Chainlink’s token is up 175% in 2023. CEO Sergey Nazarov on why—and how TradFi partnerships may boost crypto more than spot ETFs

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LINK, the native token of the Chainlink ecosystem, has been one of the best performers in the recent altcoin rally spearheaded by Bitcoin’s jump above $37,000.

The token, created by the decentralized oracle network Chainlink Labs, is up over 40% the past seven days and since January has skyrocketed more than 175%. As of Thursday morning, LINK was trading at about $15.60.

The rally in LINK comes on the heels of Bitcoin’s recent surge. After mostly holding steady, in the $34,000 to $36,000, range for about two weeks, crypto’s OG was inching closer toward $38,000 early Thursday.

Bitcoin’s rise has helped lift other altcoins, including XRP, Uniswap, and Polygon, all of which are solidly up double digits over the past week, but few are mooning like LINK—which has more than just Bitcoin’s performance to credit for its latest rise. 

Last week, institutional investors poured $2 million into exchange-traded products tracking the LINK token, which represented 17% of the total assets under management, according to a report from CoinShares.

Chainlink Labs, the company that created LINK, controls a network of so-called oracles that provide pricing on real-world assets that can then be fed over to the blockchain to create more accurate smart contracts. Yet the company has made a point of moving beyond its reputation as merely a market data provider, CEO Sergey Nazarov told Fortune.

Big on the list of the company’s priorities is its recent involvement with the TradFi sector, including recent trials with the interbank messaging system Swift, which have been largely successful. 

“I think we are the most-active blockchain company working with multiple banks,” Nazarov said. 

A recent proof of concept with Vodafone’s Digital Asset Broker also provided a boost to the company, and by extension, the LINK token. The experiment, which the telecom giant said could address challenges for the $32 trillion global trade ecosystem, focused on the exchange of trade documents across blockchains and other platforms, according to an announcement from late October.

Also on the company’s horizon is solving issues behind tokenized real-world assets, or RWAs. Nazarov touted a recent partnership with the Australian bank Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, aka ANZ, which showed that banks can use Chainlink’s technology to trade and settle tokenized assets across blockchains.

Nazarov said he’s unconvinced that what many investors are focused on, the pending approval of a spot Bitcoin ETF in the U.S., will ultimately lead to the revival that the crypto industry has been looking for. What will make much more of a difference, he said, is creating more partnerships with TradFi firms.

“ANZ, in and of itself, has over a trillion dollars in assets under management,” Nazarov said. “One bank, in one part of the world, in Australia. So, I don’t think I don’t think people realize necessarily the magnitude.”

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