One of the most highly touted cryptos to debut in 2022 was Aptos (APT 2.60%), a Layer 1 blockchain network that some were calling "the next Ethereum (ETH 2.40%)" and "the next Solana (SOL 0.97%)" right out of the gate. The token came with a world-class developer team, tremendous hype, and hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital financing. 

Unfortunately, Aptos arrived in the crypto market on Oct. 19 -- just days before the meltdown of FTX (FTT). Add in the fact that much of its venture financing came from former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, and you can see why traders dropped the token like a hot potato. Aptos made its debut at $9, hit a high of $10.25 within its first week, and then fell as low as $3.07 before the end of the year. 

So what can we expect from Aptos in 2023?

Similarities between Aptos and Solana

Back in 2021, being called "the next Solana" would have been the ultimate compliment for a cryptocurrency. At that time, Solana was one of the hottest cryptos, praised for its fast transaction processing speeds and rapidly growing ecosystem. In a head-to-head comparison with Ethereum -- which was still in the process of preparing to carry out The Merge -- Solana looked like a potential winner. Moreover, Solana came with the imprimatur of approval from Sam Bankman-Fried, who was still enjoying his reputation as a legendary figure in the crypto world. 

Digital cryptocurrency coin.

Image source: Getty Images.

Fast-forward to 2022, however, and the situation was turning upside down. Yes, Solana was still one of the fastest blockchains on the planet, but it was also experiencing increasing periods of network outages, and some were questioning its scalability. Then came the first market meltdown of the year, and suddenly all bets were off. After Ethereum managed to pull off The Merge without any hitches, Solana's prospects dimmed further. And once the FTX meltdown hit in November and investors realized just how much of a role Bankman-Fried had played in getting Solana off the ground, Solana went into free fall -- and no wonder. By the end of the year, Solana was down nearly 95%.

That's why the similarities between Aptos and Solana are so unsettling for investors. Aptos, too, came to market promising to be the fastest Layer 1 blockchain network. It, too, had the support of Bankman-Fried, who helped Aptos conduct a $150 million Series A venture capital financing round in July 2022. And it came with a world-class developer team that had migrated over from Meta Platforms (META 2.67%). This was the same team that helped build the Diem blockchain project for Meta (then known as Facebook), giving the crypto an impeccable pedigree. The future looked bright for Aptos.

Two scenarios for Aptos

At the beginning of 2023, Aptos has the potential to be either the Solana of 2021 or the Solana of 2022. In the first scenario, the price of Aptos could skyrocket as traders dig into the numbers and realize just how much the crypto might be undervalued. Right now, Aptos has a market capitalization of just $490 million -- about a ninth of the size of Solana, which now has a market capitalization of $4.5 billion. If Aptos really is "the next Solana" -- shouldn't their market caps be closer in size? There might be significant value here. 

One way Aptos is standing out from its rivals is by focusing on large, enterprise-class customers that want to implement huge blockchain projects. As Aptos notes, its blockchain was "built with billions in mind." It's the same technology used to create a production-class blockchain for Facebook, which has billions of users around the globe. Solana had its share of network outages throughout 2022, so the ability to get access to a fast, scalable, and robust blockchain network from Aptos might be attractive to large corporations.

In the second scenario, though, the price of Aptos could further decline throughout 2023. Just as Solana sank by 95% in 2022, Aptos could take a rocky, volatile ride downward as crypto investors systematically remove all "Sam coins" from their portfolios. Now that Ethereum seems to have fended off the challenge from Solana, can we really expect investors to give much of a chance to Aptos, which has only had a few months to make its mark in the crypto market? Investors might decide that Aptos really is "the next Solana" -- and then rush for the exits in their efforts to get out before the crypto falls to zero.

Is Aptos a buy?

In many ways, Aptos offers a cautionary lesson for traders hoping to get in on "the next hot crypto." Often, reality fails to live up to the hype. Right now, Aptos is too new for me to give it a buy recommendation, and it simply came to the market at the wrong time. Had Aptos debuted in 2021, we might not even be having this discussion. Instead of talking about "the next Solana," we might be talking about "the next Aptos."