Why Polygon shifted from partnerships with Starbucks and Reddit to degens

Why Polygon shifted from partnerships with Starbucks and Reddit to degens
Marc Boiron, the CEO of Polygon Labs, is a longtime lawyer for DeFi protocols. Credit: Darren Joseph, Polygon Labs
  • CEO Marc Boiron tells DL News how Polygon's emphasis on alliances with household names has fallen away.
  • He wants to let degens do what they do best.
  • The layer 2 blockchain ecosystem's shift mirrors broader moves in the market.

In July 2023, the Polygon blockchain network was best known for attracting big-name, corporate brands.

Starbucks, Reddit, Meta, Salesforce, and Mastercard had all launched projects on Polygon’s ecosystem.

Impressed crypto supporters called the business development team for Polygon Labs, the main developer behind the Polygon ecosystem, “gigachads,” even though two of the team’s leaders were women.

Now CEO Marc Boiron and Polygon’s founders are shifting focus away from splashy partnerships and turning the network into a home for “somebody who wants to go into web3 protocols and have a bunch of fun, even if they lose money.”

In other words, degens.

Strategy shift

The strategy change mirrors a broader shift in the crypto market. In this bull cycle, projects like pump.fun are leting users revel in what crypto does best — volatile speculation.

Boiron, the former chief legal officer for Polygon Labs, isn’t your stereotypical proponent of degens.

He’s a white-shoe lawyer who did crypto law full-time beginning in 2017. Four years later, he became an in-house attorney when he joined dYdX as the DeFi protocol’s chief legal officer.

Join the community to get our latest stories and updates

In 2022, after spending much of his career in crypto advising mainly DeFi projects, he made the jump to Polygon Labs, serving as chief legal officer and then CEO.

“I [didn’t] want to be doing pure legal work for my whole life,” he told DL News.

Sputtering deals

Boiron, in consultation with Polygon’s founders, decided to stop chasing big-name partnerships.

“We were doing a lot of random activities that I would say were very focused on volume, but they weren’t really focused on some core web3 audiences,” he said of the company’s prior strategy.

And many of those “random activities” were sputtering out.

‘If we wanted to bring the degens, we could not be the partnership chain. That couldn’t happen.’

In 2023, Meta shuttered its attempts to integrate NFTs into Facebook and Instagram.

One year later, Starbucks announced that it would sunset Odyssey, its NFT-powered customer loyalty program.

And while Reddit’s NFT marketplace, built on Polygon, still exists, the number of users minting NFTs have decreased since January, according to Dune Analytics.

“We were too early in assuming that they would create on-chain activity today,” Boiron said, in reference to the corporate brands.

Focus on DeFi

As Big Tech lost interest in crypto, Boiron and Polygon’s founders decided to lean into DeFi, which Boiron believes supercharges the growth of blockchains.

“If we wanted to bring the degens, we could not be the partnership chain,” he said. “That couldn’t happen.”

So, Polygon Labs doubled its DeFi team and hired, for example, the pseudonymous Carnation, who describes themselves as “[j]ust a degen flower on CT [Crypto Twitter].”

It also launched its community grants program, which allows crypto-native projects to more easily get funding, he said.

And it switched its organisational focus away from marketing and dealmaking to product development.

These include Polygon’s continued focus on zero-knowledge tech as well as the AggLayer, a means for protocols to send assets more efficiently to other chains.

Caustic memes

Degen culture, though, isn’t for the faint of heart. There are caustic memes, a gambler’s obsession with risk, and a general distaste for Fortune 500 decorum.

Boiron generally doesn’t believe Polygon Labs’ strategy shift will stop big brands from building on Polygon.

For example, Fox Corp., the parent of Fox News, recently chose Polygon to create a protocol to identify deepfakes.

However, Boiron knows every strategy has its tradeoffs.

“If we alienate a brand or two,” he told DL News, “that’s OK.”

Ben Weiss is a Dubai Correspondent at DL News. Got a tip? Email him at bweiss@dlnews.com.

Related Topics