The History of BAYC: A Billion-Dollar Ecosystem of Cartoon Apes
NFTs have been around for five years, but the non-fungible token boom only truly began in 2021. It coincided almost perfectly with the launch of Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of 10,000 cartoon ape NFTs that’s come to embody the whole industry. BAYC has over the past year become a bellwether for NFTs, just like bitcoin is for the crypto market at large.
During the initial launching, one Bored Ape NFT only costs around $190 or 0.08 ether. Yet, today, you can no longer find one that values below $300,000.
Why did these weird looking apes grab the attention of the entire world? One answer is that there’s more to the story than just the bunch of ape head shoots.
How did it all start?
The Bored Ape Yacht Club was founded by four people based in Miami, Florida in April 2021. This 10,000 NFT collection was launched by Yuga Labs, the same company that the four founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club founded. The initial founders, Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow, had managed to remain anonymous for almost an entire year before their identities were revealed by Buzzfeed News in February of 2022.
The idea of Bored Ape Yacht Club came from a congregation place for bored billionaire “apes” (slang in Crypto twitter) to hang out, make memes and talk numbers. The backstory of BAYC goes: “The year is 2031. BTC and ETH have taken over the world. Everyone who aped into crypto is rich beyond their wildest dreams. But now they are all bored and want to hang out with other like-minded apes. To do that, you need to go somewhere special.”
Interestingly enough, the 10,000 NFT collection was a flop during pre-launch. Only 650 of the BAYC NFTs were sold in the pre-launch drop. It was only during the official launch that prominent individuals in the NFT space started taking notice, and began beating the BAYC drum.
These NFT ‘whales’ started buying BAYC by the hundreds, and accumulated over 1,000 of these NFTs. As they made their purchases known to their followers on Twitter, interest in the collection skyrocketed, and BAYC was sold out within 12 hours.
The rise of the Bored Apes
Celebrities from Eminem to Kevin Hard to superstar athletes like Stephen Curry and Tom Brady are now part of the Bored Ape Yacht Club community, and these Bored Apes are popping up everywhere as people’s profile pictures thanks to new drives by social media platforms to push the use of NFTs. Not to mention, the cheapest Bored Ape on the market right now is still worth 6-figures.
Bored Ape Yacht Club has seen great success beyond the crypto space, and the collection has even collaborated with big-name brands like Adidas who are diving into the world of Web3. They’ve since launched other collections such as the Mutant Apes Yacht Club– and they’ve even launched their very own token currency, Apecoin — and it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. With success, however, comes a few downsides.
Bored Ape Yacht Club makes the news every time it gets hacked, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of NFTs compromised at a time. One of the most notorious ones so far involved the theft of Seth Green’s piece, which became a problem because he was due to create a movie based on it. With his NFT stolen, the movie has been put on hold, which means no Bored Ape movie for us (yet! Seth Green and the guy who was sold the NFT are suing the thief, so we might just get our Bored Ape movie).
This raises questions of security surrounding the apes, as people don’t want to invest their hard-earned money into something that could just be stolen by hackers — notably something crypto claims is impossible on the blockchain. As long as people continue falling for scams, digital goods will remain at risk.
Another criticism of Bored Ape Yacht Club is how it positions artists. Remember how only elements of the NFTs were originally drawn while the rest were randomized by a computer? This technique has driven criticism that big NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club are driven by consumerism rather than supporting artists.
While supporters of NFTs say that artists are empowered through NFT collections, others say that the very concept of NFTs as computer-generated images are a parody of art, and don’t benefit the artists because of how easily they can be replicated or stolen.
Consumerism and late-stage capitalism are all criticisms thrown at the collection, and are both points that work against the assertion that the success of the collection means helping artists everywhere.
Like most controversies, Bored Ape Yacht Club’s statements on the role of artists and how they should be compensated is complicated. Despite how big the project is, it’s perhaps not the best example of the potential NFTs have for artists.
So, what’s next for those bored apes?
Yuga Labs has big plans for its Bored Ape Yacht Club brand, plans that are both on-chain (within the blockchain space) and off-chain (in the real world).
Starting with more blockchain stuff. In March, they released Ape Coin, its own cryptocurrency. All Bored Ape holders were airdropped to just over 10,000 Ape Coins at launch, worth around $100,000 at the time (now about $70,000). Ape Coin will be the primary currency in Otherside, the metaverse Yuga Labs is building. It has already sold land for the metaverse, making over $300 million in just a few hours of sales.
In the physical world, the Bored Apes are integrating themselves into fashion. Adidas launched its first NFT project, Into The Metaverse, in collaboration with several NFT brands, Bored Ape Yacht Club chief among them. Collaborations between Adidas and BAYC on both virtual and physical clothing are coming soon.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club brand has popped up in other industries too. Literally in the case of food: A pop-up restaurant in Los Angeles was recently turned into a permanent burger spot. In January, a mobile game, Apes vs. Mutants, launched on both the App Store and Google’s Play Store. (Reviews have been unkind.) Another mobile game is in production, scheduled for Q2. Bored Ape figurines by Super Plastic are on the way too.
More unusual, though, is what people are doing with their apes. Owning a Bored Ape NFT gives you full commercial rights to it, and holders are taking advantage of that in some creative ways. One Bored Ape owner set up a Twitter account for his ape where he created a backstory, turning him into Jenkins, a valet that works for the Yacht Club. Jenkins is now signed to a real-world agency, and has a biography written by New York Times bestseller Neil Strauss. Universal Music Group has invested by signing a band consisting of three Bored Apes and one Mutant Ape.
You might think NFTs are silly — and terrible for the environment — but don’t expect the Bored Apes to disappear anytime soon.