Electric Capital Developer Report (2021)

Maria Shen
Jan 5 · 5 min read

We fingerprinted nearly 500K code repositories and 160 million code commits across Web3 to create the 2021 Electric Capital Developer Report.

Executive Summary

Web3 developers are at an all-time high and growing faster than ever.

  • 18,000+ monthly active developers commit code in open source crypto and Web3 projects
  • 34,000+ new developers committed code in 2021 — the highest in history
  • 4,000+ monthly active open-source developers work on Ethereum, 680+ open-source developers work on Bitcoin
  • 20%+ of new Web3 developers join the Ethereum ecosystem
  • 65% of active developers in Web3 joined in 2021; 45% of full-time developers in Web3 joined in 2021

There are several vibrant ecosystems emerging beyond Bitcoin and Ethereum.

  • The largest ecosystems are Ethereum, Bitcoin, Polkadot, Cosmos, Solana, BSC, NEAR, Avalanche, Tezos, Polygon, and Cardano, each with 250+ monthly active developers
  • Polkadot, Solana, NEAR, BSC, Avalanche, and Terra are growing faster than Ethereum did at similar points in its history
  • 2,500+ developers are working on DeFi projects. Less than 1,000 full-time developers are responsible for over $100 billion in total value locked in smart contracts

The growth of developers in Web3 has been record-breaking, but still represents a small, and rapidly expanding, percent of software engineers globally. We are still in the early innings of Web3.

Full Report

Other Key Insights

Ethereum and Bitcoin continue to grow

Ethereum and Bitcoin continue to add developers growing by 42% and 9%, respectively over 2021. Ethereum retains 30% of full-time developers who joined after 2017. Ethereum continues to have the largest ecosystem of tools, apps, and protocols, and is 2.8x larger than the second largest ecosystem. One out of every five new developers coming into Web3 works on Ethereum.

Bitcoin has a pipeline of 100+ new developers coming into its ecosystem each month. Bitcoin averaged 600+ monthly active developers in December 2021.

More new developers joined Web3 in 2021 than any point in history

34,000+ new developers worked on an open source Web3 project in 2021, the highest number of new developers in history. Over 3,000 new developers join Web3 every month in the last months of 2021. Roughly 60% of all developers and 45% of full-time Web3 developers started in 2021. In 2018, developers grew for one year after network value peaked across all projects. If this cycle is like the last, developers could continue to grow until 2023 even if prices peak today.

Developer growth goes up with price, but holds steady through bear markets

Monthly active developers have historically increased when prices increase, but stay flat even as prices fall. Across 2018 and 2019, monthly active developers have stayed flat around 11,000 even as prices fell more than 80% from peak.

Which ecosystems are growing fastest?

Ethereum, Polkadot, Cosmos, Solana, and Bitcoin are the 5 largest developer ecosystems.

Large ecosystems (with more than 300 developers): Comparing average monthly active developers between December 2020 and December 2021, Solana grew 4.9x+ in 2021. NEAR is now the 6th largest ecosystem in 2021, with 4x+ growth. Polygon’s monthly developers grew by more than 2x, while Cardano was +90%, BSC was +80%, Cosmos was +70%, and Bitcoin was +10%.

Midsized and smaller ecosystems (less than 300 developers): Comparing average monthly active developers between December 2020 and December 2021, Terra, ICP, Fantom, and Harmony all 4x’ed their developers in 2021. Both Avalanche and Algorand grew their developers by 3x.

(Note: these growth rates may be even higher, as many projects initially build closed-source. We only count open-source developers.)

DeFi growth continues

DeFi has grown +76%, in line with overall Web3 growth. Over 500 new developers committed code to a DeFi project every month in 2021 except for January. At the same time, DeFi full-time monthly active contributors grew by 64%. 1,000 developers steward smart contracts with over $100 billion in assets.

What about NFTs, DAOs, and Gaming?

We did not deep dive into NFTs, DAOs, and Gaming since aggregate developer metrics alone may be misleading and may not be the correct leading indicator to consider. In these markets, a relatively small number of developers can build reusable components and the amount of smart contract code written will be small relative to community engagement. For example, a very small amount of code written by just one developer might drive a large PFP NFT project ecosystem. Or in the case of games, the majority of code may be off chain and closed source, thereby making extrapolation from on-chain and open source data very noisy.

We believe community engagement signals are an important and complementary leading indicator for the NFT, Gaming, and DAO markets. We are working on several novel ways to gather community data and signals and will share our results later in 2022.

A summary of our insights can be found here: https://twitter.com/avichal/status/1478776674648944641

Contribute

100+ volunteers in the Web3 community have added to our Github taxonomy and helped scrub data.

We’d like to thank the many contributors who made this report a possibility. This work requires mapping many thousands of project repositories. We’ve opened our ecosystem map on GitHub so that anyone can contribute:

  1. Check our ecosystem mapping via https://electric-capital.github.io
  2. Submit a new ecosystem via our form through https://airtable.com/shrN4vZMlBLm3Dap8
  3. Or submit a pull request in https://github.com/electric-capital/crypto-ecosystems

We welcome any feedback or comments, please feel free to email info@electriccapital.com with any questions or comments.

We’re Hiring

PS — We’re hiring! Electric Capital is a community of builders and entrepreneurs.

Prior to Electric Capital, we started seven companies (six acquired), invested in 100+ technology startups including Stripe, Instacart, Pinterest, Twitter, Uber, Cruise, Affirm, Notion, Figma, Airtable, and Wish, and served as executives at technology companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter. We are early investors in many foundational Web3 protocols and companies and are excited to spend the rest of our careers in this space.

About Electric

Electric Capital is a leading Web3 venture firm. We are early-stage investors in many well-known layer-1 platforms, DeFi protocols, NFT projects, DAOs, and breakout Web3 businesses. Learn more at ElectricCapital.com

Disclaimer and Disclosure

This Content is for Informational Purposes Only

You should not construe any such information or other material as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. Nothing contained in this report constitutes a solicitation, recommendation, endorsement, or offer by Electric Capital or any third party service provider to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments in this or in any other jurisdiction in which such solicitation or offer would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction.

We may hold tokens in some of the ecosystems mentioned in this report

We may have previously held, currently hold, or will in the future hold tokens in some of the projects mentioned in this report. We do not short tokens. Nothing in this report should be construed as financial advice.

For a list of past and present investments, please visit electriccapital.com.

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