Grape Network, the Startup That Broke Solana, Raises $1.8M

Key contributor Dean Pappas said he didn’t mean for his project’s public token sale to crash an entire ecosystem. Now VCs are following suit.

AccessTimeIconSep 23, 2021 at 8:04 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 7:07 p.m. UTC

Grape Network, the project whose token sale broke Solana last week, has raised $1.8 million in total from venture capital (VC) firms and that now-infamous $GRAPE offering.

The community toolkit developer closed a $1.2 million round led by Multicoin Capital on Thursday. The venture funding comes on the heels of last week’s $600,000 public sale that was so overheated with bot-buyers that it knocked host blockchain Solana offline for nearly a full day.

“We didn’t break it out of intention,” Grape Network founder and core contributor Dean Pappas told CoinDesk in an interview. “But we were part of the reason it got broken.”

His startup has been building tools to help non-fungible token (NFT) holders prove their JPEG bona fides since a Solana hackathon in May. Now, top Solana projects like Degenerate Ape Academy and Saber use Grape, among others, perhaps explaining the excitement around its token sale.

Grapes of wrath

That a rather niche project like Grape could break the blockchain with the highest-claimed transaction capacity of any major project raised serious questions for Solana’s tech stack. Project leads plan to issue a full post-mortem in the coming weeks, but early assessments from the Solana Foundation point to the $GRAPE IDO, or initial decentralized exchange (DEX) offering, as the likely culprit.

Pappas told CoinDesk he was rather unfazed by the debacle. For starters, he knew the public sale would be hot. Prospective $GRAPE buyers had signaled $8.7 million in interest for a sale capped at $600,000. And nabbing IDOs on Solana’s Raydium platform have been lucrative plays lately, Pappas said.

“The last IDO before $GRAPE went up who knows how much,” he said. “Everybody knew that this was going to be doing very well, so that’s why these bots were set up to do 400,000 transactions per second, attacking the Serum market.”

Their automated onslaught was too much for Solana; it went dark for 17 hours, nixing the Grape team’s plans to put $GRAPE, whose holders get perks in the project’s Discord server, to use. Solana was righted by morning, Pappas said.

Build mode

Besides Multicoin, crypto venture firms SkyVision, Definitive, LongHash, Double Peak Group and Solana Capital also participated in the $1.2 million private token sale whose proceeds will be used to add staff.

“That’s all gonna be for team expansion,” Pappas said of the cash, highlighting a particular need for engineers.

He said Grape has at least three “future tools” planned that will help crypto-based communities – from decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) to NFT clubs – connect their members’ JPEG personas with internet messaging hubs, such as Discord.

“The way our system works is it validates that this person who’s talking to you on this Discord has that NFT,” Pappas said of Grape Access, the flagship product that’s already live.

Degen community

Building a metaverse-meatspace verification bridge is nothing new to crypto. A handful of projects like Collab Land are at work on Ethereum. But Pappas said Grape is the biggest yet on Solana, which he claimed is a preferable blockchain for DAOs because he said it has lower fees.

Grape is two months away from launching a non-custodial tipping feature that will let community members pay each other without leaving the DAO. Little features like this are essential in building out crypto-infused online communities, Pappas said.

For now, Grape’s main utility is in ensuring Discord degens own the apes they claim to. Pappas said the five-year plan is far more “grandiose” – turning Grape into a community-builder’s toolkit that can support the backbone of any project, “all the way up to a government.”


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Danny Nelson

Danny is CoinDesk's Managing Editor for Data & Tokens. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.