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.