Arizona State University (ASU) has declared a partnership with the digital currency Dash that will supply $350,000 to “speed up research, development, and education in ways that advance blockchain transaction speed, efficiency, security, and extend its uses.” The funds will be distributed as follows:
- The Dash Scholars Program, that supplies $100,000 in scholarships for undergraduate and graduate research fellowships;
- Research lab and Industry open source projects, supplying an additional $100,000 in funding for ASU’s Blockchain Research Lab (BRL) and $50,000 in new funding for the Luminosity Lab, and
- Blockchain course development, with $100,000 for creating an online graduate course expected to be offered at ASU this autumn.
The $350,000 is funded by Dash, via a successful exchequer offer. Director of ASU’s Blockchain Research Lab, Dragan Boscovic, commented:
“ASU welcomes this initiative and is ready to play its role in creating a potent Blockchain research and innovation environment for young talents to develop practical Blockchain applications.”
Merger of research and development
When we think about digital currencies, there’s a tendency for the community to focus on the development side of the equalization. New versions of the software, updates to add new features, roadmaps and the like – these usually get far more attention than research. However, the new features that get everybody so excited are made possible by researchers who discover the facilities and ways of adding them.
While Dash’s Core DAO (distributed autonomous organization) is focused on development, marketing and the day-to-day aspects of maintaining a digital currency, there are at least 2 research groups working with promotion of the project. Dash Labs is a DAO founded by Dash founder Evan Duffield, based in Hong Kong, that is working to develop hardware solutions to enable on-chain scaling using massive blocks.
Researchers at ASU are working on researching methods to improve Dash and solve the problems of cryptocurrency in general as well. Past summer, Dash
funded ASU’s Blockchain Research Lab with a $50,000 donation. Dash Core Team CEO Ryan Taylor wrote:
“Initial research [will] focus on throughput capacity and latency performance of blockchain technology, model and assess it for different network architectures (including Dash’s multi-tiered architecture), applications, and use cases to propose a “scalability” deployment guide and best practices.”
Taylor notes that the partnership is exclusive:
“Until now, the majority of Blockchain research has been focused on Bitcoin, with minimal focus on other Blockchain applications…The sponsorship incorporate[s] Dash as the exclusive digital currency for ongoing academic research.”
Bitcoin and MIT
Dash is not the only digital currency project to cooperate with a major university. In the summer of 2015, MIT launched the Digital Currency Initiative and solicited donations which were used to hire 3 full-time Bitcoin developers. This move followed the effective crash of the Bitcoin Foundation, which had been supplying much of the funding for development. None of the funds actually come from MIT, rather, they come from outside donors and are funneled through the Digital Currency Initiative.
By May 2016, MIT had raised $900,000 to fund these developers’ salaries. Later that year, this number had risen to $2 million. This funding is decisive, as Nasdaq points out:
“Funding Bitcoin development seems to have always been problematic.”
While some of the developers are ready and able to work full-time on open source projects like Bitcoin without compensation, most are not. Therefore, funding is necessarily needed to maintain and advance the project.
A different way of funding
While MIT has serious fundraising muscle, dependence on the altruism of others is always a wobbly proposition. While most digital currency projects rely on donations or an initial endowment (via ICO) to fund development, Dash has chosen a different way. Dash self-funds its development team, paying developer salaries out of a portion of the block rewards.
Each month, 10% of the block rewards are preserved for successful treasury offers. This means that as much as 6,650 DASH, worth $5.8 mln at press time, can be
paid out directly by the network to those who manage to get their treasury offers passed. Dash’s treasury system pays for marketing efforts, business development and integrations, conference sponsorships and so on.
The most important thing is that Dash’s treasury pays Dash Core developers’ salary each month. At present, Dash employs a staff of 50, including 23 developers, 4 project managers, 8 marketing specialists and 15 other administrative employees. These team members are paid a total of $300,000 per month, directly from Dash’s treasury system. No donations are needed, and nobody is required to work for free.
Direction of influence
One of Dash’s community members who goes by the handle of “TanteStefana,” wrote that while MIT funds Bitcoin’s development, Dash funds ASU’s research lab. She points out that the direction of influence is absolutely different: Bitcoin is at least partially dependent on the good will and fundraising efforts of MIT. So it means the university could theoretically attempt to influence the project.
With the help of partnership between Dash and ASU, money and influence flows in the opposite direction. It’s Dash that’s supplying funding to ASU, doesn’t make it possible for the university to posses the project.
Cointelegraph had the possibility to speak with Dragan Boscovic, director of ASU’s Blockchain Research Lab, who commented on why Dash suits the university so good:
“First, the Dash Core team’s offices are at ASU’s SkySong Innovation Center in Scottsdale, which is also where the Blockchain Research is located, enabling an excellent level of interaction between Dash, ASU faculty and students in a variety of disciplines, including computer science, engineering, business and law. Second, ASU is focused on “building problem solvers and entrepreneurs,” with a large Research and Development budget. Dash is one of the most innovative digital currency solutions with breakthrough algorithms, network topology and services. It’s a natural partnership. Third, there’s been quite a demand for an online graduate course focused on Blockchain technology enablers and applications. The course will help ensure that Blockchain finds an accelerated path toward rapid, mainstream adoption.”’
When he was asked what set Dash apart from other digital currency projects, Boscovic answered:
“After partnering with Dash this summer and evaluating the possibilities of expanded collaboration, scholarships, Blockchain specialization courses and an accelerated research and innovation effort were identified as ways to move Blockchain applications forward. This speaks volumes about Dash network governance and their capability to self-fund strategic initiatives such as this one.”