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Solana NFT utility protocol Cardinal raises $4.4 million in seed funding

Cardinal, a Solana-based infrastructure protocol that aims to improve the utility of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), has raised $4.4 million in a seed funding round.

Sharing the news with The Block on Friday, Cardinal said newly launched crypto venture capital firm Protagonist and Solana Ventures co-led the seed round. Animoca Brands, Alameda Research, Delphi Digital and CMS Holdings also participated.

Founded eight months ago, Cardinal offers a Solana protocol with use cases such as rentals, staking and ticketing to help improve the utility of NFTs. Rentals, for example, allow rented NFTs to “physically sit in renters’ wallets while maintaining the impossibility of default,” Cardinal co-founder and CEO Spencer Rust told The Block.

Cardinal launched the first version of its rental marketplace earlier in the year and “several thousand rentals” have already been executed through the platform, said Rust. It expects to release the second version in the coming days with a redesigned user interface and experience.

The startup also offers “escrow-less” NFT staking, which allows stakers to continue benefiting from any utility their tokens offer, Rust said. “Among other verticals, we’ve seen this be especially beneficial to gaming projects that want to create staking initiatives for their users without compromising their ability to play the games.”

Cardinal says more than 65,000 NFTs have already been staked with its protocol.

There are currently four people working for Cardinal. With fresh capital in hand, the firm plans to hire at least three more in engineering and business development functions, said Rust.

While Cardinal is for now only focused on Solana, it plans to support other blockchains in the future. “We have cross-chain aspirations and plan to explore building on EVM [Ethereum virtual machine] chains and others like Near and Aptos at some point,” said Rust.

The seed funding round brings Cardinal’s total funding to date to $5.2 million. Last year, the firm raised $750,000 in pre-seed funding from Neo Ventures.


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