Despite labeling themselves as decentralized networks, protocols, foundations, and frameworks, blockchain organizations are, in fact, businesses — that will fail to succeed if they don’t start thinking of themselves that way fast.
2017 was the year of crypto hype, 2018 a year of focused technical development, and 2019 is the year when sophisticated blockchain companies saw the writing on the wall: Build a business or bust.
In this post, we dive highlight 15 customer-focused blockchain organizations that have translated their user networks into growing businesses.
Whether it’s through offering premium financial services, implementing private blockchains for enterprise clients, entering into commercial partnerships, or a number of other compelling business cases, these 15 projects, arranged in alphabetical order, have identified their customers and are looking for ways to leverage the strength of their user network to fund operations and turn a profit:
1. Algorand: Algorand has created a next generation blockchain platform that solves many of the issues plaguing current implementations of blockchain technology. Their Pure Proof-of-Stake consensus protocol coupled with the Verifiable Random Function (VRF) takes the blockchain trilemma head-on, solving for scalability, security, and decentralization through a unique set of features that appeals to enterprises and DApp developers alike.
- Earlier this year, Algorand partnered with AssetBlock to launch a blockchain-based real estate investment platform, built on top of Algorand.
- In October, Algorand announced that its blockchain platform is now certified for Sharia-compliant financing, opening the platform to a network of observant Islamic investors estimated to be worth more than $70 billion.
- In November, the company announced the launch of Algorand 2.0, an update to their protocol that includes new decentralized finance features and the long-awaited non-Turing-complete smart contracts.
2. Binance: Offering products and services with low barriers to entry for retail users seems to be paying off for the Malta-based company. Initially having launched as a trading platform for cryptocurrencies, Binance has since expanded to include a blockchain platform, futures trading platform, over-the-counter trading, token launchpad and lending services. Furthermore, Binance is actively educating newcomers through its Binance academy, while Binance Labs acts as a VC-like arm of the company as it explores promising startups in the space. With multiple revenue generative businesses, Binance continues to be a dominant force in the crypto ecosystem.
- Binance made headlines with its mainnet launch of Binance Chain, a native blockchain platform that helps new projects and ICOs send and receive tokens, issue new tokens, control token supplies, and exchange tokens on Binance’s decentralized exchange (DEX), which is built on top of Binance Chain.
- As a direct competitor to Ethereum, Binance Chain has enticed projects like Mithril to migrate their tokens to Binance Chain’s BEP-2 standard.
3. Block.one: Block.one, the team behind the EOS.IO blockchain protocol powered by their native cryptocurrency EOS, has long been a dominant force in the crypto ecosystem. After raising a mammoth $4 billion in the EOS token sale in 2017, Block.one has continued to support the EOS ecosystem through their VC arm, consulting for enterprise clients looking to harness their technology, and launching consumer facing products.
- The team recently announced the upcoming release of Voice, a decentralized social media network, signaling a shift from building infrastructure to launching user-facing products that run on their blockchain.
- With new U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a rapidly growing U.S. workforce, and a recent collaboration with Coinbase to educate its user base on EOS.IO software through the Coinbase Earn program, Block.one is poised for U.S. expansion in 2020.
4. Brave: In an era of intrusive ads and cookies that trail us while we traverse the internet, Brave is pioneering a privacy-focused web surfing experience through its proprietary browser and the BAT token. Through a series of partnerships, Brave has created a new incentive model for digital advertising that rewards its users in BAT tokens for opting to view privacy-preserving ads. The Brave browser strips out ads from websites, replaces them with their own ads, and allows users to send money to websites of their choosing.
- This October, Brave released their 2-way wallet, enabling users to not only anonymously and securely contribute to online publishers of their choosing, but to transfer BAT out of their Brave Rewards wallet and convert the tokens to many digital assets and fiat currencies through a partnership with Uphold.
- In November, Brave announced the official launch of Brave 1.0, their next generation browser that put users in charge of their internet experience with unmatched privacy features and rewards.
5. Cardano: Cardano is a decentralized public blockchain and cryptocurrency project that is fully open source and seeks to deliver more advanced features than any protocol previously developed to be used by individuals, organizations, and governments. Cardano is home to the ADA cryptocurrency, an advanced form of digital cash that, along with the underlying technology, is currently being tested out in multiple interesting use cases. 2019 has been a year of growth for Cardano with multiple diverse and high-growth use cases for both its blockchain and its native cryptocurrency primed for adoption in 2020.
- Cardano’s partnership with New Balance would see the company use their technology to authenticate premium sneakers.
- A new collaboration with the government of Ethiopia includes the development of a new cryptocurrency that could be used as a secure and dependable means of payment.
- Cardano’s partnership with crypto-focused hotel booking service Travala enables users can now book hotel rooms using the ADA cryptocurrency.
- The team announced that it has completed the balance snapshot for its upcoming incentivized Shelley testnet, their upcoming network upgrade that will allow those holding ADA to earn real staking rewards and introduce node operators and smart contracts into their network.
6. Chainlink: By allowing smart contracts to access key off-chain resources such as data feeds, web APIs, and traditional financial databases, ChainLink serves as a middleware solution that enhances the functionality of base-layer blockchains. From a macro perspective, this project is serving as a catalyst for new and exciting integrations of blockchain technology into areas dominated by more traditional solutions. With more than 30 integrations and partnerships, Chainlink is laser-focused on expanding the scope of blockchain capabilities, matching these capabilities with existing industries and systems, and ultimately driving the evolution of smart contract technology forward to displace centralized digital infrastructure.
- Chainlink’s partnership with Google aims to place BigQuery, Google’s data warehousing and business intelligence solution, on the blockchain using a Chainlink oracle smart contract.
- On October 17, Canadian media giant Thomson Reuters announced it would bring its Contract Express document automation service, currently popular with law firms and corporations, to the Ethereum blockchain using Chainlink oracle services.
- On November 25th, Chainlink announced a partnership with Ontology to allow their users to customize how their smart contracts communicate with off-chain connections.
7. Cosmos: It has been a big year for Cosmos (ATOM), the highly anticipated blockchain designed to improve the interoperability between any number of blockchains. The project positions itself as a decentralized network of independent blockchains which operate on the basis of Byzantine Fault Tolerance algorithms (BFT). These blockchains interact with each other through the Cosmos network, also referred to as the “Internet of blockchains.” When truly scaling the scope of the platform’s desired objectives, it is clear to see why the community has placed much interest in Cosmos.
- In March, the project launched Cosmos Hub, the first in a series of proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchains that will be created in the Cosmos ecosystem, allowing tokens to be safely and quickly transferred from one blockchain to another.
- The Cosmos SDK, which debuted back in February 2018, is being used by many high-profile crypto companies such as Binance Chain.
- Following the announcement that ATOM, the native crypto asset of the Cosmos blockchain, would be listed on Binance, the market price soared by over 30% on the first day of trading. Community interest in the project has remained strong since then.
- London-based VC fund KR1 reports Cosmos is its most successful investment, with a 5,150% gain on initial investment.
8. Ethereum: Having pioneered both smart contract technology and the ICO model, the ethereum ecosystem has shifted its focus to both scaling the underlying blockchain and building enterprise-grade applications on top of it — particularly those relating to Decentralized Finance (DeFi). Ethereum’s network activity is up, development is on track, an upgrade is imminent, and DeFi is hitting record figures.
- The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, a global community-driven initiative to develop open blockchain specifications for enterprise solutions, counts giants such as Accenture, Baidu and Citi amongst 150 of its members.
- Multiple independent projects have been launched with the mandate of making the Ethereum blockchain a home for enterprise applications, such as the ‘Nightfall’ project by EY, one of the world’s largest consultancies, creates a set of protocols for enabling private transactions atop the Ethereum blockchain.
- The total amount of ETH locked in DeFi protocols has reached an all-time high this year at 2.7 million, or just over $670 million.
9. Horizen: Horizen (originally ZenCash) is a project that aims to make blockchain technology accessible to businesses. The company is currently working on a sidechain-as-a-service platform that will enable businesses to create distributed ledger solutions which are not only fast and secure but also private, scalable, and easy to deploy, competing with the likes of Cosmos and Polkadot. Horizen’s Sidechain SDK includes all necessary components required for building a blockchain in a single toolbox. This allows developers to focus only on the specific features of their blockchain instead of low-level tasks, making the deployment of a complete blockchain much easier and faster. Horizen’s mission of bridging the gap between public and private networks to create cost effective, secure solutions for enterprises will be met with high demand in 2020.
- The Horizen team is courting multiple third-party institutions to integrate side-chains into their businesses, particularly in supply chain.
- In addition, Horizen has business dealings and contracts with governments and an incubator arm, Horizen Labs, that functions like a Red Hat (world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions) for the blockchain community.
10. MakerDAO: MakerDAO is the leader of the DeFi movement and protocol behind the stablecoin DAI — a cryptocurrency that maintains a 1:1 peg to the USD. While many competing stablecoins on the market are backed by “fiat” reserves of government-issued currencies, the DAI stablecoin is backed by other crypto currencies, Ethereum (ETH) and, now, the Basic Attention Token (BAT). By creating a crypto-backed stablecoin controlled by a unique DAO governance structure, the team is enabling a broad “tokenized” economy that can exist solely on the blockchain.
- In November, the company announced the release of the Multi-Collateral Dai (MCD) system. The Basic Attention Token (BAT) can now be used along with ETH as collateral to generate DAI stablecoins in MakerDAO CDP contracts. The old single-collateral stablecoin will be renamed to SAI (single-collateral DAI), and the new MCD version will bear the flagship DAI name. Coinbase has already announced support for the upgraded token.
- Nearly 150,000 Maker CDPs (Collateralized Debt Positions) have been opened in the last 12 months, with over $660 million locked-up in decentralized finance smart contracts across the ecosystem.
11. Metronome (MET): Metronome is a project that brings institutional-class endurance to the cryptocurrency category, positioning itself as the world’s first autonomous, self-governing, cross-blockchain cryptocurrency designed to be used for the next 100 years and beyond. The project originated on ETH and created a “Lilypad” of 4 smart contracts for interoperability on Ethereum Classic. MET’s two most promising use cases primed for adoption are: mass pay, which allows users to send tokens to multiple addresses with one action (a feature that exists in the Bitcoin network but is missing on the Ethereum network); and subscription payments, which allows users to set up recurring payments between themselves and other parties, a feature truly unique to Metronome.
- In June, MET announced that it has initiated a first-of-its-kind transfer of MET tokens from one blockchain to another — Ethereum to Ethereum Classic — and back. This chainhop feature, available to all Metronome users, lends themselves nicely to decentralized finance (DeFi), a category that experience massive growth in 2019.
- MET has also rolled out its mobile wallet for iOS and Android that provides the same functionality as their desktop wallet.
12. Ontology: As one of the leading projects in Asia, The Ontology Team has created a public blockchain platform focused on delivering flexible and scalable solutions to enterprise clients. The team is laser focused on delivering developer- and user-friendly tools that can be leveraged to create a wide-range of business agnostic solutions. They stormed into the crowd of projects vying for superiority in multichain interoperability, revealing a solution that rivals other high-profile competitors such as Polkadot, Cosmos, and Plasma. With a foray into Gaming and DeFi, Ontology’s potential growth is far reaching.
- Ontology partnered with German fintech company NAGA to bring high-performance public blockchains to the broader fintech market, bringing enhanced data security to financial applications.
- In April, Ontology partnered with Paxos (PAX), to launch their regulated USD stablecoin on the Ontology blockchain.
- Ontology also, partnered with Cocos, a mobile game development solution platform, to co-build a gaming developer ecosystem and support gaming access experience on the Ontology main chain.
13. The Open Application Network: 2019 saw the team behind Aion pivot its focus to the creation of open applications with the launch of The Open Application Network (OAN). The move will allow companies with digital marketplaces and platform economies (i.e. Uber, AirBnb, Netflix) to build applications that mitigate inefficiencies, opening the door to creating token economies and reward systems around services like Citi Bike in Miami. OAN’s new direction positions the organization to add components and features to existing platform economy giants, rather than usurp them, thus taking advantage of massive adoption and network effects.As the native digital asset of The Open Application Network, Aion is used to secure and access The OAN.
- Velocia, an open app on the OAN, partnered with public transit partners including Citi Bike Miami, Miami-Dade County, Bolt and GetAround. Velocia is expanding throughout the Miami area, where users receive its VELOS token for utilizing public transportation, equating to rewards on other mobility apps.
- Other use cases of open apps include a growing video platform ecosystem centered around a Latin American streaming service, as well as a Slack-like hub for developer communities.
- In November, OAN took out full page ads in the New York Times and Financial Post, part of an aggressive rebranding campaign that included a shot at Facebook on account of customer data breaches. The OAN is built on open standards and is owned by everyone that uses it, giving users more sovereignty over their own data.
14. Ripple Labs: Ripple is a growing force across the global financial landscape, establishing in-roads to institutional finance while cultivating products in the industry. Ripple’s strategy continues to evolve as the team taps into an increasing number of established cross-border payment channels. By offering conservative institutional clients an on-ramp to the Ripple platform through xCurrent, and evolving xRapid to offer refuge from the complexities of using foreign exchange markets to settle transfers, the team’s products have been able to effectively deliver efficiency and cost-savings to established market participants.
- A recent deal with Moneygram saw RippleLabs agree to provide a $50 million capital commitment to Moneygram in exchange for equity over a two-year period.
- Following the deal, MoneyGram went live with Ripple’s xRapid. The move has been touted as a way for MoneyGram to improve the settlement of its cross-border payments, while giving Ripple access to well-established payment channels.
- Further deals include a partnership with Finastra to connect their 200 partners to RippleNet, and a Santander bank plan to create a Ripple-powered payment corridor between Latin America and the US.
- Apart from the institutional deals, Ripple recently announced a new initiative called Xpring, an open developer platform designed to remove the pain of integrating money into apps — whether it’s US dollars, Philippine pesos, XRP, ETH or any currency. Similar to how RippleNet is a growing global network for financial institutions, Xpring will become a global network that enables 23 million developers worldwide to integrate payments into their products and services.
15. Zilliqa: When Ethereum’s scalability issues came to light, blockchain 3.0 projects rushed to build new networks that resolve them. Singapore-based Zilliqa was the first, using sharding to streamline the consensus mechanism. As the first public blockchain to achieve a throughput of 2828 transactions per second, Zilliqa enables new use cases that have high-throughput demands that were not previously possible on legacy public blockchain platforms. 2019 saw the company gain significant momentum and forge new partnerships that position it for growth in 2020.
- In November, Zilliqa partnered with blockchain monitoring startup Elliptic to provide anti-money laundering services to the Zilliqa blockchain and drive enterprise trust and adoption.
- In August, Zilliqa teamed up with decentralized oracle network Chainlink to power its smart contracts and enable real-time access to exchange rates, market prices, voting results, and more.
- Earlier in the year, Zilliqa partnered with Unstoppable Domains to launch .zil, a new blockchain domain system that will support the creation of uncensorable websites and replace cryptocurrency addresses with human readable names.
- Zilliqa has previously explored a use case in the media space through a partnership with Mindshare, a global media agency that is part of WPP, with whom they evaluated possible applications of Zilliqa’s high-speed blockchain for the advertising industry. This led to Zilliqa spinning off a sister company called Aqilliz, led by Gowthaman Ragothaman, to capitalize on the opportunity and create an adtech blockchain marketing product that drives meaningful value exchange between brands, platforms & consumers.
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