SMU students on running crypto startup SolanaFM, raised S$6.3M

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The crypto winter is weeding out the weak. Projects are no longer succeeding off of hype alone, and investors are becoming increasingly wary of where they put their money.

On the surface — with most coin prices far from their all-time-highs — it may look as if the ecosystem is coming to a standstill. However, a closer look reveals a number of projects that are still building through the bear market.

As Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said at the Point Zero Forum earlier in June, “The industry is still moving forward, while the stronger players get a chance to shine. It comes down to very fundamental business models and building products that people want to use.”

Singapore Management University (SMU) students — Nicholas Chen, Fathurrahman, and Chin Bing Huang — are the founders of one such project.

Established in March 2021, SolanaFM has grown to become a leading blockchain explorers in the Solana ecosystems. The company offers indexing and analytical services which help both retail users and businesses gain a better insight into blockchain activities on Solana.

solanafm dashboard
Screenshot of SolanaFM

By connecting their crypto wallet to SolanaFM, anyone can track their assets and view details about their past transactions. For other crypto companies, indexing data can help track how well their programs are running.

Gaming clients like Genopets use Indexing-as-a-Service to track their programmes and better understand how well their programs are doing. It allows them to do business analysis to foresee what programs are the most effective.

– Fathurrahman, co-founder and COO of SolanaFM

Beyond the crypto ecosystem, traditional banks and compliance companies have found a use for SolanaFM’s services too. “Banks utilise our analytical services to see how well a blockchain is doing,” he adds.

They can gain access to information such as how many active users are using a protocol or the trading volume of a particular crypto token.

“Compliance companies use our fast APIs to track fraudulent transactions. This is how we were able to track the recent Crema Finance and Nirvana Finance hacks so quickly.”

A successful seed funding round

In December 2021, SolanaFM secured investment from Singapore-based crypto exchange Coinhako and Etherscan — a blockchain explorer, much like SolanaFM, but built for the Ethereum blockchain.

Seven months on, the company has now raised S$6.3 million in a seed funding round spearheaded by SBI Group’s Digital Asset Opportunity Fund. The round also saw participation from venture capital firms such as Spartan Group, Petrock Capital, and Mirana Ventures among others.

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Image Credit: SolanaFM

The funding will be used to expand the company’s current workforce of 25 in order to meet increased responsibilities.

“The company aims to expand our team to achieve more effective customer fulfilment, support significantly faster development lifecycles, and provide Solana users with the general-purpose data tools they deserve,” says Fathurrahman.

This will empower SolanaFM in its mission to promote Web3 adoption and make Solana an appealing blockchain for the next wave of Web2 users. The company envisions that Solana will be a “powerhouse” enabling the widespread adoption of crypto in financial services.

Making blockchain data easily readable will play a key role in improving the overall user experience and making this a reality.

“Blockchain is built on trust and accessible data. It only makes sense that the average Joe should be able to navigate their way through these platforms in the most convenient way possible,” he adds.

As it stands, the price of Solana’s native cryptocurrency (SOL) is down over 80 per cent from its all-time-high. Despite speculation surrounding the blockchain’s future growth, Rahman maintains that this is an ideal time for SolanaFM to expand.

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Fathurrahman, co-founder and COO of SolanaFM / Image Credit: SolanaFM

Winter is actually the best time for infrastructure companies like us because we can build without any distractions or sudden change in narratives. The biggest protocols understand that they require a strong foundation to scale to build future use cases. At the same time, institutions are also slowly entering the space as the barrier to entry — token prices — is much lower.

Overall, the winter has helped us to reach out to more protocols and institutions who are interested in preparing themselves for the next influx of retail users.

– Fathurrahman, co-founder and COO of SolanaFM

Balancing business and university

Starting SolanaFM was akin to a “leap of faith” for the founders.

While they already had experience in the space — CEO Nicholas Chen worked with Coinhako and Polkadot in the years prior — this was a bigger undertaking.

“We acknowledged that with enough planning and discipline, we could manage building these products while taking two to three modules a semester,” explains Rahman.

Rahman describes SolanaFM as a “low-hanging” business opportunity, however, in order to leverage on it, the trio had to work fast. They were able to do so with support from their university, SMU.

“SMU provides us amazing opportunities to balance the management of the company and our academic matters,” he shares.

While studying there, they were able to connect with other students who were interested in working on the project alongside them. In recent years, the university has introduced blockchain-related modules which has led to increased interest in such ventures.

solanafm team
Left to right: CTO Chin Bing Huang, CEO Nicholas Chen, COO Fathurrahman / Image Credit: SolanaFM

Students are learning blockchain use cases as well as languages such as Solidity, which are used to build them. Most of our engineers are students, and the majority of them are self-taught blockchain developers.

– Fathurrahman, co-founder and COO of SolanaFM

The university also has societies such as the SMU Blockchain Club, wherein mentors are able to guide students with their own projects and start-ups.

Careers in blockchain are becoming more viable by the day, and SolanaFM serves as an example of how young entrepreneurs can get involved.

Now, a year and a half into running the company, Rahman leaves aspiring developers with the following advice: “We have to be able to ‘chew glass’ and build with resilience. Developers and entrepreneurs must take the risk and dive deep if they want to break through.”

Featured Image Credit: SolanaFM

Also Read: S’pore crypto startup SolanaFM founded by 3 SMU students raises funding from Coinhako, Etherscan

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