It's weird how much crypto seems to avoid the concept of money. Crypto folks seem very down to "create money", but very hesitant to explain how they make money. In some cases, it's because money makes them uncomfortable and so they dance around that point. In other cases, it's because the project is a ponzi or a scam.

There are two "legitimate" business models in crypto that I'm aware of. One is familiar to anyone in open source. The other is unique to crypto.

The first is the open core model. You create a smart contract that has some utility. The smart contract is open source and can typically be used without asking anyone's permission. Your company does not make money from the smart contract, but from building tools and client applications for the smart contract that you charge for. Consensys is an example, the founder helped build Ethereum, and Consensys spun out to offer RPC endpoints, Metamask, smart contract auditing, and so on.

The second is a staked token. Staked tokens work a bit like taxi medallions. The creators make a decentralized service that anyone can operate, for example by running an open-source server. If you operate the service, you can make money, typically from fees. To operate the service, you must follow some rules. To become an operator, you'll need to put down a deposit in some native token (basically a license), and if you break the rules, your tokens are destroyed (you'll "lose your license"). If the tokens were not valuable, then you could break the rules willy-nilly and the service wouldn't work. So the decentralized service limits the quantity of tokens and encourages a secondary market to appear (such as on uniswap). If you can make $10,000 a month operating a node, then it's worthwhile for you to purchase <$10k to become an operator. The token has a limited supply and increasing demand, causing it to be worth something. The creators of the decentralized service then can make money by minting an initial supply and selling the token to the market of people who want to be operators. At critical mass, the creators can theoretically leave the project without killing it. This model is unique in software; previously if the company shut down, the entire product did too. An example of this strategy is Livepeer or The Graph.

The reason they're doing these strategies is to under-cut their competitors, while still making money themselves. For example, Filecoin is currently 0.0012% the cost of Amazon S3. Some of that is the result of speculation, but much of it is just because Filecoin is a commodity market for storage. Importantly, there's seemingly nothing that S3 can legitimately do to stop Filecoin. If everyone at Protocol Labs (the creators of Filecoin) got hit by a bus, Filecoin would still exist. In other words, Filecoin can offer more stability than S3, with the cheapest possible prices. Meanwhile, Protocol Labs can still make money, by simply selling other services associated with your storage (business model #1), or in a one-time go by selling some of their token (business model #2).


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