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DeGods, the most valuable NFT project on Solana, has a history of announcing unexpected twists—from upgrading its artwork to buying majority control of a BIG3 basketball team, and even recently putting some of its previously-burned NFTs on Bitcoin.
But the project’s creators delivered one hell of a Christmas surprise: DeGods will leave Solana.
On December 25, DeLabs founder Rohun “Frank” Vora revealed his latest “social experiment,” announcing that DeGods NFTs would be “bridged” over to Ethereum—the largest and most valuable NFT market, with projects like the Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks.
Meanwhile, y00ts will be moved over to Polygon, an Ethereum scaling network that’s recently gained traction with brands like Starbucks, Meta, and Nike. The DUST ecosystem token tied to both projects will also be bridged to both Ethereum and Polygon.
Few concrete details about the migration have been announced since then, but for the first time, Frank and Dust Labs CEO Kevin Henrikson exclusively discussed the motivations behind the move with Decrypt and explained the upcoming process.
Not ‘if,’ but ‘when’
When DeGods launched in late 2021, Solana was near its all-time high price and its NFT scene was rapidly expanding. By the time it became Solana’s most valuable large-scale NFT project last summer, SOL had lost considerable value and the wider NFT market was in freefall.
In late December, soon after the move was announced, SOL had fallen about 97% from its peak price. Frank had previously tweeted about a potential migration amid Solana’s late-year struggles and faced considerable backlash from the community. Even so, rumors persisted as DeLabs continued fleshing out its actual plans.
It's just the beginning. pic.twitter.com/F3vxzXQAOy
— frankdegods.eth (@frankdegods) December 25, 2022
Henrikson told Decrypt that Solana was “a great place” to begin life, given the tooling on the network and the fact that its NFT community wasn’t as established as Ethereum’s. But he said that DeLabs had larger-scale ambitions that the team knew would likely someday lead the 10,000 NFT profile picture (PFP) project to the Ethereum ecosystem.
“It wasn't about ‘if,’ it was just a matter of ‘when’—and that was even in the earliest days of DeGods,” he said. “If we're gonna be the biggest, most popular NFT collection in the world, you're gonna have to be on Ethereum.”
DeGods, which has generated nearly $150 million worth of trading volume on Solana, will soon enter the largest market for high-value NFT collections. Frank reaffirmed his goal of making DeGods the “number-one luxury NFT in the world.”
Currently, a DeGods NFT on Solana starts at about $11,500 worth of SOL on the Magic Eden marketplace, but Yuga Labs’ Bored Ape Yacht Club PFPs on Ethereum start at 10 times that amount. It’ll be a new challenge to try and outshine ETH’s heavyweights, but that’s a big part of the appeal for DeLabs.
As follow-up project y00ts started making waves last summer, DeLabs received outreach from various blockchain networks about launching the NFT collection elsewhere.
It ultimately rolled out on Solana, but DeLabs sought an eventual destination that could help that collection reach a broader audience and collaborate with sizable brands. Henrikson cited last year’s litany of brand announcements around Polygon, including NFT initiatives from Reddit, Meta, Starbucks, DraftKings, Disney, and beyond, and described it as an opportunity.
He told Decrypt that moving to Polygon is “the fastest way to get connected to these companies because they'll be on the same chain.” Frank added that in addition to consumer brand deals, Polygon offers access to a growing slate of metaverse game platforms. Many y00ts visual traits were even left blank “so brands can imprint their logos on there,” Frank said.
The project’s artwork was also designed to be broadly appealing—or “clean enough that I can sell pacifiers and diapers,” Henrikson explained of potential partnerships or licensing deals, but also “men's cologne and things that are more degen-centric.”
Ultimately, DeLabs accepted a $3 million non-equity grant from Polygon Labs as part of the agreement to move y00ts to the network. Frank said that Polygon was “nowhere near the largest bidder in that regard” and that DeLabs chose the network for other reasons, but admitted that “it felt dumb to not take” the grant when so many networks were offering funds.
DeLabs will use the funds to help grow its team and take some of the public-facing emphasis off of Frank, he said. Furthermore, DeLabs and Dust Labs will develop a Polygon NFT launchpad and help incubate new projects, as Polygon Labs President Ryan Wyatt recently discussed on Decrypt’s gm podcast. It’s a move to grow the network’s NFT scene beyond brand apps.
“The most powerful thing in crypto is aligned incentives,” Frank said. “I personally want to see y00ts succeed, but part of seeing y00ts succeed is seeing the rest of the ecosystem succeed.”
How it works
DeLabs has set a March 15 launch target for both the DeGods and y00ts bridges, but Henrikson told Decrypt that late March is more realistic. Up until now, it wasn’t exactly clear how the team planned to have users move NFTs between chains—particularly on the point of whether the NFTs could be moved back and forth between the supported chains.
The bridging process via Wormhole will be an optional “one-way migration” from Solana to the new chain in both cases, Henrikson said, through a “burn and mint” process. Essentially, the Solana version of the PFP will be destroyed, and an identical version will be minted on the new chain and sent to the holder’s designated wallet. There’s no option to undo the migration.
Holders can choose to keep their existing Solana NFT from either collection, but they will lose access to ongoing incentives and future benefits around the projects. For example, the staking rewards offered to both—the DUST token for DeGods and points for y00ts holders—will only continue to accrue for NFTs that have been bridged to Ethereum and Polygon.
“You want to do the burn-and-mint,” Frank said, “and you want to have some type of incentive for people to get over there in the first week—so that it's like a proper party.”
Henrikson said that Phantom wallet, which supports Solana and has added Ethereum and Polygon in beta, is ideal for this kind of transition as it can all happen in one interface. But the Wormhole process can work with other wallets, starting with any other Solana wallet and ending with the new NFT in the popular Ethereum wallet MetaMask, for example.
Frank said that DeLabs has purposefully been quiet about future plans ahead of the shift, but that the migration will herald the start of its next phase for both projects. “DeGods Season starts when we get to ETH, and y00ts Season starts when we get to Polygon,” he affirmed.
Moving the projects from Solana to its new respective networks will also serve as a showcase for Dust Labs’ software and technology, Henrikson said, adding that the firm was founded with the ambition of being “all-chain or multi-chain.”
Dust Labs, which raised $7 million last year, will offer up its software across multiple chains for other brands and companies to use. He said that doors to potential new opportunities are opening up at a “much faster” rate than ever before, thanks in part to support from Polygon Labs and interest from brands that want to help grow the NFT space on that network.
While the announcement agitated many Solana die-hards, Frank emphasized that the migration isn’t meant to be a firm goodbye to the original home of DeGods and y00ts. Any unredeemed y00t t00bs NFTs—which holders burn to spawn a y00ts PFP—will continue to live only on Solana, and Frank said that DeLabs would consider building future projects on the chain.
“We have so much love for Solana,” Frank said. “At times, it can feel very charged on the internet, but for us, it has nothing to do with that. We are honestly excited to see the mantle quote-unquote ‘passed off’ from us to another set of builders on Solana.”
But DeLabs and Dust Labs see their future spanning multiple chains, and believe that the best place for DeGods and y00ts to grow is elsewhere. Frank said he’s never bought into the “Yuga [Labs] playbook” that many other NFT projects have tried to copy, and that his plan is to branch out in search of new conquests and potentially broader audiences.
“Let's not get complacent here. Let's keep pushing the boundaries and trying things out that are new,” he said. “We're trying to take big swings, and we are trying to do it in a way that is going to make it exciting on the upside for people to participate.”