NFTs issued to date, according to the foundation.
That number is split between 85,000 projects with 600,000 unique collectors and the volume of NFTs traded on Solana exceeding $1.2 billion to date.
Major NFT collections on Solana include profile picture projects like Degenerate Ape Academy and Solana Monkey Business, as well as upcoming NFT games Star Atlas and Aurory.
Magic Eden and FTX NFTs are major NFT marketplaces on Solana while celebrities such as Steve Harvey and Mike Tyson have previously supported Solana’s NFT projects.
Stephen Hess, director of the Metaplex Foundation, told the Decrypt that the funds will be used to further the creation of the Metaplex set of resources and development tools.
Metaplex also wants to expand the potential use cases for NFTs on Solana, not just to the growing metaverse NFT and video games, but also social applications and more. It also wants to help build more Solana apps for mobile devices.
“We will have an SDK [kit de desenvolvimento de software] for iOS and one for Android this year, which will allow us to enable the next generation of mobile apps to be developed quickly,” he said.
“It will address a lot of the tension and difficulty that the software engineering community as a whole has when working with blockchain, and specifically Solana, which can be tricky.”
An NFT acts as a tokenized receipt that proves ownership of a digital item. It can represent things like profile pictures, illustrations, video files and more.
The broad NFT market has grown from $100 million in trading volume in 2020 to $23 billion in 2021, according to data from the DappRadar.
Solana is regarded as a more energy efficient adversary of Ethereum, with its hybrid proof of stake (or PoS) consensus model resulting in faster transactions and lower fees for users.
Ethereum remains the top NFT ecosystem in terms of traded volume and has the most relevant and valuable collections, but the growing Solana ecosystem is generally regarded as cheaper and more accessible.
Interestingly, it’s not Michael Jordan’s first move into the Solana sector. In December, Michael and his son Jeffrey Jordan announced HEIR, a fan engagement platform that will allow athletes, influencers and artists to nurture and interact with supporters.
The platform will have a HEIR token issued on the Solana blockchain, as well as NFT collectibles. Jordan also invested in crypto game maker Mythical Games in November.
For the Metaplex Foundation, securing a range of athletes and artists as strategic investors, it has the ability to work closely with creators while developing new tools on Solana.
That way, you can integrate early feedback to ensure creators have the features and functionality they need.
“From the beginning, a principle that we’ve stuck to and served us well is really looking at creators — and people working in the entertainment, press and sports industries — for inspiration in terms of where we’re going to take NFTs next,” Hess said.
*Translated and edited by Daniela Pereira do Nascimento with permission from Decrypt.co.