Yuga Labs

Yuga Labs Founder Taking Leave of Absence for Health Reasons

BY Jolene Creighton

January 28, 2023

Moments ago, Wylie Aronow, one of the co-founders of Yuga Labs, announced that he would be taking a leave of absence from the company for health reasons. In a tweet, Aronow (better known by his pseudonym, Gordon Goner) stated that he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure by his doctor. “Symptoms started last year out of the blue and I put off seeking help (like an idiot) so I could keep working. But after testing, my doctor called and asked me to radically change my life,” he wrote.

In order to tend to his health, Aronow said he would be stepping down from his role at Yuga. “I’m going to be taking a leave of absence to focus on my health for a while,” he wrote. However, Aronow clarified that his leave of absence would not be all-encompassing. He will be staying on in a more limited capacity as a Board Member and Strategic Advisor, but he did not offer specifics about what these roles would entail or how active he would be in them.

“Our incredibly talented friend and cofounder has the full support of the whole Yuga family as he embarks on his journey to get back to health,” the company said in a tweet. nft now reached out to Yuga Labs to get further details regarding Aronow’s continued work at the company, but representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In his tweet, Aronow further clarified his decision to leave. He explained that he lost most of his twenties to a chronic illness and pushed himself far too hard during his time at Yuga Labs. “I worked 12 hours a day, nearly every day. I should have taken the advice from everyone around me and sought balance. My goals now are to get the best medical treatment I can and heal,” he said.

Ultimately, Yuga Labs — and, by extension, Aronow — rose to prominence early in 2021. On April 23 of that year, Aronow launched the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection with co-founders Greg Solano (Gargamel), Zeshan (Sass), and Kerem (Tomato Ketchup). The project was a wild success. While the NFTs from the collection were initially priced for fair distribution at .08 ETH per ape (about $190 at the time), the NFTs quickly started selling for more than $100,000 on secondary markets.

Things rose to a fever pitch in March of 2022 when the team announced the completion of a $450 million funding round, which placed Yuga Labs at a $4 billion valuation. The round was led by silicon valley investor Andreessen Horowitz (known in the NFT space as a16z).

Since closing funding, the Yuga Labs team has been hard at work…to put it mildly. They launched Dookey Dash, an interactive minting and gaming experience, in January of 2023. And they have been making regular updates to Otherside, a metaverse project that stands as the largest expansion of the Bored Ape NFT universe we’ve ever seen. The Otherside project is ultimately an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) connected to the BAYC ecosystem. 

The team notes that the game will blend mechanics from MMORPGs and Web3-enabled virtual worlds. Specifically, players own the land in the world, NFTs can be transformed into playable characters, and more than 10,000 people will be able to play together simultaneously.

Given the size and scale of this work, it comes as no surprise that Aronow’s health has suffered as a result. Previous research by RB, a global consumer health company, found that around 67 percent of start-up leaders attribute personal health issues to their working lives. Almost 50 percent of those who responded said they worked more than 50 hours per week, with one in four (28 percent) saying they worked more than 60 hours.

This was a breaking story and was updated.

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