Protagonist and Solana Ventures Lead $4.4M Seed Round in Cardinal to Pioneer NFT Utility on Solana
SAN FRANCISCO, July 22, 2022 — Cardinal announced today that it has completed a $4.4M seed round led by Protagonist and Solana Ventures, with participation from Delphi Digital, Animoca Brands, Alameda Research, Dialectic, Narwhal Ventures, BigBrain Holdings, CMS, and a number of other esteemed VCs, ecosystem projects, and angels. The funds will serve to accelerate the development of Cardinal’s protocol and product suite, which aims to be foundational in ushering in the utility-driven paradigm of NFTs.
Just eight months ago, Cardinal was born after two former MIT colleagues, Jeremy Bogle and Spencer Rust, reunited with a vision to innovate on the frontier of decentralized ownership. Like others, they were inspired by NFTs and their potential to supersede existing digital asset systems and provide security, authenticity, and scalability. They realized, however, that to achieve a transition to a decentralized model in most of the contexts they were envisioning, NFT technology would have to evolve to support more than just basic ownership and transfer. Fast forward to today, Cardinal’s core mission is to build infrastructure layer protocols on the Solana blockchain to both enhance the utility of existing NFT collections and enable new use cases for NFTs that weren’t previously possible.
“We’ve always felt the sustainable future of NFTs is one where utility and intrinsic value are standard. The PFP ecosystem has pockets of value, but it’s been inflated to an unhealthy level, and we’re already starting to see the beginnings of a consolidation from which we believe a more utility-centric NFT landscape will emerge,” said Spencer Rust, co-founder and CEO. “When we were looking for a chain on which to begin building, Solana’s technology, developer ecosystem, and momentum stood out.”
Through a core suite of now fully-audited smart contracts that achieve what can best be described as conditional token ownership, Cardinal is working to solve and improve upon a variety of NFT use-cases, including rentals, subscriptions, staking, ticketing/IRL token-gated access, and identity. Through partnerships and collaborations with major Solana ecosystems projects across a variety of verticals such as gaming (e.g Mini Royale, BR1), metaverse (e.g Portals), NFT communities (e.g DeGods, Solana Monke Business), marketplaces (e.g. Holaplex), and governance (e.g. Squads, Tribeca, SPL Governance), the team is already bringing these use-cases to life.
“As NFTs have continued to go mainstream, we’ve seen an increasing amount of crossover use cases from in-game items to fraud-resistant ticketing,” said Dylan Macalinao, Co-Founder of Protagonist and Advisor to Metaplex Studios. “Cardinal’s technology makes it simple for developers to create these kinds of utility NFTs.”
The conditional ownership protocol essentially enables a wallet to hold and assert ownership of an NFT contingent on it delegating certain rights of management to Cardinal’s smart contracts. Among others, these rights may include the ability to revoke the token out of the wallet at a moment’s notice, freeze it in place so that it is non trade-able, or limit to whom it may be transferred.
Take renting, for example. Via Cardinal’s protocol, an NFT holder can securely rent out their token without the need for collateral and be sure that after a specified period of time, it will be returned to their wallet. For an NFT that offers holders measurable utility, whether it be a gaming asset that gives a player a special ability, an access pass that gives a holder entry into an event, or a membership token that allows one to participate in a DAO, the market for rentals is very intuitive.
Rentals leverage Cardinal’s conditional ownership technology by employing a time-based expiration/revocation and payment-based claim, but the protocol’s modular design models invalidation and transfer as separate “plugins”, allowing for theoretically any custom invalidation and transfer logic tied to on-chain data. Among many others, things like usage-based expiration for tickets and vouchers, selective transferability for permissioned ownership, and oracle data-based revocation of assets are all possible with these tools.
“Publicly verifiable ownership of digital assets is exciting, but it can be limited by the constraints of permanent ownership. Conditional ownership using Cardinal protocols allows someone to hold an asset and prove ownership with revocation and transfer logic encoded the smart contract,” said Jeremy Bogle, co-founder and CTO. “Encoding these sorts of agreements on-chain and presenting seamless usage and verification experiences will be a key for digital assets to represent these sorts of temporary or permissioned ownership.”
Cardinal isn’t stopping at the protocol level, however, and the team has already built a number of tools throughout the rest of the stack to make leveraging their technology as simple as possible. Among others, these include self-hosted UIs through which users can interact with all of its protocol tooling, and token minting/scanning building blocks that facilitate end-to-end setup for token-gated IRL events. There have already been 110k+ NFTs wrapped with Cardinal’s protocols between rentals, staking, identity, and beyond, and the trend is one-way.
“We are ecstatic to support Spencer, Jeremy, and the rest of the Cardinal team as they continue developing new and exciting tooling on top of Solana NFTs,” said Matthew Beck, Partner at Solana Ventures. “Through a growing number of open source programs, such as Cardinal Staking, Identity, and the Token Manager, developers can seamlessly unlock more features, customization, and opportunities for their projects.
Cardinal is a Solana protocol/product suite designed to enhance the utility of NFTs and empower the next generation of on-chain digital assets. Its tooling allows one to wrap NFTs with programmatic functionality for revocation, automatic time or use-based expiration, and selective transferability to solve use cases like rentals, subscriptions, staking, tickets, IRL token-gated access, and much more. Co-founded by MIT and Cal Berkeley alumni Jeremy Bogle, Spencer Rust, Avinash Jain, and Giannis Chatziverolgou, Cardinal is always looking for ambitious intellectuals to join the team! For more information, visit www.cardinal.so, follow Cardinal on twitter @cardinal_labs, or reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Comprehensive Investor Composition
Protagonist, Solana Ventures, Delphi Digital, Animoca Brands, Alameda Research, Dialectic, Narwhal Ventures, BigBrain Holdings, CMS, Snowcrash Labs, PsyOptions, Chris Mccann, Edith Yeung, Alfred Chuang, Cryptunez, Alex Golding, AngelDAO, Gamma Capital, Glock Ventures, William Mougayar, Stepan Simpkin.
Note that Cardinal also raised a $750k pre-seed round from Neo Ventures in the fall of 2021.