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Solana has outperformed Bitcoin and Ethereum since January thanks in part to Mad Lads NFTs

Stylized Solana logo with wavy background
Solana has outperformed Bitcoin and Ether since January.
Photo illustration by Fortune

While all eyes are on Bitcoin’s creep toward $30,000 and Ether’s double-digit year-to-date jump, another cryptocurrency has quietly surpassed the gains of both since the start of the year.

Solana, or SOL, the native token of the Solana blockchain, has shot up 133% since trading at just $10 on Jan. 1, continuing to shrug off any reputational hit from being associated with Sam Bankman-Fried. Meanwhile, Bitcoin is up 78% and Ether is up just over 50% over the same period. 

While Solana’s market capitalization sank to $5.3 billion the day after FTX declared bankruptcy, it has since recovered 72% to $9.1 billion. It was up 3% over 24 hours on Friday afternoon, trading at $22.86. Bitcoin and Ether were both down about 1%, at $29,300 and $1,800, respectively, according to CoinMarketCap.

The number of successful transactions on the Solana blockchain rose to 713 million in March—the most since October—according to data tracker FlipSide. The total number of transactions is still down year over year largely due to a lagging bear market.

The Solana blockchain, which backs the Solana cryptocurrency, pitches itself as a faster and cheaper alternative to the Ethereum blockchain, still the most popular for decentralized apps such as NFT marketplaces and financial applications.

But Solana’s pitch as an “Ethereum killer” has hit some snags, including a number of recent outages and slowdowns. In February, a performance disruption resulted in issues with transactions and caused validators, who verify transactions on the blockchain, to restart the network to resolve the problem. Solana also faced a setback in the NFT space earlier this year when two of its most popular collections, y00ts and DeGods, left the blockchain.

Austin Federa, head of strategy for the Solana Foundation, previously told Fortune he wasn’t concerned about the projects leaving.

Just a month after losing those collections, a new project, Mad Lads, is bringing some excitement back to Solana NFTs. The collection, created by the Web3 company Coral—cofounded by Solana developer Armani Ferrante—launched this week and has already become the most traded NFT with the highest sales volume over the past seven days, according to Crypto Slam. 

Compared with $11.4 million for Yuga Labs’ Bored Ape Yacht Club collection, Mad Lads generated $17 million in sales over the last seven days, according to Crypto Slam. The Mad Lads trading frenzy also helped the Solana blockchain stay just above Polygon in number of transactions over the past week, according to Crypto Slam, even as Starbucks and other big companies flocked to the latter blockchain.

Mad Lads is one of the first of a new type of non-fungible token called executable NFTs, or xNFTs. While most NFTs are tied to centralized websites to provide the experiences they promise, xNFTs allow for built-in functionality. It could allow a game developer, for example, to mint an entire game as limited-edition xNFTs. For Mad Lads, the pictures act as a chat room for users that’s rendered entirely within the NFT, thanks to Coral’s new crypto wallet, Backpack, Federa wrote in a blog post

Federa said Mad Lads’ launch is proof that Solana’s more flexible NFT technology is a boon for entrepreneurs and creators.

“NFTs on Solana has always been a little bit different than other chains,” Federa told Fortune. “There’s this sort of relentless innovation and a drive to experiment.”

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