Starknet moves to address critics of STRK token airdrop

From missing allocations to early vesting, Starknet’s “provisions” plan had a rough first week

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The Starknet Foundation’s airdrop of 700 million STRK tokens is now in full effect, as the first round of “provisions” became claimable Tuesday at 7:00 am ET.

Since last week’s announcement, Starknet has been dealing with vociferous complaints about everything from eligibility to anti-Sybil measures to decisions about STRK’s underlying tokenomics.

A “DeFi Spring” initiative announced yesterday alongside new corrective actions seeks to address some critics’ concerns.

Read more: Starknet plans ‘broad’ token distribution starting later this month

About 5 million tokens were claimed in the first five minutes, according to the Starknet Foundation, and STRK briefly traded over $3, about up 50% higher than the pre-launch futures market price, which put it at a fully diluted valuation (FDV) of about $30 billion. The price has since returned to $2.01 — which still gives it an FDV greater than that of Arbitrum.

More than 100,000 individual wallets had claimed tokens by 11:30 am ET, Starknet wrote on X.

Not all ecosystem participants are happy with the community allocation as it unfolded last week, with several groups arguing they were unfairly left out. Starknet Foundation board member and StarkWare co-founder Eli Ben-Sasson said his team is “aware of some minor things that might need to be fixed.”

“When you go and you try to distribute to 1.3 million addresses, it’s gonna be challenging and we are a very capable team technologically, and we have the best interests in getting it right,” Ben-Sasson told Blockworks. “Things that should be fixed and cannot be fixed ‘til Tuesday — we will do our best to try and fix them later on.”

The airdrop was novel in its efforts to reward Ethereum stakers. But a technical misstep appears to have earmarked STRK tokens for a subset of those stakers — Rocketpool minipool operators — to a smart contract address rather than the users’ own wallets.

Starknet is investigating, pledging to rectify inadvertent misallocations in future token releases.

“We’re aware of the feedback that some dedicated community members and network users feel they have been overlooked due to certain Provisions criteria, and we are actively working to address these concerns,” the Foundation said Tuesday in a statement sent to Blockworks.

One well-to-do solo staker running more than 1,000 validators was confused for a centralized exchange — one of several occurrences corrected by Starknet partner Rated.Network, which tracked staking activity for the Foundation.

GitHub and Starknet activity: Too much or too little?

Starknet took the unusual step of rewarding developers both in and out of the crypto industry based on their GitHub activity.

That prompted at least one developer to crow about a 1,800 STRK allocation based on fixing a single typo in a repository.

Others initially missed out due to having abandoned their GitHub username, but Starknet said they are reserving 1 million STRK for this group of 1,900 developers.

Another common criticism was the somewhat arbitrary requirement that Starknet accounts hold 0.005 ETH at the time of the November 2023 snapshot. Since most transactions cost only a small fraction of that — one of the selling points of Starknet is cheap transactions — many users who met activity requirements otherwise still received 0 STRK.

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While not addressing the specific cause Starknet did target Ekubo users among its “DeFi Spring” follow-up campaign.

Anti-Sybil efforts, a mixed bag

The term “Sybil attack” in the crypto-airdrop context originates from the 1973 book “Sybil,” by Flora Rheta Schreiber, which tells the story of a woman diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder.

It’s applied to a person who attempts to exploit an airdrop by creating multiple fake identities or wallets to gain a disproportionate advantage. The term pre-dates crypto, coined by Brian Zill while at Microsoft in 2002.

Complaints from users who failed to qualify could be viewed as a successful effort to screen for real activity. But clearly these measures are imperfect, as one prominent airdrop hunter bragged that 179 out of 213 of their wallets received between 650 and 850 STRK each.

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Token generation and vesting

The schedule for team and investor unlocks and vesting is among the more strident critiques of Starknet’s token strategy. It’s also one that may be harder to shake.

Most efforts to decentralize crypto networks via a utility or governance token involve a programmed vesting schedule designed to prevent insiders from quickly selling their token allocations.

In Starknet’s case, the STRK token was technically created in November 2022, but remained non-transferable until today. The team and investor allocations initially carried a 1-year cliff, but when the token distribution plan was not yet ready as November 2023 approached, the cliff was extended to April 15, 2024.

Read more: Starknet Foundation teases STRK token airdrop

The 4-year vesting schedule remained unaffected, however, meaning that a sizable portion of the total supply will be circulating in less than two months, Ben-Sasson said.

“After one year, it would have been one quarter, after one year and a few months — which is the current situation — closer to one third of the amount locked there,” he said.

Only the cliff was a configurable parameter in an otherwise non-upgradeable Ethereum smart contract, and the team chose April although a maximum of a year’s delay was possible.

That doesn’t sit well with some observers who consider it an unusual system that disproportionately benefits insiders.

Update, February 23, 2024: StarkWare updated the unlock schedule on February 22, in response to criticism.

Aleo co-founder Alex Pruden, who has been a vocal critic of Starknet’s tokenomics for years, once again pointed to this policy as a red flag following last week’s announcement.

He drew a stark contrast to the way the tokens for optimistic rollup development teams from OP Labs and Offchain Labs were vested.

“The team has to wait two years before it can see any of the value of this network that they’re building and therefore they’re aligned to keep building it, they’re aligned to move in the direction of decentralization,” Pruden said. “Whereas StarkWare, here, a very significant portion of the value is going to be unlocked for them.”

StarkWare responded that, “as with everything related to building technology and everything around it, lots of options were considered for every question that arose. Blockchain is an emerging space, and its ‘norms’ are constantly shifting.”

Many critics imply that the token unlocking schedule was somehow obfuscated, referring to the November 2022 token-generation-event (TGE) as “stealth.” 

But StarkWare stressed that it has always been open about its plans.

“The most important thing is full transparency, which is what the readers and the public [have] received,” Ben-Sasson said, pointing out that even if the cliff were delayed to the maximum, the total amount of tokens on the market in November 2024 would be the same. “I think people will factor this in alongside all of the other innovative stuff that we’re doing.”

He rejected any notion that the token unlocks might call into question StarkWare’s focus.

“As far as the eye can see at least 150 employees of StarkWare will be doing one thing which is continuing to trailblaze in the space of validity rollups — which we pretty much invented, from the math through the technology to putting it first to use on Ethereum,” he said.

Moving beyond the airdrop

The STRK claims process itself appears to be going smoothly, and Ben-Sasson is eager to put this phase behind him.

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“We’re very happy that ‘provisions’ is happening, but God, I want [it] to be behind so we can go back to discussing only the technology and its social impact on economy and society,” he said. “When I come to work every day, the things that make me passionate are the math breakthroughs, the engineering breakthroughs, the development breakthroughs that are unfolding here, week by week.”

Updated February 23, 2024 at 5:40 am ET with additional context around StarkWare’s actions after publication.


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