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Financial incentives for open source development: the case of Blockchain

Canidio, Andrea (2018): Financial incentives for open source development: the case of Blockchain.

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Abstract

I consider a developer working on an open-source blockchain-based software that can be used only in conjunction with a specific crypto-token. This token can be sold in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to raise funds, but can also be sold later on a frictionless financial market to earn a profit. I show that, if the developer raises funds in an ICO, in each post-ICO period there is a positive probability that the developer sells all of his tokens on the market and, as a consequence, no development occurs. If the developer does not need to raise funds via an ICO, the equilibrium will nonetheless be inefficient because the developer's payoff depends on the surplus generated by the protocol in a given period (when he expects to sell his tokens). He therefore fails to internalize that the protocol will be used (and generate surplus) over multiple periods.

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