• With all these big ideas and growth entering the crypto space, the skepticism is what makes it possible, he said
  • A lot of market players view Solana as a competitor to Ethereum’s blockchain platform. Yakovenko welcomes the competition and compares it to playing hockey

The altcoin solana (SOL) has seen extreme growth in just the past month, climbing from $33.3 on the month-ago date to an all-time high of $130.01 on August 31. But, believe it or not, Solana Labs Founder and CEO Anatoly Yakovenko is a crypto skeptic.

SOL coin aside, Solana is best known for its decentralized blockchain platform, which is centered on creating the cheapest, fastest and most censorship-resistant network possible, according to Yakovenko.

The four-year old blockchain platform has grown rapidly since its inception. Its blockchain ecosystem consists of over 400 projects focusing on topics like DeFi, NFTs and Web3. In fact, the platform helps build big-name crypto companies like Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX and quantitative trading firm Alameda Research, as well as other companies. 

In addition to those big-name users, Solana has big-name investors that have backed the company with hundreds of millions of dollars. Earlier this year, the company raised $314 million in a private token sale led by a16z and Polychain Capital.

The company has no plans to slow down, either. This week, Solana launched its fourth hackathon event in an effort to expand the ecosystem even further.

A crypto skeptic

However, with all this success, Yakovenko told Blockworks in an interview, “I’m a skeptic, I’m probably the biggest skeptic of crypto.”

But, why? Well, the current environment is extremely similar to the 1990s, Yakovenko said. That was a time when huge dreamers, ideas and companies like Six Degrees, popped up, only for them to disappear shortly after, he added. For context, Six Degrees is widely considered the first social networking site. Founded by Andrew Weinreich in May 1996, Six Degrees collapsed in 2000 due to low revenue and internet connectivity limitations. 

The 1990s was a time when the US saw rapid innovation and the rise of new technologies, fueled by investments in internet-based companies. Many companies like Six Degrees closed shop, but paved the way for social media platforms that still exist today like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. 

“It was really hard to believe that Six Degrees or chainmail letters would end up with a trillion dollar company like Facebook. Just this idea that you can connect people socially over the internet, what was that worth? And in the 90s you would have thought that was crazy to think that it was worth anything,” Yakovenko said. “This idea that people self-custody with just cryptography and a little bit of math, that could create so much value. I think that is just as crazy and ludicrous,” he added. 

Far from “Ethereum Killer” 

A lot of market players view Solana as a competitor to Ethereum’s blockchain platform. Yakovenko welcomes the competition and compares it to playing hockey.

“The competition is awesome, I love competition,” he said. “I played hockey my whole life so whatever you can compete at, I’m happy to compete, whether it’s hockey or building blockchains,” he said.

Although some people have called Solana the “Ethereum Killer,” Yakovenko said that comparison is far from the truth. While he is skeptical about crypto itself, he believes the technologies available on the blockchain will succeed. 

In fact, blockchain platforms like Solana or Ethereum are extremely resilient to anyone — or anything — that tries to kill it, he said. 

Due to the open-source nature of both blockchains, developers are constantly building and scaling the networks in ways that have given companies like Microsoft the ability to last.

“We have a certain vision which is to build the cheapest, fastest most censorship resistant network and [Ethereum] has a different vision, which is like let’s build the cheapest way to validate on a very large decentralized blockchain,” Yakovenko said. “Both visions I think are interesting approaches to the same problem, it’s two sides of the same coin. A lot of folks are passionate about both approaches so happy to compete. It only makes both of us better.”

NFTs booming growth 

Although Yakovenko said he doesn’t know what has specifically caused the massive price movements for Solana’s cryptocurrency, he said he hopes it’s correlated to how important it is for people to use the Solana network. He also said that there has been strong growth and demand for NFTs on Solana’s platform in the past month and over 90,000 NFTs have been minted in the past two months, which could possibly contribute to the spike.

Amid the craze of people minting NFTs, Yakovenko said, “I tried to mint a couple, but I’m too slow.” He added that many of the Solanart NFTs were sold out in four to five seconds.

Overall, Yakovenko said he expects to see communities continue to rapidly form around ownership of these NFTs. “The groups are as strong as ones you’d find on any other social media platform, if not stronger,” he added. 

“NFTs are almost like a decentralized version of Reddit, you don’t need the messaging side of it,” he said. “What you need is some combination of tokens and/or NFTs to tie together and they will self organize elsewhere on Reddit, Twitter or Telegram,” he added. 

But with all these big ideas and growth entering the crypto space, the skepticism is what makes it possible, he said. 

“I’m blown away by the success we’ve seen in the past year. We want to see the space grow,” he added. “Evaluating if it’s real and what we should be working on, we have that big idea in mind: can we get a billion people in the power of cryptography?” 

He hinted that only time will tell.

  • Jacquelyn Melinek is a Houston-based reporter covering digital asset funds and markets. She previously reported on energy markets for S&P Global Platts and Bloomberg News and is published in over 65 news outlets. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Media and Journalism.