When Yuga Labs launched the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection in April 2021, no one could’ve predicted everything that would follow. The JPEG apes took NFTs to interstellar heights, bringing millions of eyes to the cryptocurrency industry.
Since then, Yuga Labs haven’t stopped delivering new NFT projects and innovative new products. The Yuga ecosystem has continued to expand, building beyond simple non-fungible tokens. The explosive startup has crafted an immersive metaverse for the Yuga world and even acquired the most iconic NFT collection ever.
How did Yuga Labs accomplish its meteoric rise to become the world’s largest digital collectible company?
What Is Yuga Labs?
Yuga Labs is a digital asset and blockchain technology company based in Miami, Florida. The company is most famous for creating the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection and several other supporting projects, like the Otherside metaverse.
Yuga extended its reach and prestige within the NFT world by acquiring ownership of other notable collections, like Cryptopunks and Meebits.
Despite what many believe, ApeCoin (APE) isn’t an official Yuga Labs product. While APE is an integral part of the Yuga ecosystem, the cryptocurrency was created by the ApeCoin DAO, a community-run group that operates as a separate legal identity.
Yuga Labs History
Despite its astronomical growth, Yuga Labs started from humble beginnings. Four pseudonymous co-founders got together in February 2021 and began drafting the first sketches of the BAYC collection. They chose to base the characters off apes as an homage to ‘Aping in’, crypto slang for buying something without doing any research.
Two months later, 10,000 Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs were minted on the Ethereum blockchain. The trending collection sold out within 12 hours at a 0.08 ETH mint price. A year later, the BAYC floor price was valued at over 130 ETH, or over $300,000. BAYC NFTs were the ultimate flex for celebrities and athletes keen to show off their new JPEGs.
Yuga Labs released supporting collections to expand the brand and put their NFTs into the hands of a wider audience. Released in June 2021, Bored Ape Kennel Club NFTs were the first companions for Bored Apes. The Mutant Ape Yacht Club swiftly followed these cartoon dogs in August.
After a successful 2021, Yuga Labs adopted a new vision for 2022: Expansion. They acquired the historic Cryptopunks collection from its original creators, Larva Labs, in March 2022. By acquiring Cryptopunks and Meebits, Yuga had a monopoly over the NFT market.
March 2022 also brought in significant funds from investors for Yuga Labs. Andreessen Horowitz led the $450 million seed round investment into the company, which was given a $4 billion valuation.
Hot off the heels of the acquisition, ApeCoin DAO launched the APE token. The event was significant in NFT history, with NFT holders receiving tens of thousands of dollars worth of tokens as a reward. APE is a utility token within the Yuga Labs ecosystem and was used to mint Yuga’s next collection, Otherside land plots.
To spice things up ahead of the next collection, Yuga Labs released a competitive ‘runner’ style on-chain game for Ape holders. Players were told before the game began, ‘The greater the score, the greater the reward.’
Yuga Founders Revealed
As theories continued circulating in crypto news outlets about the identities of the Yuga Labs co-founders, a Buzzfeed article finally outed the mysterious creators in February 2022. For the eager detective, it was as simple as searching public records. Yuga Labs was publically registered to an address connected to Greg Solana, aka Gargamel.
The other Yuga co-founders responded by doxxing their identities in solidarity, which has arguably helped deepen trust in the brand long-term. The identity of the Yuga Labs co-founders are as follows:
- Gargamel – Greg Solano
- Gordon Goner – Wylie Aronow
- No Sass – Zeshan Ali
- Emperor Tomato Ketchup – Kerem Atalay
Yuga Labs NFT Collections
Yuga Labs has six separate collections under its umbrella. Bored Ape Yacht Clubs will always be the cornerstone of the ecosystem; however, the acquisition of Cryptopunks added serious weight to the Yuga Monopoly.
Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC)
BAYC is the most recognizable NFT collection on the planet. They dominate trade volume on marketplaces like OpenSea and Blur and are the NFT of choice for celebrities. Performers like Eminem and Snoop Dogg have gone so far as to use their BAYC NFTs in music videos. What’s more, Adidas featured an Ape in one of their commercials in 2022.
Mutant Ape Yacht Club (MAYC)
Mutant Apes helped grow the Yuga Labs holder base and expand their ecosystem by introducing 20,000 new NFTs to the Yuga universe. While the BAYC collection was a traditional mint, Mutant Apes changed the process.
While 10,000 MAYC were publically auctioned off at an average price of $10,000, every Board Ape holder was airdropped a special Mutant Serum. By burning Mutant Serum, holders received another NFT, depicting a mutated version of their original Ape.
Bored Ape Kennel Club (BAKC)
Kennel Club was the first companion collection within the Yuga Labs ecosystem. These fun and friendly Shiba-inspired NFTs were given to all Bored Ape holders as a free airdrop.
Otherside is the metaverse of the Yuga Labs ecosystem. This virtual game world is home to all Apes and other compatible NFTs. The collection comprises over 100,000 unique lands, called OtherDeeds, each with different attributes, such as their environment or sediment type.
The OtherDeed mint drew criticism for its explosive gas fees. The Ethereum blockchain was overwhelmed by users trying to mint Otherside land plots, with some transaction fees upwards of $1,000. Yuga Labs later admitted they could have handled the launch better to avoid congesting the network.
If BAYC is the most recognizable NFT collection ever, Cryptopunks is the most iconic. Created by Larva Labs, these pixelated, two-dimensional characters used to be considered the most valuable NFT collection on the market.
Cryptopunk artwork became a reference across the Web3 world. Their legendary Alien, Zombie, and Ape character traits have been honored in hundreds of NFT collections since their creation. Additionally, pixelized imagery has become common in DeFi apps and crypto culture.
Comprised of 20,000 3d voxel characters, Meebits are a fun addition to the Yuga Labs universe. Each Meebit has a fully interactive 3d model, which can be imported into popular animation software tools and Metaverses, like The Sandbox.
Twelvefold – Bitcoin NFTs
Yuga Labs seems to always have its thumb on the market’s pulse. In March 2023, Yuga Labs launched Twelvefold, their first ordinal NFTs on the bitcoin blockchain. Bitcoin ordinals work by inscribing data, like an image, on an individual satoshi token (1/100,000,000th of a BTC).
Because the bitcoin network doesn’t support smart contracts, these ordinal inscriptions have brought NFT culture and trading to the world’s first cryptocurrency.
Despite selling the entire collection for over 733 BTC, the process has been called a ‘scammer’s dream.’ Yuga’s strategy for handling these auctions has been condemned by the crypto community and the founder of the Ordinals protocol himself.
To buy a Twelvefold NFT during the auction, bidders were asked to send BTC to a Yuga Labs-controlled wallet. After the auction, unsuccessful bids were refunded to the original bidder.
While it’s improbable that Yuga Labs would scam unwary bidders, detractors have claimed their strategy sets a negative precedent for other launches within the Ordinal space.
On The Flipside
- Yuga Labs has completely monopolized the Ethereum NFT market. Yuga-owned collections are the top four projects by all-time volume on Opensea. In an industry so focused on decentralization, it seems counter-productive that one company has such a strong grip on the space.
Why You Should Care
For most NFT collectors, owning a BAYC or a Cryptopunk is the jewel in the crown. While NFT value is clearly subjective, Yuga Labs is a leader in the NFT space. Their choices and decisions have a significant influence on the NFT market and the behavior of other collections.
How much is Yuga Labs worth?
Following a seed round investment led by Andreessen Horowitz in March 2022, Yuga Labs was given a valuation of $4 billion.
How does Yuga Labs make money?
Yuga Labs primarily makes money selling NFT mints and collecting royalties on secondary sales of their collections. Yuga also earns revenue through advertising, sponsorships, and partnerships.
Who is the CEO of Yuga Labs?
Daniel Alegre is the CEO of Yuga Labs. He stepped into the role in December 2022, succeeding Nicole Muniz, the company’s first CEO.
Why did BAYC succeed?
The NFT market is speculative and subjective. No one can say for sure why Bored Ape Yacht Club succeeded; however, many analysts attribute the relatable art as one of the initial reasons. Perhaps the chief reason is that they became popular amongst celebrities.
Is Yuga Labs a US company?
Yes, Yuga Labs is a company registered in the US. The Yuga Labs headquarters are located in Miami, Florida.