Having just gotten through the “year-end-crunch,” I’m excited to move to a period of reflection about the year we are putting behind us. Sometimes I forget all that we accomplished in just 12 short months. And let me tell you — 2021 saw some tremendous successes to celebrate for Stellar and its ecosystem. A sign that our strategy, rooted in our focus on building the ecosystem, is working. Saving time for this type of reflection is important so we can remind ourselves where we have been before we focus on where we are headed.
Last year, we celebrated that Stellar hit 1 billion operations since its launch in 2014. This year, we were ecstatic to see that Stellar had processed another billion operations in just two quarters alone. That’s real growth and even more astounding when you consider its implications – more people are recognizing the power of Stellar and leveraging the network to create greater financial innovation and inclusion across the globe.
But it’s not just about raw network growth; we track growth in relevant assets – assets tethered to real financial instruments that connect global financial infrastructure with Stellar rails – and relevant asset transaction. We’ve seen an 11.39% increase in the number of relevant assets on the network, and a 2.3x increase in daily transaction volume of these assets since the start of the year.
None of this network growth is possible without the growth of the Stellar ecosystem. They go hand-in-hand, which is why driving ecosystem expansion was one of SDF’s top priorities this year.
By forging relationships with key players in the blockchain and payments industries and bringing them onto Stellar, SDF has been able to provide ecosystem participants access to valuable assets, tools, and technology that, in turn, boost the performance and reach of their own products and services.
In early 2021, SDF partnered with Circle and the Centre Consortium to bring the USDC stablecoin onto the Stellar network. Since then, USDC’s impact reverberated across the Stellar ecosystem, and businesses building on the network are able to leverage both the world’s leading digital dollar currency and Stellar’s fast speeds, low transaction fees, and interoperability for their own offerings.
The Stellar-USDC partnership presented advantages that attracted new players to the network, like MoneyGram International. Announced in November 2021, MGI is integrating with the Stellar network and facilitating payments through Stellar USDC to enable cash-in and cash-out in local currency for consumers, using USDC as the bridge between different currencies, with near-instant settlement. This capability will connect millions of MoneyGram users to the world of blockchain and digital assets, providing them greater access to the global financial system and greater financial inclusion for all.
It’s these connections that flow from each other and expand the utility and power of the network, connecting global on/off ramps, our anchors, to the world’s financial system. At least 10 new anchors have joined the Stellar ecosystem, up more than 33% from the previous year. With each new anchor, we open new payment corridors, often in previously untapped regions, and we take one step closer to unifying the world’s financial system.
Speaking of attracting new players to the network, there’s the Enterprise Fund – wow! Back in 2020, the newly-launched Enterprise Fund made four investments to the tune of $8.265M. This year? The Enterprise Fund invested in 8 companies and a total of $75.25M, more than eight times the previous year’s amount. This reflects significant progress in improving network participation while diverting resources to companies whose missions are truly aligned with ours and are bringing new use cases to Stellar – examples include Wyre (fiat interoperability), Airtm (consumer spending accounts with US dollar savings), and Tala (digital financial services).
But it’s not just at the enterprise level that we wanted to excite builders about developing on Stellar. Community participation is the lifeblood of the Stellar ecosystem, so we invested energy and resources into programs that yielded outstanding results. Focusing on education on blockchain and crypto, SDF collaborated with over 50 universities and 10,000 students to conduct a total of 70 workshops and hackathons across the globe. The feedback has been so positive that we officially launched Stellar Next-Gen and will continue to partner with educational institutions and programs to bring blockchain and crypto literacy to the world’s future leaders.
To much acclaim from the community, Stellar Quest – a gamified coding experience that teaches people how to use the Stellar tech stack – completed its first year around the sun. Succeeding in its goal to establish and activate a blossoming cohort of Stellar developers, Stellar Quest has been played in nearly every country, generated over 2,700 unique accounts, and issued more than 18,000 badges for challenges completed.
And Stellar Community Fund just concluded its ninth – its ninth! – round, serving as the springboard for many businesses and developers building on Stellar to turn their concepts into tangible products and services. In 2021, SCF saw a record-breaking 209 applications spanning use cases such as DeFi, NFTs, enhancing Stellar infrastructure, and more, awarding $4M worth of XLM to 31 winners from 19 countries. More than 1,500 community members were actively involved throughout the application, feedback, and voting process, growing the SCF Discord community by 189%. Stellar Community Fund demonstrates the power of open-source – that anyone can bring their idea to life on a network like Stellar.
To bring ever greater value to the Stellar ecosystem and community, we were, and continue to be, hard at work to improve Stellar’s technical capabilities overall. Earlier this year, Horizon 2.0 – the API that enables interaction with the Stellar network – was released, making running products and services on Stellar easier than ever by introducing significant performance benefits. This upgrade allows businesses and developers to deploy Horizon with fewer resources and far greater flexibility.
Validators also voted to pass three Protocol Upgrades this year – Protocol 16 to resolve network issues, Protocol 17 to enable asset clawback, and Protocol 18 to introduce Automated Market Maker functionality to Stellar. These upgrades demonstrate our commitment to ensure that the network possesses the capabilities and features to support an increasing number of use cases and activity as the ecosystem continues to scale.
Protocol 17 and 18 were especially important because they add highly-requested features to the Stellar network. Thanks to Protocol 17, asset clawback allows businesses to pull back or revoke a transaction made with their asset in certain situations, such as error or fraud. This is a feature often sought after by entities that tokenize regulated financial instruments and need greater control over their assets to meet their regulatory obligations. And with Protocol 18, adding AMM functionality to the network helps democratize access to liquidity provision by opening up access to liquidity pools, which in turn enable cheaper, faster, and highly usable cross-asset payments.
Stellar had plenty of big moments to share with the world, so we worked hard to generate awareness about the impact we’re making together, promoting all the exciting developments happening on the Stellar network and in the ecosystem by:
We were not just driving visibility through our marketing; we were also focused on our visibility with stakeholders who are shaping the future of the industry. Our participation in the public conversation surrounding blockchain significantly ramped up, proactively engaging with regulators and policymakers who champion the benefits blockchain can bring to the world.
In the US, SDF provided its input and expertise on a wide range of topics, including advocating fixes to the crypto tax provisions put forth by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, informing the President’s Working Group stablecoin report, and testifying before the US House Committee on Financial Services on financial innovation, digital assets, regulatory frameworks, and more.
On the international scale, we assisted Nigeria-based ecosystem participants in navigating legislation passed earlier this year, helped lead the World Economic Forum’s report on navigating crypto regulation, and signed an MOU with Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation to support the development of Ukraine’s digital economy. At the end of the year, global fintech Bitt and TASCOMBANK, one of Ukraine's oldest commercial banks, launched a pilot project to issue an electronic hryvnia on Stellar.
Another year has passed well into the pandemic, but we stayed resilient and lasered in on the three strategic pillars from our 2021 roadmap. Our focus produced results well beyond our expectations, and Stellar’s growth is a testament to the energy, hard work, and passion SDF, the Stellar ecosystem, and Stellar community demonstrated this year.
But we’re always thinking of ways to adapt with the ever-shifting landscape of blockchain, crypto, financial services, and fintech. Consequently, we have laid out the following strategic objectives for next year:
We will soon share our 2022 roadmap and outline how these new objectives will guide our work overall, pushing Stellar to ever-greater heights. Stay tuned for these updates in our next quarterly webinar!
This reflection is about much more than the work that SDF has done this year. We are only one participant in this vibrant, engaged, and innovative ecosystem — and it is only because of the effort and drive of the companies that use and develop Stellar that Stellar is able to achieve this success. So today, and every day, we celebrate all of you. Here’s to a bright year for the network and a toast to the work of every single member of this community and ecosystem that made it possible. We look forward to what we will accomplish in 2022.