Solana Generates $1 Billion in Returns for Multiple Early Backers

An underwater hockey league connected the founders of the Solana blockchain to investors who bought the Solana token. The 4,300-fold increase in the price of the blockchain's tokens explains why more VC funds want to hold these assets. The Information: When Solana Labs CEO Anatoly Yakovenko tried to raise money in 2018 to develop his idea for a faster blockchain for financial transactions, bitcoin prices were diving and investors were leery of blockchain startups. Then the former Qualcomm engineer convinced a friend he met playing underwater hockey to become an early investor. And that swim buddy went on to introduce Yakovenko, 41, to two other backers. Later that year, the five co-founders of Solana Labs sold 79.25 million tokens for pennies each to help the startup develop the Solana blockchain. Some of the early token buyers, including Multicoin Capital, 500 Startups and a founder of Race Capital, have reaped huge gains from these first sales, in some cases generating $1 billion in returns. The spike in tokens like Solana, which are worth about 4,300 times their initial sales price, explain why traditional venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital are shaking up their legal structures to hold more digital assets. This is how Solana's first backers got in on one of the biggests scores in crypto investments. The Solana token, which confers ownership rights to the Solana blockchain, is now the world's fifth most valuable, with a market capitalization of about $50 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. Altogether, Solana Labs has sold 307 million SOL tokens, which have helped power the 78-employee startup's growth and the blockchain's development in lieu of equity financing. Solana token prices have jumped as the blockchain proved it can handle transactions faster than standard financial institutions. It also outperforms Ethereum, an older blockchain technology underpinning decentralized finance, or DeFi, a peer-to-peer system where financial transactions are completed without an intermediary. The Solana blockchain can already complete 65,000 transactions per second compared to 1,700 for credit card processor Visa and just 15 for Ethereum. An Ethereum upgrade expected for next year aims to bump that rate to 100,000 transactions, but that transition has been delayed for almost two years.

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