Discussion: the Way of the Utility Token

(The following emerged out of a discussion on the trading channel on Discord. I received comments and DMs urging me to put it here, so here goes. After posting, I noticed a closely related discussion).

Tokenomics Status Quo: The Way of the Governance Token

Currently SOV is built as a governance token. It has value to those who want to shape the direction of SOV. This, I claim, is only valuable to a very small group. It is not valuable for the masses.

That is totally fine, one might think. The masses do not need to find SOV valuable, they just have to use Sovryn. I think this is a mistake. The point is precisely that voting power is not valuable (enough) to the masses and hence there is no good reason for them to come into the platform.

The objection to this will be that Sovryn the platform (instead of SOV the token) offers value to the average user: it is easy to use, secured by Bitcoin, offers these amazing features. I think this is naïve. I grant that this might work if there is no competition on the offered features and one is the first mover, but none of these special circumstances apply. These features are not enough to gain adoption.

One objection I sometimes see is that: ‘when trading volume is up, financial incentives will be fine’. This is question begging. The claim is that one needs the financial incentives to be there before the trading volume, in order to draw in users, that will eventually drive trading volume up.

The way of the governance token represents a naïve hope of somehow “drawing in masses” and gaining critical mass without there being enough to draw them in.

Contrast: the Way of the Utility Token

The first aim is to draw in ‘DeFi investors’, those interested in providing liquidity for rewards, to lend out for rewards, and so on. These rewards are SOV. So the average DeFi investor should have an interest in obtaining SOV. The average DeFi investor is however not interested in obtaining voting power. They have an interest in obtaining SOV when there is a promise of the steady increase of SOV’s value. These DeFi investors are not just enablers of the offered services (by providing liquidity, lending out, etc.), they are also the first users. And so one grows a user base. (That in turn creates some volume, making it interesting for exchanges to list, drawing in further users, and so gets the ball rolling).

Two clarifications. (1) I’m talking value, not price. I’m not denying that voting power can be valuable to some, I’m only claiming that it is valuable to very few. I’m also assuming that the utility of a token and strong tokenomics translates to the value of that token. If I’m right in these two assumptions, DeFi investors need to see utility and tokenomics that drives up value. (2) The point here is first of all about adoption, not price. The big worry about the way of the governance token is that it seriously stifles adoption and thereby impact. Gaining adoption and having impact should be things that we all want.

What is currently in place is an amazing platform, but the value of the platform doesn’t translate to the value of the SOV token. This means that the platform doesn’t translate to increased incentive for people to get the SOV token and hence to come into the platform. Without utility attaching to the SOV token and, hence, without drawing in DeFi investors, Sovryn is like spinning a wheel in the air. It’s spinning fast and beautifully, but it doesn’t generate traction or movement. Go the way of the utility token, change the tokenomics, put the wheel on the ground and we will be off to destroy the fiat world.

Some simple ideas for going the way of the utility token

Going the way of the utility token doesn’t mean that one will need SOV to use the Sovryn platform. The basic principle is as follows:

Any use of any feature on SOV should add value to the SOV token.

This creates virtuous circles. When use of a feature creates value, this, in turn, makes the support of these features, such as providing liquidity or lending out, more attractive. This in turn makes the pools stronger, lending rates lower, and hence makes the feature more attractive to use. More usage creates more value for the SOV. And so we go. You need these financial virtuous circles.

More concrete changes to change paths (borrowed shamelessly from what they do at other platforms), some of which are already suggested or even implement:

  1. Initially have liquidity pools always pair with SOV. This means that the SOV that flows into the market gets distributed to people who took SOV out of the market. This requires building composite swaps (a swap from rBTC to ETH, goes via SOV in the background). Result: now you need SOV in all cases to provide liquidity to pools and earn SOV.
  2. Distribution of block rewards need to change so that fixed rates go the liquidity pools. As a DeFI investor you make long term plans. APR is calculated for the year, not weeks. You don’t want to rely on loot drops. That requires trust. You need it to be written in the protocol itself that certain block rewards go to liquidity pools so that you don’t have to trust a team to get the APR one wants. Result: a stable and attractive APR draws people in and, together with the previous point (1), requires them to get SOV to get a share of the APR.
  3. Stop locking the SOV gained as rewards [edit: this is now implemented for staking, through SIP-24]. This creates an incentive for people to lock them up freely. Currently one needs a high trust in the long term future of Sovryn, this again narrows down the people willing to provide liquidity. Result: earned SOVs feel as real rewards, and one needs not be convinced for the long term to come in and give it a shot. Typically in platforms, people compound rewards.
  4. A substantive percentage of SOV should be required as collateral when lending. Result: you need SOV in order to engage in lending (this is already being discussed and something in line with the way of utility).
  5. Although fees can be paid in any token, like rBTC for example, this should be used to buy SOV off the market and burn it. Result: any trading volume now drives SOV supply down, making it scarcer and hence more valuable. Still, one needs no SOV to use the platform, yet usage of the DEX adds value to SOV.

These are just examples, there many others. They may seem like cheap ways of driving up the price of SOV. Perhaps. Some care about price, others care less. We all care about Sovryn having an impact on the world. This is one tried and tested route to gaining users and having an impact. I do not see the other route.

For discussion, it would be good to distinguish two points:
(A) Your views on a general change in direction to the way of the utility token, regardless of the precise details of how best to do this.
(B) Your views on the concrete proposals.

I’m convinced that we can go the way of the utility token and yet stay Sovryn!

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Thanks Martin, I just registered to the forum after our conversation on Discord to support your ideas. I think the result of the price is a consequence of the philosophy of Sovryn. I guess the creators of Sovryn, as hardcore Bitcoiners, really didn’t want SOV to be required to use the platform. So SOV-only pools for example, would be against that idea, as it may be read as “buy my shitcoin” strategy. When you can use all benefits of Sovryn without holding SOV, then it’s fine for Bitcoiners - but this has negative consequence on the price. I guess we can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Another idea that came toi my mind while reading your post: How about if we let users create new pools? The same way Uniswap does. That would put some of the SOV bags to work. I guess the only problem here is that there’s not too many tokens on RSK, so maybe it is too early for that and might not work well.

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Thanks for your comment and for suggesting putting it up here for discussion.

I guess the creators of Sovryn, as hardcore Bitcoiners, really didn’t want SOV to be required to use the platform. So SOV-only pools for example, would be against that idea, as it may be read as “buy my shitcoin” strategy.

In my view, going the utility route is not incompatible with the idea that SOV shouldn’t be required to use the platform (given a narrow understanding of ‘usage’ as trading on the dex, borrowing, etc.)

For example, with regard to having SOV-only pools, it is possible to build composite swaps. On the UI this would just show as an rBTC to ETH swap for example, but what happens in the background is a rBTC->SOV swap chained together with a SOV ->ETH swap. The user just sees the rBTC to ETH swap, but it is mediated by SOV in the background. Only downside of composite swaps is that they tend to be a bit slower but there is a lot of upside to having SOV pools when it comes to the value of SOV. If needed, it could also be seen as an interim solution: when usage reaches a certain threshold at which gathering fees are truly lucrative, then non-SOV pools could be added back in.

How about if we let users create new pools? The same way Uniswap does. That would put some of the SOV bags to work.

Yes, if you ask me, these user-created pools definitely need to be possible eventually, we want to be decentralized after all. But one potential issue here is that the rewards for these pools need to come from somewhere initially, since we don’t have the usage size of Uniswap for example. I see it myself more as a feature that is enabled by high adoption but not something that can easily draw people in, given low usage of these pools and hence low fees as long as Sovryn is small. Without rewards for providing liquidity to them, you can get tiny pools with too much trading slippage, so traders avoid them. It seems to me something that is maybe more suitable when we are already at a stage of wide adoption. But maybe I’m wrong.

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I have been of the opinion that having SOV act as the pair in AMM pools is counter to what we are looking to achieve but this conversation has me questioning that position a little. Something to noodle over.

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I am sympathetic to all points in this thread. But I would be very against any sort of utility token. Users should not need to touch SOV in any form unless they intentionally opt to. I think this would be bad for the narrative and ethos we originally set out for.

Top priority should be revenue to SOV stakers. Fix that and all else follows. I know this is being worked on already, but I have to hammer home that adding a cut of the 0.3% fees on swaps to stakers, combined with vested shares only earning staking fees are an immediate game-changer that creates staked SOV as a legitimate cash flowing asset IMO. We have historical data that shows this would be a boon to staking revenue.

We also need this to leverage our control on Origins! Any token issued with Origins is only available for swaps on Sovryn. It’s a guaranteed swap revenue. It is such a competitive moat that effectively forces swap fees our direction since other platforms don’t have these tokens. This also alleviates the constant ‘wen CEX’ conversation on Discord and Telegram. It’s like CEX never because we want our stakers to earn all them swap fees ourselves.

Fix revenue to the “SOV stakers”, fix the world.


We already have composite swaps that trade through rBTC. Switching that to SOV, while well intentioned, is not something the broader DeFi nor Bitcoin community would look fondly at once discovered. I don’t think we should look to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes trying to do something like this. I’m wanting to quiet the trolls with steel man arguments, not give them ammunition to pick apart of the integrity of the protocol.

Keep in mind if stakers got a cut of swap fees then composite swaps yield double fee paid in rBTC! It’s very lucrative model.

Can you clarify this? What block rewards are you referring to? Is this another fee to LP’s in addition to the 0.3% they get on swaps + loot drops?

I’m not opposed to this. The counter argument is when rewards are received as vesting, they’re locked and cannot be staked or sold, both of which prevent forced selling. However, if they could now stake, then it would dilute down revenue rewards to stakers. Again, I strongly feel marketing and building SOV as a cash flowing asset that earns yield directly in the form of fees is by far the strongest mass market attention grabber.

I just really am not supporting of a utility token where you need this in any form to use the platform. Also, SOV at this point is a horrendous collateral given the volatility.

Does this propose to burn the fees instead of pay them to stakers? Not totally opposed to this idea, but I am hesitant to do this versus just paying it to SOV stakers. If we burn instead of paying out as staking rewards then it would again take away from cash flow accruing to the stakers.

Additional Thoughts:

Ethereum backed stable-coin, Liquity protocol has already generated $14M in fees to their stakers after only being released in April. $14M in four (4) months. That could soon be coming to Sovryn as a Bitcoin backed stablecoin. If we get that, plus Origins airdrops, plus fees on swaps, plus excluding vesting SOV from fee share, plus SIP0024, then this thing is going to absolutely ripppp in terms of yield. That doesn’t even include trading, borrowing and lending. Once that happens the only way the yield will start to normalize is if more people start staking and locking up their SOV for the long-haul. From there token appreciation follows. If people don’t stake, then frankly all good with me! More cash flow yield for me and I really don’t even care about token appreciation in the short term at that point.

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Thank’s a lot for your response! I think it does a very good job of communicating what I assume is the roughly the current way of thinking, so it gives me an opportunity to respond to that.

I am sympathetic to all points in this thread. But I would be very against any sort of utility token. Users should not need to touch SOV in any form unless they intentionally opt to.

I realize that I should’ve been more precise in my usage of the term ‘utility token’, which gets defined in various ways. It’s sometimes defined as something that gives access to a service. I was understanding it in a weaker way, as something that gives advantages to users of the platform (which may not necessarily be a hard requirement to using the platform). What I’m arguing for is to have SOV’s value be determined by its use on the platform, beyond governance; I’m not arguing that users are forced to obtain SOV to use all the services of the platform, on the contrary.

Switching [composite swaps] to SOV, while well intentioned, is not something the broader DeFi nor Bitcoin community would look fondly at once discovered.

What is the basis for this assumption, especially with regard to the DeFi community? I don’t think that’s true. There are various examples of DeFi protocols that have pools always pair with their token - and it’s perfectly accepted. When it come’s to the user of the DEX, nothing changes. For pool providers, they need to be willing to get SOV. But note: this needs to be the case anyway, as the rewards that incentivize providing are in SOV.

Keep in mind if stakers got a cut of swap fees then composite swaps yield double fee paid in rBTC! It’s very lucrative model.

Fees cannot be the basis for bootstrapping and driving adoption (something that I will keep repeating). I think this can almost be called the ‘fees fallacy’. Fees are only lucrative if volume (quantity of stakers) is very high compared to the number of people staking and providing liquidity, etc. You cannot use fees to drive up that volume of usage, except by making the fees as low as possible, which means that they cannot and really should not be lucrative to stakers. Relying on fees is for the endgame. It’s like that for most: bitcoin’s value is security, that security comes from miners, but miners are supported not by fees but by block rewards - though these go down and will be taken over by fees gradually. ThBootstrapping pull comes from block rewards, not fees.

Can you clarify this? What block rewards are you referring to? Is this another fee to LP’s in addition to the 0.3% they get on swaps + loot drops?

Apologies for lack of clarity on my part. It’s simply these, over time more SOV is issues/released at a fixed rate. It should be written in the protocol and automated how much SOV goes to the pools, instead of going to an adoption fund from which the loot drops are given at an ad hoc basis. On the hand, rewards are locked, that requires long term trust, but on the other hand loot drops are decisions made. Blockchain is all about minimizing this kind of need for trust. Having providers trust loot drop decisions making it far less appealing.

Again, I strongly feel marketing and building SOV as a cash flowing asset that earns yield directly in the form of fees is by far the strongest mass market attention grabber.

Strongly agree with the first bit, yes SOV needs to give cashflow, that’s what an average DeFi provider looks for, but I strongly agree with the second bit: fees are no basis for this cashflow in the adoption phase.

I just really am not supporting of a utility token where you need this in any form to use the platform. Also, SOV at this point is a horrendous collateral given the volatility.

It’s true, about the volality (this can be mitigated by required a percentage of the collateral). Note though this effect: to avoid liquidation, because price of SOV decreases, people need to get more SOV for their collateral, this dampens volatility.

Does this propose to burn the fees instead of pay them to stakers? Not totally opposed to this idea, but I am hesitant to do this versus just paying it to SOV stakers. If we burn instead of paying out as staking rewards then it would again take away from cash flow accruing to the stakers.

Hmm, that’s a good point.

Liquity earns revenue in way more ways than fees, I claim that it is these other ways (such liquidation gains, which are high due to low collateral requirements) drive the adoption, not fees.

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I understand your proposal is not a full blown utility token where SOV would be required to use platform. But, it feels like a quasi-covert utility-esque token in disguise and I’m just not a fan of trying to defend the platform against some nuanced point that may or may not be perceived as disingenuous

While it’s innocent, I don’t want to play these games. It’s like when we tried to push Bitocracy into TVL calculations and ETH DeFi Twitter community lost their shit on us. Technically, yes it should be in the way too broadly definition of TVL so we weren’t in the wrong…but we kind of were and I think the community ultimately determined it was a questionable tactic. That was kind of an embarrassing moment IMO. I don’t want to have a similar scenario that pulls us away from our core narrative which is Bitcoin whenever and wherever possible.

While other DeFi platforms, such as Bancor do require their token as the trading pair, we are not other DeFi platforms. If we compete in their game we lose our competitive advantage of a beautiful Bitcoin driven narrative. SOV doesn’t exist for sake of seignorage. It exists out of necessity, to pool the individual resources of Sovryn’s together. The token is necessary to pool together the collaborative efforts of individuals as one single entity which collects platform revenue and eventually a more impactful Bitocracy. Doing this pooled model is not easily possibly on a 100% purely Bitcoin only token standard. If the features of this platform (pooling efforts of individuals together) could be done strictly with Bitcoin, then I would never be involved in this project. In the same vein, it is not necessary to require pairs to trade through SOV as Bitcoin does as good if not a superior job at this, so I do not think we should push for that.

Put another way, money in society is the ultimate single trading pair that solves the double coincident of wants. It’s a common bond and communication channel between all individuals. Bitcoin is the best money, SOV is not. Therefore I believe this is Bitcon’s role and not SOV’s.

Do we have any data to back this up? I wrote a piece here that I think indicates fees can already be impactful with a few small changes and it doesn’t even include the slew of other revenue generating activities we can add. Let's see some statistics - Any support for SIP? - #5 by dseroy. Granted the math and analysis was rough but I’d like to see people poke holes in this before saying fees are insufficient. What evidence do you have for the fees fallacy if we make the changes I proposed?

I don’t have a hard-line stance on this. I guess just my only push-back is it feels risky to commit to locked in loot drops because circumstances change. We already are passing SIP24 which gives excellent APY to long term stakers. For LP’s they aren’t locking funds so there is no commitment.

See other post above. I’d like to see push-back and analysis or data showing that the current ideas we have for increasing fee revenue is truly in-sufficient rather than anecdotal. With that said, I do agree loot drops and rewards are necessary so I definitely am not anti that position. Just saying we’re not giving enough credit to fees immediately available to us after a few changes.

I’m cool with SOV being used as collateral if individuals opt for that themselves. Caveat emptor. But yah requiring it I am just not a fan of at all.

You can earn revenue from liquidations. However. the $14M revenue I referenced does not include liquidations and appears to just be from when borrowers draw against the collateral (fee paid in USD) and when users redeem USD for the collateral. Here’s the code indicating how the $14M is calculated. Dune Analytics.

Regardless, I’ll partially correct my stance here. I suppose that $14M accrues directly to Liquity token holders and I am not sure how much if any of that would go to stakers except for the token we likely would get airdropped then stake ourselves.

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But, it feels like a quasi-covert utility-esque token in disguise and I’m just not a fan of trying to defend the platform against some nuanced point that may or may not be perceived as disingenuous. While it’s innocent, I don’t want to play these games.

I understand the worry, but I have pretty much exactly the opposite view. What can be perceived as playing a game and what requires defending a nuanced point is precisely this promise of offering a pure governance token that allows you to do everything with Bitcoin. Given the aim to draw people in with lucrative staking, and an AMM pool, and Origins sales, its the Bitcoin-only promise that is pulling wool over people’s eyes. I see the games and tortured nuance exactly with the governance-only Bitcoin-only promise.

For the same reason, I think it’s a serious mistake to try to pitch SOV to Bitcoin maxi’s, they are not going to like what they will find. Let SOV be the enabler of DeFi, and have value because of what it enables. Appeal to DeFi investors that want security and see Bitcoin’s as the baselayer of value.

Do we have any data to back this up? I wrote a piece here that I think indicates fees can already be impactful with a few small changes and it doesn’t even include the slew of other revenue generating activities we can add. Let’s see some statistics - Any support for SIP? - #5 by dseroy.

I think your data proves my point in fact. All you need to do is recognize that the DeFi space is now a highly competitive market, and compare the APRs in your final three columns to those of other platforms. The APR generated by fees in August in your 1y stakers column is 3.2%. I think that’s a terrible number, and in general the APRs in the sheet don’t look good at all. 1 year is an eternity, the returns are not even close to covering the risks that one takes in vesting for a year. I’m not going to cite the numbers of competitors, but the fee-based numbers are just not even nearly good enough when taking a comparative perspective.

Any other platform is able to generate those numbers on the basis of fees, which is unsurprising, because the fees you pay in doing transactions is roughly similar across platforms. Just think about it, it would be a bit of magic if Sovryn fees creates more revenue from the fees paid at other platforms (without having traders pay a ton for transactions). Fee structures are roughly similar across platforms; honestly, it will do 0 to draw in people away from other platforms or to have SOV’s value increase against the competition.

Competitive advantages need to come solely from clever token issuance, and, more important, from what is built and from this translating into SOVs value. Currently what is built is great but doesn’t flow into SOV nearly enough.

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I agree that governance is a bit of a farce in the early days and perhaps not valued by the masses. However, why do you keep referring to SOV as “a pure governance token?” It’s not and never has been pure governance. The Bitocracy is just one aspect of the token. The intent, afaik has always been for SOV to earn fees from the protocol and that hasn’t changed since I’ve been here. On the other hand, most DeFi tokens are actually true governance tokens, built on hopes and dreams that they will one day accrue fees/revenue, However, most don’t.

Granted, I can also agree that right now SOV might as well be a governance token only because the fees are so minimal. But that’s the exact problem that we’re trying to solve (and huge changes are otw: Sovryn). I personally am not ready to abandon the current thesis that value can be derived almost exclusively from fees. We need to give proper opportunity for this to play out. As soon as we release these features and have data driven indications that show token value driven by fees is still not a viable market then I am 100% open to the utility token route. For now, before all the ideas have been released, it’s just jumping the gun IMO. If these changes are released and fees or token appreciation are still a dumpster fire then I will concede.

I think you’re missing the bigger picture. This was a tiny sub-set of an analysis to prove a point. That revenue from fees can be VERY real. Since my blog post the Sovryn team has announced intentions to add 0.15% of swap fees to stakers (50% of the 0.3% currently charged). My analysis was based on a .045% fee split, so they just more than tripled it. They also indicated a SIP would be proposed to exclude vesting stakes from fee share. The most recent analysis we have indicates 5M worth of voluntary voting power approximately is eligible for fee share. For fun let’s assume the SIP to exclude vesting shares passes AND that current voting power doubles to 10M to be ultra conservative in this analysis. Keep in mind, this means I am being conservative with the estimate of APY earned from swap fees, but it if this happens it means more SOV is required to be locked in the protocol which very likely reduces selling pressure and increases token price.

Regardless, here’s a revised historical analysis if the changes mentioned above were made (vesting shares are excluded from fees, current voluntary VP doubles to 10M and 0.15% fee of swaps given to stakers:

A B C = B * 50% D = C / VP @ 10M E = D * .9897 * 12 Months E = D * .9278 * 12 Months E = D * .6816 * 12 Months
Month/Year Sum of USD Token Fee Proposed Swap Fee Share $ Earned Per Voting Power APY - 1 YR Stake APY - 2 YR Stake APY - Max Stake
2021_08 $113,467.70 $56,733.85 $0.00567 4.2% 6.32% 6.95%
2021_07 $219,343.53 $109,671.76 $0.01097 8.1% 12.21% 13.43%
2021_06 $479,884.92 $239,942.46 $0.02399 17.8% 26.72% 29.39%
2021_05 $490,569.58 $245,284.79 $0.02453 18.2% 27.31% 30.04%
2021_04 $181,736.71 $90,868.35 $0.00909 6.7% 10.12% 11.13%
2021_03 $6,856.44 $3,428.22 $0.00034 0.3% 0.38% 0.42%
2021_02 $2,717.98 $1,358.99 $0.00014 0.1% 0.15% 0.17%
2021_01 $52.51 $26.25 $0.00000 0.0% 0.00% 0.00%
2020_12 $20.14 $10.07 $0.00000 0.0% 0.00% 0.00%
2020_11 $28.16 $14.08 $0.00000 0.0% 0.00% 0.00%
2020_10 $20.33 $10.16 $0.00000 0.0% 0.00% 0.00%
2020_09 $0.19 $0.10 $0.00000 0.0% 0.00% 0.00%

From May to July when we actually had activity on the platform APY ranging from 8% - 30% with average of 20%. That’s from fees! Not from airdropping a random ‘governance’ token. That’s pretty damn good. This is purely from swaps at a time when we really don’t even have that many trading pairs. It also doesn’t include SIP-0024 which if you did want to include airdrops of the local token, gives up to 30% additional APY on staked SOV. It also assumes the VP eligible for fee share is double what it actually is as of today (so if this was implemented today, double those APY’s in the table). It also doesn’t include free yield from future airdropped tokens such as BabelFish. Nor does it include if/when we allow users to create any trading pair/swap from any token. Nor does it include trading fees, in particular perpetual swaps which hopefully are on the horizon. Nor does it include other revenue generating activities like perhaps securing a collateralized peg.

Not entirely true, this is only partially correct. It is missing a huge competitive moat that Sovryn has, that Origins platform will list new tokens not immediately available on other platforms. All other DeFi platforms are competing for the same pool of ERC-20 tokens. However, the more tokens released through Origins, not only are those likely air-dropped to stakers, but they also won’t immediately be available on other DeFi platforms. They’re initially only to be traded on Sovryn and not other platforms which force feeds the swap revenue.

Regardless, we don’t need to generate more revenue than other DeFi competitors, just enough to justify the value of the SOV token. At it’s current price the revenue goal to justify buying and staking the token is very manageable. It builds from there.

By prioritizing real revenue earned from platform fees (as opposed to just air-dropping a token with no true value accrual), it reduces the pressure to really care about the SOV token price. If this thing generates a fraction of the fees I expect and no one else sees what I see, then I am straight CHILLING and collecting the staking fees. I dgaf what the token price does because I am earning real cash flow. That’s alpha.

I will continue to bang this drum, the absolute gold standard of a token’s value is from fee revenue. Providing a real service and getting paid for it. It’s by far the most defensible position for having a token.

If the revenue from fees doesn’t work, then sure I’m open to utility token route. But as soon as we cross that rubicon it’s hard to come back from and that’s why I am resistant. This has the potential to keep the narrative so much more pure.

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