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Solana is hosting a three-day party for herself

7 min reading

Big cash and profits loom over Lisbon as the superfast network celebrates an extraordinary year.


The Lisbon sky cracked with fireworks and floodlights wandering around. Dance music pulsed from the purple marble facade. Strangers squeeze rented muscles. The locals stare at this mysterious gala. What spectacle has conquered Trade Square, they wonder, and why are its guests talking about crypto coins? They stared at the banner: "SOLANA BREAKPOINT." Solana's lavish conference ended Wednesday evening after three busy days of panelists partying in what, as the event's website put it, was a "celebration" of the network's rapid rise. Around 2,000 attendees came to discuss the future: finance, digital property, governance, commerce, social media and online communities.

Most seem to believe that blockchain and tokens - especially Solana's - are poised to destroy anything. Major cryptocurrencies, they said in panel and party talks, were nearby. It was a party to get out of the net and compete for the moon. After months of increasing market cap, SOL, Solana, a fast and inexpensive decentralized finance (DeFi) hub, is seeing an influx of talent and capital into the project - covering irreplaceable tokens (NFT), derivatives, lending, betting, trading and much more. Solana's top manager joked that the project came too soon to count.

"We want 1 billion people to use this network," said Raj Gokal, CEO of Solana Labs, on opening day. Co-founder Solana Anatoly Yakovenko estimates the network's active accounts at around 1.25 million. The mass adoption of cryptocurrencies is a constant repeat in Lisbon this fall. Since mid-October, the Portuguese capital has hosted blockchain week, Ethereum conventions, NEAR events, joint web conferences and a Cosmos summit with Solana Breakpoint, who booked accounts.

Solana participants felt very different, several exhausted participants said. If previous community-based crypto business gatherings attracted coders and builders of the OG ecosystem, then Breakpoint, hosted by the Solana Foundation, has benefited significantly from investors. Zaki Manian, an aerospace advocate who says he was short-lived with Solana, said speculators far outperformed builders. "This is an event for people trying to understand what caused this huge price increase," he said.

Massive is an understatement. A $1,000 investment in SOL on January 1 will cost more than $172,000 on November 6. The ecosystem mines hordes of crypto-rich people in the COVID-19 era, and nowhere is this wealth accumulating faster than in Solana's elite upper class. The venture company bet on Solana and won. It was impossible to ignore their influence on Breakpoint. They set up panels, sat at project desks and rented out villas, palaces and clubs. FTX, Multicoin, Solana Ventures, Jump Capital, Alameda, and Race Capital enlivened the show.

This type of business is the capitalist engine that underpins the staggering growth of this $15 billion ecosystem. They are not like VC firms in the tech and business worlds, one team said that they don't spend months doing their due diligence before signing a check. And they rarely sign real checks. Stable coins are the currency of choice for crypto business and they cash out fast in Solana's land. Projects can sometimes add the biggest names to their tables with a limit of 10 Telegram messages or less, sources said. It must have felt like the money wasn't real. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanyan has arrived in Lisbon with plans to back a $50 million fund. By the time of the show, he and Solana Labs had doubled their lead to $100 million.

Exclusivity permeates the sold-out conference. An expensive $1,000 ticket gives access to Breakpoint's main stage (in a converted warehouse with a sharp vibe), which is based on the developer's outposts (at a fancy riverside restaurant) and the Lisbon Botanical Gardens. Tuk-tuk (author) takes visitors around the city on request.

Therefore, here are two distinctions to understand better:

  • Solana’s way
  • compromise

Solana's way

While these excesses sometimes make Breakpoint seem more like a gold-plated retreat than a crypto convention, the scene content has real content. With 235 speakers, countless panels document Solana's history and journey. You have often researched what makes Solana so different.

There is a lot of material. For starters, Solana is not compatible with EVM, which means that projects implemented on market leader DeFi Ethereum cannot simply be transferred to it. These barriers can fall when a project prepares a solution. Solana also has a high participation fee. Network validators have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to keep their nodes relevant, a validation company engineer said. Higher entry barriers mean fewer participants are able to participate in Solana's most basic commitments.

But Solana, who touts minimal transaction fees and super-fast turnaround times, achieves this usability advantage over Ethereum in part through a pragmatic approach to decentralization, a reality that panelists did not lose sight of. “Sometimes we can sacrifice some degree of decentralization to improve the user experience,” Andrew the Great of the Allbridge Token Interconnect Project said on one panel. “In some cases, being too decentralized can have a negative impact on consumers. We as entrepreneurs have to think about that.”

In fact, one of Solana's main criticisms is that it's not decentralized enough. Yakovenko Solana shaped the decentralization debate over network longevity. "If [things] hit the fan, can you take a break and move on?" Yes, he said, as long as a node survives the network history intact. “Decentralized” crypto comes in many flavors. There's accessibility, management, competition - all besides the number of nodes. Breakpoint highlights how much of Solana's success has fallen victim to some of the quirks of crypto culture.

For example, Serum, the liquidity protocol backed by FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried, is largely responsible for the proliferation of Solana-based decentralized exchanges. The Metaplex NFT protocol has a solid understanding of the NFT ecosystem. Phantom, the popular wallet app from the company of the same name, is not open source. "Solana is very competitive," said Grace Quan of Orca during a DeFi protocol panel where she challenged Open Sources too early. It will be like showing your hand at the poker table. Your colleagues agree.


The small gap reveals how much the big players have invested in the image of the Solana ecosystem. When a reporter met with Serum's top advisor for an informal interview, he was joined by two mentors: one from Alameda Research, the other from PR firm Serum. The thing is, Solana is working. And it works fine. And it works fast. That's more than enough for the independent retail chain Breakpoint.

“I am not a maximalist when it comes to decentralization; I honestly don't care,” said Danny, a UK community conference participant who declined to give his last name on legal grounds. Danny says he has been a cryptocurrency trader since 2016. He flew in to see what Solana was. To him, this chain was just another opportunity to make money. To his surprise, Danny finds out how many of his fellow mercenaries are making money here.

"It's a real find to see how many degen get a job," he said, noting that there was no interest in making it legal. The gathering of the thin moonboys at Breakpoint is the latest chapter in cryptocurrency's long history of hosting a gold-plated conference in a faraway land. It trades bright wealth signals for affordable sophistication. Gone are the days of parking a rental Lamborghini in Times Square to showcase heavy bags.

Even so, the endless festivities of the three-day conference, flashing purple lights, sushi bar, bottomless buffet, plush seats, and rental attractions feel somehow different. As a Hong Kong-based merchant said at a party in a mansion across the Lisbon Bridge, "Do we deserve all this wealth?"

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