Token Distribution Models

Kajetan Olas

15 Mar 2024
Token Distribution Models

The landscape of blockchain and cryptocurrency is continually evolving, marked by the relentless pursuit of models that not only enhance network security and decentralization but also deepen user engagement and ownership. At the heart of this evolution lies the concept of token distribution, a pivotal strategy that can transform users from passive participants into active stakeholders and owners within digital ecosystems. Token distribution is not merely about allocating digital assets; it's about creating a framework where each token serves as a beacon of ownership, rights, and incentives, aligning the interests of users with the long-term success of the platform.

As we delve into the world of token distribution, we find ourselves tracing the path of its evolution. From the foundational Proof of Work mechanisms, to the speculative fervor of ICOs, and onto the community-centric airdrops. Each era has brought with it lessons, challenges, and a deeper understanding of what it means to distribute ownership.

New trend

However, the journey has not been without its pitfalls. Many strategies, while successful in bootstrapping networks and attracting initial interest, have struggled to foster genuine user engagement or have inadvertently encouraged speculative behaviors that detract from the project's core value proposition. It's within this context that we explore the concept of "Progressive Ownership"—a model that aims to refine the token distribution process into a more nuanced, loyalty-driven approach that rewards true product-market fit and user commitment.

The Evolution of Token Distribution Models

The concept of token distribution has undergone significant transformation since the inception of blockchain technology. Each era has introduced new mechanisms for distributing tokens and lowering barriers to entry, while also revealing unique challenges. Let’s explore these pivotal stages in the evolution of token distribution models.

Proof of Work (2009–present): The Dawn of Hardware Formation

The journey began with Bitcoin, which introduced the world to the Proof of Work (PoW) model. This approach allowed anyone with computational resources to participate in network security operations, known as "mining," in exchange for tokens. This mechanism not only secured the network but also democratized access to token ownership. However, as the sector matured, mining became increasingly professionalized, requiring significant investments in specialized hardware. This shift heightened the barriers to entry, gradually sidelining the average user and emphasizing the need for substantial upfront investment. This altered the initial egalitarian vision.

ICOs (2014–2018): The Era of Capital Formation

Following the PoW era, the cryptocurrency space witnessed the rise of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). This period came with a new model where projects could raise capital by selling tokens directly to the public. This approach theoretically democratized investment opportunities, allowing projects to reach a broader audience beyond traditional venture capital avenues. Ethereum's ICO in 2014 stood as a landmark event, inspiring a wave of similar endeavors. However, the ICO craze also attracted numerous fraudulent schemes, leading to a regulatory crackdown and a reevaluation of this model,

Airdrops (2020–present): Bootstrapping Usage through Community Engagement

In response to the pitfalls of ICOs, the industry shifted towards a more user-centric model: airdrops. This approach involved distributing tokens freely to existing communities or users based on their engagement or historical usage. In principle this fosters a sense of ownership and participation without a direct financial investment. The era of airdrops, particularly during the "DeFi Summer" of 2020, sought to catalyze network usage and decentralization. However, the emphasis on broad, indiscriminate distribution often attracted short-term speculators rather than committed users. This complicates efforts to achieve sustained growth and genuine community development.

Reflections on the Evolution

Each era of token distribution has contributed to the blockchain landscape's growth, expanding access and participation in unique ways. From the hardware-intensive commitments of PoW, through the speculative enthusiasm of ICOs, to the community-focused aspirations of airdrops. The evolution of token distribution models reflects the cryptocurrency sector's dynamics to balance inclusivity, security, and sustainable development. Yet, as we've learned, each model comes with its set of challenges, highlighting the need for continuous innovation. New token distribution strategies come up to foster genuine user ownership and engagement in the ever-evolving digital ecosystem.

Progressive Ownership: A New Frontier

Amidst the evolution of token distribution models, with each era bringing its blend of innovation and challenge, the concept of "Progressive Ownership" emerges. This is a transformative approach aimed at realigning the incentives of blockchain applications and their users. This novel framework represents a significant pivot from previous models, focusing on nurturing genuine user engagement.

Foundation of Progressive Ownership

Progressive ownership stands on the idea that tokens should be distributed to users progressively for their contributions to the network. This model asserts that achieving product-market fit remains paramount and that token distribution should complement, not precede this fit.

In the realm of progressive ownership, tokens become a means to deepen users' commitment to an application. They transform active users into stakeholders with a vested interest in the platform's success. This approach aims to move beyond the shortcomings of indiscriminate airdrops and speculative ICOs. It proposes a more sustainable method of community building.

Key Principles and Advantages

  • Incremental Engagement: Progressive ownership advocates for rewarding users in stages, reflecting their growing engagement and value to the ecosystem. This method encourages long-term participation and deters speculative behavior by closely aligning token incentives with genuine user activity and contributions.
  • Opt-in Ownership: Central to this model is the concept of opt-in ownership, where users have the choice to convert their earned incentives or revenue shares into tokens representing a more profound stake in the project. This voluntary transition from user to owner ensures that tokens are held by those most aligned with the project's long-term vision and success.

Implementing Progressive Ownership

Successful implementation of progressive ownership requires careful planning and a deep understanding of user behavior and incentives. Projects must first establish a clear value proposition and product-market fit, creating an ecosystem where users’ contributions are quantifiable and rewardable. Following this, a transparent and accessible mechanism for transitioning users from passive beneficiaries of revenue share to active token holders must be established, ensuring clarity around the benefits and responsibilities of ownership. 

Example Implementation - Project Catalyst

Project Catalyst is a Cardano-based initiative. It’s a decentralized funding mechanism that invites community members to propose projects, which are then voted on by ADA holders. Successful proposals receive funding in ADA, with over $79 million allocated to fund more than 1600 projects by March 2024. This process not only democratizes innovation within the Cardano ecosystem but also aligns with the principles of progressive ownership by giving token holders a vested interest in the network's growth and success. Through Project Catalyst, Cardano effectively engages its community in governance and decision-making, fostering a deeper sense of ownership and participation among ADA holders.


By aligning token incentives with genuine user engagement projects can pave the way for more sustainable development. Such an approach not only deepens user loyalty and retention but also fosters a more vibrant, participatory community. This is the groundwork for the next generation of Champions that will spread the knowledge about your platform.

If you're looking for ways to foster the adoption of your DeFi project, please reach out to Our team is ready to help you create a strategy that will grow your user base and ensure long-term growth.


How to go about designing token distribution in practice?

  • It's a good idea to take inspiration from projects similar to yours, which succeded in terms of fostering progressive ownership.

Are airdrops effective?

  • Yes. Despite all their shortcomings, if implemented correctly airdrops can do great for marketing purposes for relatively low cost.

Why is fostering an ownership-based culture important?

  • Because if your users feel like they partially own the project, then they will contribute to the development process, and share that project with all their friends.

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Token Engineering Process

Kajetan Olas

13 Apr 2024
Token Engineering Process

Token Engineering is an emerging field that addresses the systematic design and engineering of blockchain-based tokens. It applies rigorous mathematical methods from the Complex Systems Engineering discipline to tokenomics design.

In this article, we will walk through the Token Engineering Process and break it down into three key stages. Discovery Phase, Design Phase, and Deployment Phase.

Discovery Phase of Token Engineering Process

The first stage of the token engineering process is the Discovery Phase. It focuses on constructing high-level business plans, defining objectives, and identifying problems to be solved. That phase is also the time when token engineers first define key stakeholders in the project.

Defining the Problem

This may seem counterintuitive. Why would we start with the problem when designing tokenomics? Shouldn’t we start with more down-to-earth matters like token supply? The answer is No. Tokens are a medium for creating and exchanging value within a project’s ecosystem. Since crypto projects draw their value from solving problems that can’t be solved through TradFi mechanisms, their tokenomics should reflect that. 

The industry standard, developed by McKinsey & Co. and adapted to token engineering purposes by Outlier Ventures, is structuring the problem through a logic tree, following MECE.
MECE stands for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. Mutually Exclusive means that problems in the tree should not overlap. Collectively Exhaustive means that the tree should cover all issues.

In practice, the “Problem” should be replaced by a whole problem statement worksheet. The same will hold for some of the boxes.
A commonly used tool for designing these kinds of diagrams is the Miro whiteboard.

Identifying Stakeholders and Value Flows in Token Engineering

This part is about identifying all relevant actors in the ecosystem and how value flows between them. To illustrate what we mean let’s consider an example of NFT marketplace. In its case, relevant actors might be sellers, buyers, NFT creators, and a marketplace owner. Possible value flow when conducting a transaction might be: buyer gets rid of his tokens, seller gets some of them, marketplace owner gets some of them as fees, and NFT creators get some of them as royalties.

Incentive Mechanisms Canvas

The last part of what we consider to be in the Discovery Phase is filling the Incentive Mechanisms Canvas. After successfully identifying value flows in the previous stage, token engineers search for frictions to desired behaviors and point out the undesired behaviors. For example, friction to activity on an NFT marketplace might be respecting royalty fees by marketplace owners since it reduces value flowing to the seller.


Design Phase of Token Engineering Process

The second stage of the Token Engineering Process is the Design Phase in which you make use of high-level descriptions from the previous step to come up with a specific design of the project. This will include everything that can be usually found in crypto whitepapers (e.g. governance mechanisms, incentive mechanisms, token supply, etc). After finishing the design, token engineers should represent the whole value flow and transactional logic on detailed visual diagrams. These diagrams will be a basis for creating mathematical models in the Deployment Phase. 

Token Engineering Artonomous Design Diagram
Artonomous design diagram, source: Artonomous GitHub

Objective Function

Every crypto project has some objective. The objective can consist of many goals, such as decentralization or token price. The objective function is a mathematical function assigning weights to different factors that influence the main objective in the order of their importance. This function will be a reference for machine learning algorithms in the next steps. They will try to find quantitative parameters (e.g. network fees) that maximize the output of this function.
Modified Metcalfe’s Law can serve as an inspiration during that step. It’s a framework for valuing crypto projects, but we believe that after adjustments it can also be used in this context.

Deployment Phase of Token Engineering Process

The Deployment Phase is final, but also the most demanding step in the process. It involves the implementation of machine learning algorithms that test our assumptions and optimize quantitative parameters. Token Engineering draws from Nassim Taleb’s concept of Antifragility and extensively uses feedback loops to make a system that gains from arising shocks.

Agent-based Modelling 

In agent-based modeling, we describe a set of behaviors and goals displayed by each agent participating in the system (this is why previous steps focused so much on describing stakeholders). Each agent is controlled by an autonomous AI and continuously optimizes his strategy. He learns from his experience and can mimic the behavior of other agents if he finds it effective (Reinforced Learning). This approach allows for mimicking real users, who adapt their strategies with time. An example adaptive agent would be a cryptocurrency trader, who changes his trading strategy in response to experiencing a loss of money.

Monte Carlo Simulations

Token Engineers use the Monte Carlo method to simulate the consequences of various possible interactions while taking into account the probability of their occurrence. By running a large number of simulations it’s possible to stress-test the project in multiple scenarios and identify emergent risks.

Testnet Deployment

If possible, it's highly beneficial for projects to extend the testing phase even further by letting real users use the network. Idea is the same as in agent-based testing - continuous optimization based on provided metrics. Furthermore, in case the project considers airdropping its tokens, giving them to early users is a great strategy. Even though part of the activity will be disingenuine and airdrop-oriented, such strategy still works better than most.

Time Duration

Token engineering process may take from as little as 2 weeks to as much as 5 months. It depends on the project category (Layer 1 protocol will require more time, than a simple DApp), and security requirements. For example, a bank issuing its digital token will have a very low risk tolerance.

Required Skills for Token Engineering

Token engineering is a multidisciplinary field and requires a great amount of specialized knowledge. Key knowledge areas are:

  • Systems Engineering
  • Machine Learning
  • Market Research
  • Capital Markets
  • Current trends in Web3
  • Blockchain Engineering
  • Statistics


The token engineering process consists of 3 steps: Discovery Phase, Design Phase, and Deployment Phase. It’s utilized mostly by established blockchain projects, and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Even though it’s a very resource-consuming process, we believe it’s worth it. Projects that went through scrupulous design and testing before launch are much more likely to receive VC funding and be in the 10% of crypto projects that survive the bear market. Going through that process also has a symbolic meaning - it shows that the project is long-term oriented.

If you're looking to create a robust tokenomics model and go through institutional-grade testing please reach out to Our team is ready to help you with the token engineering process and ensure your project’s resilience in the long term.


What does token engineering process look like?

  • Token engineering process is conducted in a 3-step methodical fashion. This includes Discovery Phase, Design Phase, and Deployment Phase. Each of these stages should be tailored to the specific needs of a project.

Is token engineering meant only for big projects?

  • We recommend that even small projects go through a simplified design and optimization process. This increases community's trust and makes sure that the tokenomics doesn't have any obvious flaws.

How long does the token engineering process take?

  • It depends on the project and may range from 2 weeks to 5 months.

What is Berachain? 🐻 ⛓️ + Proof-of-Liquidity Explained


18 Mar 2024
What is Berachain? 🐻 ⛓️ + Proof-of-Liquidity Explained

Enter Berachain: a high-performance, EVM-compatible blockchain that is set to redefine the landscape of decentralized applications (dApps) and blockchain services. Built on the innovative Proof-of-Liquidity consensus and leveraging the robust Polaris framework alongside the CometBFT consensus engine, Berachain is poised to offer an unprecedented blend of efficiency, security, and user-centric benefits. Let's dive into what makes it a groundbreaking development in the blockchain ecosystem.

What is Berachain?


Berachain is an EVM-compatible Layer 1 (L1) blockchain that stands out through its adoption of the Proof-of-Liquidity (PoL) consensus mechanism. Designed to address the critical challenges faced by decentralized networks. It introduces a cutting-edge approach to blockchain governance and operations.

Key Features

  • High-performance Capabilities. Berachain is engineered for speed and scalability, catering to the growing demand for efficient blockchain solutions.
  • EVM Compatibility. It supports all Ethereum tooling, operations, and smart contract languages, making it a seamless transition for developers and projects from the Ethereum ecosystem.
  • Proof-of-Liquidity.This novel consensus mechanism focuses on building liquidity, decentralizing stake, and aligning the interests of validators and protocol developers.


EVM-Compatible vs EVM-Equivalent


EVM compatibility means a blockchain can interact with Ethereum's ecosystem to some extent. It can interact supporting its smart contracts and tools but not replicating the entire EVM environment.


An EVM-equivalent blockchain, on the other hand, aims to fully replicate Ethereum's environment. It ensures complete compatibility and a smooth transition for developers and users alike.

Berachain's Position

Berachain can be considered an "EVM-equivalent-plus" blockchain. It supports all Ethereum operations, tooling, and additional functionalities that optimize for its unique Proof-of-Liquidity and abstracted use cases.

Berachain Modular First Approach

At the heart of Berachain's development philosophy is the Polaris EVM framework. It's a testament to the blockchain's commitment to modularity and flexibility. This approach allows for the easy separation of the EVM runtime layer, ensuring that Berachain can adapt and evolve without compromising on performance or security.

Proof Of Liquidity Overview

High-Level Model Objectives

  • Systemically Build Liquidity. By enhancing trading efficiency, price stability, and network growth, Berachain aims to foster a thriving ecosystem of decentralized applications.
  • Solve Stake Centralization. The PoL consensus works to distribute stake more evenly across the network, preventing monopolization and ensuring a decentralized, secure blockchain.
  • Align Protocols and Validators. Berachain encourages a symbiotic relationship between validators and the broader protocol ecosystem.

Proof-of-Liquidity vs Proof-of-Stake

Unlike traditional Proof of Stake (PoS), which often leads to stake centralization and reduced liquidity, Proof of Liquidity (PoL) introduces mechanisms to incentivize liquidity provision and ensure a fairer, more decentralized network. Berachain separates the governance token (BGT) from the chain's gas token (BERA) and incentives liquidity through BEX pools. Berachain's PoL aims to overcome the limitations of PoS, fostering a more secure and user-centric blockchain.

Berachain EVM and Modular Approach

Polaris EVM

Polaris EVM is the cornerstone of Berachain's EVM compatibility, offering developers an enhanced environment for smart contract execution that includes stateful precompiles and custom modules. This framework ensures that Berachain not only meets but exceeds the capabilities of the traditional Ethereum Virtual Machine.


The CometBFT consensus engine underpins Berachain's network, providing a secure and efficient mechanism for transaction verification and block production. By leveraging the principles of Byzantine fault tolerance (BFT), CometBFT ensures the integrity and resilience of the Berachain blockchain.


Berachain represents a significant leap forward in blockchain technology, combining the best of Ethereum's ecosystem with innovative consensus mechanisms and a modular development approach. As the blockchain landscape continues to evolve, Berachain stands out as a promising platform for developers, users, and validators alike, offering a scalable, efficient, and inclusive environment for decentralized applications and services.


For those interested in exploring further, a wealth of resources is available, including the Berachain documentation, GitHub repository, and community forums. It offers a compelling vision for the future of blockchain technology, marked by efficiency, security, and community-driven innovation.


How is Berachain different?

  • It integrates Proof-of-Liquidity to address stake centralization and enhance liquidity, setting it apart from other blockchains.

Is Berachain EVM-compatible?

  • Yes, it supports Ethereum's tooling and smart contract languages, facilitating easy migration of dApps.

Can it handle high transaction volumes?

  • Yes, thanks to the Polaris framework and CometBFT consensus engine, it's built for scalability and high throughput.