FAIR WARNING: THIS POST HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH SURFING...…
The intent of this post is to provide some insight behind the decision to launch the Wave Riders Club collection on Stacks with HeyLayer. It is NOT meant to be a deep technical review of the Stacks blockchain, Bitcoin, Ethereum or NFT's. There are plenty of resources for these subjects by people with subject matter expertise beyond that which I possess. Like all things in life, take the opinions offered here with a grain of salt and do your own research. Rather, my perspective is that of a brand cofounder responsible for moving the brand into web3 across a variety of initiatives including the Waver Riders Club membership.
Firstly, I think it is important to understand that we could have launched a membership club without it being on web3 as an NFT. While this may seem obvious as membership clubs and subscriptions are common both IRL and web2, a lot of rhetoric around NFT's would give the impression that utility is something brand new and arose only due to the advent of the NFT. In fact, the opposite is true - NFT's as a technology represent a significant advancement on the member identification and authentication use cases required for memberships and clubs to ensure the benefits they provide are being enjoyed by the people authorized to enjoy them. The utility was the basis for creating memberships in the first place.
We built Wave Riders Club as a NFT project to enable game theory within the community, instill the opportunity for increased future value and to ensure that we could deliver digital and physical experiences seamlessly to the person who should have access. The membership is a fundamental layer in our offering stack allowing us to focus on providing value to the core community first. Once we made the decision to launch the NFT project the first thing we had to decide was which blockchain to deploy on.
In an ideal world, and one that may not be that far away, projects like ours would be chain agnostic. Any user could come to the party with their digital wallet of choice from any blockchain and transact with our project. That said, we are not there yet and while some solutions do exist, they are for the crypto literate user base who have very low expectations regarding user experience and a high degree of crypto knowledge.
So where does one start with an NFT project? Why Ethereum of course. Ethereum is after all the blockchain where all the most mainstream notable projects are and largely where all the users are as well. It is alos purpose built as highly programmable to enable Defi, smart contracts and more. All in all, it is the no brainer number one most popular choice for a NFT project.
There are some catches, however. Most of the issues regarding Ethereum (and this is in no way meant to be a rebuke of Ethereum per se) revolve around gas fees, security and stability issues that arise from its complexity and the ability of its cofounder to influence the direction of the technology. For this post, my primary concern was around gas fees and usability. While usability issues aren't specific to Ethereum, I found the overall experience of minting a NFT, getting a digital wallet, adding funds etc. to be painful and it is one of the criteria that had me looking for alternatives.
One other criterion that was top of mind related to crypto familiarity - the degree that a potential user has knowledge of crypto currency concepts. I of course started my research with my wife and teenage sons and then expanded to friends and associates to get an idea of what level of familiarity most people had. This was pretty eye opening - while there certainly was a percentage that understood NFT's, smart contracts and blockchain basics it was by FAR the minority. What was interesting however was that almost all of them had heard of one thing - Bitcoin and understood that it was "digital money".
This topic was mentioned in a conversation with an advisor to the company, who introduced the Stacks ecosystem and some companies he was in discussions with including HeyLayer. So began the start of my trip down the rabbit hole that is smart contracts on Bitcoin. Prior to this I only thought of Bitcoin as a store of value, I had no idea that there was an entire community of developers and entrepreneurs devoted to building DeFi and web3 on BTC!
So now finally we get to the crux of the why Stacks. After a lot of research on my end I found the Stacks/Bitcoin/HeyLayer solution largely resolved all three issues I identified. Stacks uses Bitcoin via Proof of Transfer to enable smart contracts on the original, most stable and secure blockchain with the biggest market cap and the highest level of familiarity for non-digital native users with the added bonus of super low transaction fees. HeyLayer eliminates the usability issue with "Buy with USD via Credit Card" checkout turning the entire mint experience into a web2 like ecommerce transaction and provides a great on ramp for brands looking to expand to web3.
So how did it all pan out? Overall HeyLayer and Stacks delivered on the issues I had concerns about. What I didn't know was how much I did not know about launching a NFT project and all the other issues that would arise - whitelists, presales, Discord, bot integration, NFT holder verification, NFT marketing and the biggie liquidity. There are some interesting things happening on the liquidity side with bridges and even a project that is doing simultaneous cross chain minting on Ethereum and Stacks! I think these kinds of innovations represent good near-term strategies for projects like ours to go where the users are today and help bring them along to Stacks and Bitcoin.
We are watching these developments very closely and will certainly look to add functionality to the Wave Riders Club project that is in the interest of its community both short and long term - more news to come soon!
Chris Almida cofounder surfing.com