Abstract: We compile a list of the main organisations and individuals funding open source Bitcoin and Lightning development. Based on the data we have compiled, Blockstream and Lightning Labs are the largest contributors to open source development in the space, while as far as contributors to Bitcoin Core goes, Chaincode Labs is currently the largest financial supporter of development. We conclude that the situation is more healthy than it has been in the past, with respect to the availability of finance, transparency, and the degree of distribution among financial backers.
Data on developer funding
Based on publicly available information and speaking to certain individuals, who were happy with their details being made public, we have produced the following charts and tables, which we believe provides the most comprehensive picture of open source Bitcoin developer funding produced to date.
Our first chart was produced in a top down way. We identified the largest organisations directly funding open source Bitcoin development. It reveals that Blockstream and Lightning Labs employ the largest number of developers working on open source Bitcoin or Lightning related projects.
Current funding of open source developers working on Bitcoin or Lightning – number of developers
(Source: BitMEX Research)
(Note: Data includes only those who have a source of funding)
The second chart uses more of a bottom up methodology. We looked at the Bitcoin Core project and identified the top 33 contributors by all time number of commits and then attempted to establish the current funding source for each developer. This chart shows that Chaincode Labs is the most prolific financial supporter of Bitcoin development.
Current funding of top 33 Bitcoin Core contributors by number of commits – number of developers
(Source: BitMEX Research, GitHub)
The two tables below show the source data for the above charts.
Key companies funding open source Bitcoin development
|Company||Commercial Entity||Location||Funding Source||Developers|
|Chaincode Labs||No||New York||Financed by the two founders, Alex Morcos and Suhas Daftuar||The company has 6 dedicated Bitcoin developers (Alex Morcos, Suhas Daftuar, John Newbury, Russ Yanofsky, Marco Falke & Carl Dong) – Source: https://chaincode.com/#team|
|MIT DCI||No||Boston||Donations||MIT has 2 dedicated Bitcoin developers (Wladimir van der Laan & Cory Field) and 4 or 5 researchers – Source: https://dci.mit.edu/team|
|DG Lab||Yes||Tokyo||Listed Japanese investment company||The company has 2 to 4 Bitcoin developers|
|Square Crypto||No||San Francisco||Financed by listed American payment company Square Inc||4 developers all building Rust Lightning. The company also gives 3 Bitcoin developer grants|
|Blockstream||Yes||Victoria (Canada)||VC backed||The company has 2 dedicated Bitcoin developers (Pieter Wuille & Andrew Chow), 3 dedicated Lightning developers (Rusty Russel, Christian Decker & Lisa Neigut) (C-Lightning) and 3 cryptographers (Andrew Poelstra, Tim Ruffing & Jonas Nick)|
|Lightning Labs||Yes||San Francisco||VC backed||The company has at least 8 developers working on the open source Lightning software (LND and Loopd) (Olaoluwa Osuntokun, Conner Fromknecht, Alex Bosworth, Johan Halseth, Joost Jager, Wilmer Paulino, Carla Kirk-Cohen & Oliver Gugger) – Source: https://lightning.engineering/team|
|Acinq||Yes||Paris||VC backed||The company has at least 4 open source Bitcoin/Lightning developers|
|Bitfinex||Yes||Retained earnings||The company funds 3 developers working on RGB (A tool to issue tokens on Lightning)|
|Xapo||Yes||San Francisco||VC backed||The company has 2 dedicated Bitcoin developers|
|OKCoin||Yes||China||Retained earnings||Currently provides one Bitcoin developer a grant|
|Bull Bitcoin||Yes||Canada||Currently funds one Bitcoin developer building Cyphernode|
|BitMEX||Yes||Seychelles||Retained earnings||Currently provides one Bitcoin developer a grant & has one part time contractor who contributes to Bitcoin Core|
|Crypto Advance||Yes||Munich||Private donor||Funds the open source development work of Stepan Snigirev|
|Hardcore Fund||No||Donations||Provides small grants to 2 Bitcoin developers|
|Bitmain||Yes||China||Retained earnings||Organisation does not appear to be actively funding development. In the past Bitmain supported at least 2 developers.|
|Blockchain.info||Yes||London||VC backed||Organisation does not appear to be actively funding development. In the past Blockchain.info supported at least 1 developer|
|Bitcoin Foundation||No||London||Donations||Organisation does not appear to be actively funding development. In the past this was one of the only organisations funding development|
|BTCC||Yes||China||Retained earnings||Organisation does not appear to be actively funding development|
|BitPay||Yes||US||VC backed||Organisation does not appear to be actively funding development. In the past Jeff Garzik was sponsored to work on Bitcoin development|
List of Bitcoin Developers & their funders
|Bitcoin Core Maintainers|
|Wladimir van der Laan||Bitcoin Core maintainer||MIT DCI|
|Pieter Wuille||Bitcoin Core maintainer||Blockstream|
|Marco Falke||Bitcoin Core maintainer||Chaincode|
|Michael Ford||Bitcoin Core maintainer||BitMEX|
|Jonas Schnelli||Bitcoin Core maintainer||Formerly Bitmain|
|Samuel Dobson||Bitcoin Core maintainer||John Pfeffer|
|Developers ranked by number of commits to Bitcoin Core (All time)|
|Matt Corallo||Bitcoin developer (now working on Rust Lightning)||Square Crypto (formerly Chaincode and Blockstream)|
|Cory Fields||Bitcoin developer||MIT DCI|
|Practical Swift||Bitcoin developer|
|John Newbery||Bitcoin developer||Chaincode|
|Gavin Andresen||Bitcoin developer||Formerly the Bitcoin Foundation and MIT DCI|
|Luke-Jr||Bitcoin developer||Hardcore Fund|
|Russell Yanofsky||Bitcoin developer||Chaincode|
|Andrew Chow||Bitcoin developer||Blockstream|
|João Barbosa||Bitcoin developer||Formerly Bitmain|
|Suhas Daftuar||Bitcoin developer||Chaincode|
|Alex Morcos||Bitcoin developer||Chaincode|
|Hennadii Stepanov||Bitcoin developer||Cardcoin & Payvant|
|Jorge Timon||Bitcoin developer||Formerly Blockstream|
|Gregory Maxwell||Bitcoin developer||Formerly Blocksteam|
|Gregory Sanders||Bitcoin developer||Blockstream|
|Karl-Johan Alm||Bitcoin developer||DG Lab|
|Ben Woosley||Bitcoin developer||Hardcore Fund|
|Peter Todd||Bitcoin developer||Has previously received funding from BTCC, Bitfinex & Chaincode|
|James O’Beirne||Bitcoin developer||Currently moving from Chaincode to DG Lab|
|Sjors Provoost||Bitcoin developer||Formerly funded by blockchain.info, part time on open source projects for BitMEX|
|Patrick Strateman||Bitcoin developer||Formerly Blockstream|
|Carl Dong||Bitcoin developer||Chaincode|
|Jon Atack||Bitcoin developer||Square Crypto grant|
|Anthony Towns||Bitcoin developer||Xapo|
|Jeremy Rubin||Bitcoin developer||Formerly MIT DCI & Chaincode|
|Nicolas Dorier||Bitcoin and BTCPAY developer||DG Lab|
|David Harding||Bitcoin developer|
|Others with notable funding sources|
|Fabian Jahr||Bitcoin developer||OKCoin|
|Amiti Uttarwar||Bitcoin developer||Xapo|
Disclaimers & weaknesses of the data:
- The charts above are meant as a basic guide to illustrate the distribution of funding.
- The number of developers is not a perfect indicator of the overall contribution of the funder. It does not reflect the amount of funding, as some developers may be sponsored as a full time employee, while others may receive a small grant for part time work.
- The number of commits is a very weak indicator of contribution by developer, it is meant as an indicative proxy.
- Ranking developers by number of commits is only there for indicative purposes. Review work is important and not reflected by the number of commitments.
- We used an all time ranking for developer commits, however it may also be useful to look at a ranking for the past two years.
- We may have missed the funding of certain developers and therefore the data displayed may not reveal a complete picture.
Although the funding situation could improve, in our view the data indicates that the ecosystem is in a reasonably strong situation with respect to developer funding, based on metrics such as the distribution of funders and transparency. Of course, progress can also be made in the distribution of funding and Chaincode Labs is now the clear leader in terms of developer funding for Bitcoin Core. On the other hand, funding is far more distributed than it has been in the past, certainly compared to the 2012 to 2014 period when there was only one significant funder, The Bitcoin Foundation.
Particularly encouraging is the recent emergence of BitMEX, BTSE and OkCoin to the scene. This brings much needed diversity to the group of donors, potentially improving the level of sustainability, in particular these exchanges are a new type of entity and are funding developers out of retained earnings, rather than using donations or venture capital funds.
In our view the biggest challenges going forwards are:
- Funding and training for new developers entering the space,
- More sustainable developer financing, including a large share of funding coming from retained earnings from businesses with different business models, and
- Ensuring developers effectively collaborate while receiving independent funding sources.
We believe the data in this report is accurate, however it is likely we have made mistakes. If you are aware of any inaccuracies or omissions, please contact us and let us know and we will be happy to make corrections.
On 28 April 2020 we updated the article to reflect the Cardcoin and Payvant joint sponsorship of Hennadii Stepanov.