How Solana Chose Fight over Flight in 2023, According to Anatoly Yakovenko
Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakoveno applauds his community's comeback
By: André Beganski & Zack Guzman
December 9, 2023
From being labeled a so-called “Sam coin” and seeing its token price tumble from $176 to just $9 over the course of 2022 — to outperforming Ethereum in 2023 — Solana has run the gamut in “crypto winter.”
And even though SOL’s price has quintupled so far in 2023, Solana Co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko tells Coinage the latest crypto winter will be remembered as a difficult and taxing chapter for the network’s community.
“I think this particular bear market was really acutely felt by the Solana ecosystem, but for whatever reason, it seems like the fight or flight instinct kicked into a lot of projects,” he said in a new interview. “It was very stressful, emotionally … but what we saw was that all the folks in the [Solana] community have been grinding on products for like 18 to 24 months, fixing little UX issues, and … just making stuff better and better.”
Solana was once backed by disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who was convicted of fraud in November. As Bankman-Fried’s downfall dented the Solana’s image and FTX’s bankruptcy estate threatened to offload chunks of its Solana stash, the community persevered, Yakovenko said, sewing seeds of labor long before a jury delivered a verdict.
“It really showed that like there’s awesome builders, there’s awesome communities, and like all this stuff is still there,” he said. “I felt re-energized. I think a lot of the Solana founders felt re-energized and like it's only been just product launches and … better product market fit and it's just been awesome to see.”
Solana’s recent surge began in October, around the beginning of the Sam Bankman-Fried trial and within the span of two months, the coin’s price has advanced 225%. Yet it was the Solana-based NFT project Mad Lads that launched in April, which created a palpable shift within the crypto zeitgeist, Yakovenko said, because it went so smoothly.
“In my mind, the whole Solana ecosystem shifted after the Mad Lads launch,” he said. “It clearly demonstrated that the congestion issues that plagued us in 2022 are solved because we saw [the] NFT's launch at the same time as the Helium migration was happening.”
Being able to handle the launch of an NFT collection as Helium, a crypto-powered wireless network, was ported over from its own network wasn’t just it, Yakovenko added. It was the mindshare that Mad Lads garnered for about a week that also made it significant, he said.
Solana Labs itself ventured into the mobile space this year with the release of the Solana Saga, a smartphone catered to crypto enthusiasts. Entering the same territory as Samsung and Apple, Yakovenko described the venture as one that taught Solana Labs a lot.
“You can build a better phone, but it'll be more expensive, and they'll take you longer to ship,” he said, comparing a Web3-enabled competitor to the iPhone. “But what I saw that was interesting, is that we solved all these problems for key storage and UX that would make a lot of wallet attacks impossible.”
Along the lines of innovation, Solana was tapped by Visa this year as a network for payments. In a press release, the firm cited Solana’s “higher speed and lower costs” as factors that made it the right choice for settlement payments between Visa clients using the stablecoin USDC.
“I think it does signal that [Visa] did all the research and figured out that Solana actually fits their infrastructure and can deliver cheap and fast payments reliably,” he said. “That's awesome to see. Me, as an engineer, I'm very proud of that.”
The community vote to advance Solana or Optimism in our celebration of the top projects in crypto is now live. Coinage NFT holders can watch the full interview with Anatoly Yakovenko and Ryan Wyatt above.