Protagonist launches $100M blockchain protocols-focused fund

By Riley Kaminer

The crypto landscape is dire. BTC down 52.7% year-to-date. ETH down 68% YTD. STC down 95% from its all-time high (OK, well what did you expect with that one?).

Amid the rubble stand an enterprising group of Miami-based HODLrs ready to power through the deep depths of crypto winter.

Crypto fund and incubation lab Protagonist today announced the launch of its $100 million fund dedicated towards investing in and incubating core web3 protocols. This fund – Protagonist’s debut – has plans to invest in a wide-range of verticals including gaming, infrastructure, emerging blockchains and ecosystems, security, and privacy.

In an interview with TechCrunch, co-founder George Bousis asserted that this is an excellent time for investing in web3 – not despite of current conditions, but because of them.

“In bear markets and out of financial crises and whatnot, you see some of the best businesses and returns come from these markets,” Bousis said. “This is where legends are born and you can really make a name for yourself…we think this is where the real builders and investors are going to thrive.”

Bousis is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who founded gift card and payments company Raise and Slide. Alongside Bousis are co-founders Ian and Dylan Macalinao, founders of Solana stablecoin exchange Saber Labs, as well as Harry Hurst, co-founder and co-CEO of Pipe, a recurring revenue trading platform.

“Some of the things I’m really excited about personally is bridging the gap between digital and physical assets, and actually leveraging crypto, DeFi and blockchain as a technology without consumers realizing or understanding that they’re using it,” Bousis told TechCrunch

“I think that’s where the future is headed, a world where human behavior and experience doesn’t change but should only improve,” Bousis continued. “The whole notion of interoperability should have never been a question or issue in the first place if you really want this industry to scale and touch the next billion users.”

Protagonist also announced three of their initial portfolio companies: Aptos, a Layer 1 blockchain; Cardinal, a Solana protocol enabling the conditional ownership of NFTs; and Cogni, a digital banking and lifestyle platform.

The fund’s co-founders highlighted that their USP stems from their backgrounds as successful founders. Mo Shaikh, CEO of portfolio company Aptos and former head of Strategic Partnerships for Novi, Facebook’s wallet, emphasized this advantage in a statement. 

“We’re excited to be partnered with the Protagonist team,” Shaikh said. “Their deep experience and history of building applications in Web3 is unique and valuable.”

“They have proactively made technical contributions to improve our roadmap and tech stack to bring Web3 to the masses,” Shaikh continued. “Their deep involvement in the Aptos ecosystem and dedication to our mission has helped accelerate global adoption for blockchain infrastructure and consumer applications.”

Bousis emphasized that this is “not just about building a VC firm or anything like that, it’s really about investing in founders building amazing things.”

“Protagonist is more reflective of who we are and the folks we want to invest in,” he said.

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