London Times

London Times


Solana Throws a Three-Day Party for Itself

Solana Throws a Three-Day Party for Itself

By Danny Nelson

The Lisbon sky crackled with fireworks and roving spotlights. Dance music pulsed out of a purple-lit marble facade. Foreigners pressed past hired muscle.

Locals gawked at this mysterious gala. What spectacle had taken over Commerce Square, they wondered, and why were its guests talking about crypto coins? They stared at a banner: “SOLANA BREAKPOINT.”

Solana’s opulent conference wrapped with a bang late Wednesday after three breakneck days of panelists and parties meant, as the event website put it, to be a “celebration” of the network’s rapid ascent. Some 2,000 attendees had come to discuss the future: of finance, digital ownership, governance, trading, social media and online communities.

Most seemed to believe that blockchains and tokens – specifically Solana’s – were primed to disrupt it all. Mainstream crypto, they said in panels and party chatter, was within reach.

It was a coming-out party for a network racing moonward. After months of SOL’s market cap soaring, Solana, a fast and cheap hub for decentralized finance (DeFi), is seeing talent and capital flow into projects – spanning non-fungible tokens (NFT), derivatives, lending, staking, trading and more. Solana’s top brass joked that the projects were spawning too quickly to count.

“We want to see 1 billion people using the network,” Solana Labs COO Raj Gokal said on opening day. Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko estimated the network’s active accounts at around 1.25 million.

Mass crypto adoption has been a constant refrain in Lisbon this autumn. Since mid-October the Portuguese capital has hosted a blockchain week, an Ethereum convention, a NEAR event, a generalist web conference and a Cosmos summit – with Solana Breakpoint bookending the lot.

Solana’s attendees felt fundamentally different, a handful of exhausted event-hoppers told CoinDesk. If those earlier community-organized crypto summits attracted OG ecosystem coders and builders, then Breakpoint – hosted by the Solana Foundation – capitalized heavily on investors.

Zaki Manian, a Cosmos partisan who nonetheless said he was short-term bullish on Solana, said the speculators vastly outnumbered the builders. “This is an event for people who are trying to figure out what has driven this massive price rise,” he said.

Massive is an understatement. A $1,000 investment in SOL on Jan. 1 would have been worth over $172,000 on Nov. 6. The ecosystem has minted hordes of crypto rich in the COVID-19 era, and nowhere has this wealth accumulated faster than Solana’s elite upper class. Venture firms bet big on Solana and won.

It was impossible to ignore their influence at Breakpoint. They moderated panels, joined project cap tables and rented out mansions, palaces and clubs. FTX, Multicoin, Solana Ventures, Jump Capital, Alameda and Race Capital studded the show.

These kinds of firms are the capitalist engines backing this $15 billion ecosystem’s staggering growth. They’re not like the VC firms of the tech and business world, one team told CoinDesk; they don’t drain months on due diligence before signing checks.

And seldom do they sign actual checks. Stablecoins are crypto firms’ currency of choice, and in Solana-land they’re shelling them out fast. Projects can sometimes add a top name to their cap table in 10 Telegram messages or less, multiple sources said.

It certainly felt like money wasn’t real. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian arrived in Lisbon planning to back a $50 million fund. By showtime, he and Solana Labs had doubled their ante to $100 million.

An air of exclusivity pervaded the sold-out conference. Pricey $1,000 tickets gained entry to Breakpoint’s main stage (in a converted warehouse with edgy vibes) a developer-focused outpost (in a swanky riverside restaurant) and Lisbon’s botanical gardens. Tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws) whisked attendees across town on demand.

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