Dapper Labs spun out of startup studio Axoim Zen in 2017 and was named to Techcouver’s 10 Homegrown B.C. Startups to Watch in 2021. Soon after, the startup raised a USD $250 million funding round which valued the digital collectibles startup at over $7 billion and set them up for a busy 2022.
Last year Dapper Labs cracked the top 10 of CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list, an annual ranking of companies “growing and innovating through a challenging market and changed world, while inspiring change among incumbent competitors.” They also landed major partners, such as the UFC as well as toy giant Mattel.
2022, however, was not all rosy: more than 150,000 tech workers were laid off globally across nearly 1,000 companies, according to data from aggregator Layoffs.fyi.
Moreover, trading volumes in NFTs—the digital collectibles recorded on blockchains that Dapper has made its name off—tumbled 97%. The fading NFT mania is part of a wider, $2 trillion wipeout in the crypto sector, spurred by a downshifting market and recent regulatory tightenings across Canada and beyond.
Dapper Labs was thus among those affected by cuts: the Vancouver-based crypto startup followed up multiple award wins and other signs of explosive growth through 2022 with a sudden shift in momentum, laying off 22% of staff in November.
This year, Dapper is further restructuring the organization in a move that will “part ways with 20% of full-time employees,” according to a statement from founder and CEO Roham Gharegozlou.
The “difficult decision” was made, he says, “to improve our focus and efficiency, strengthening our position in the market and better serving our communities.”
Despite layoffs, Gharegozlou persists his Dapper Labs “remains in a strong cash position with no outstanding debt.”
The executive says the company is committed to products and “tremendously excited about several major launches coming up this year.”
Gharegozlou says that he is, regardless of current broader economic conditions, “more confident than ever that Web3 will remake digital life for the better for billions of people, over time.”
Moving forward, Dapper will be “uncompromising” in cultivating a culture of curiosity, high-pace, and real impact, according to the founder.
“The shift we’ve undergone over the past several months has not been easy, but it was necessary to get us in fighting shape for the path ahead,” he wrote. “Our recent sprint has shown what we’re capable of when we prioritize and remain disciplined about both data and execution quality.”
According to the crypto entrepreneur, Dapper has a “huge year” ahead, with all-new IP launches as well as re-launches.
“Our mantras for 2023 are simple: mobile-first, community-driven, and Web3-native,” he stated.
The founder believes that, with the “right cost structure, we can think long term.”
“Our focus will be on maximizing product quality and achieving the right balance between scarcity, collectibility, and utility—growing Web3 one super-fan at a time,” he said.
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