DESCRIPTION OF BUSINESS
Octopus Network was launched by a team that believes that a significant barrier to mainstream adoption of Web 3.0 applications is their poor user experience. They state that Web 3.0 apps should deliver better performance, customizability and evolvability. These features are difficult to achieve with smart contracts.
However, developing a blockchain from the ground up requires a lot of financial and non-financial resources. A possible solution to this problem is the development of application-specific blockchains. The Octopus team believes that Substrate and other blockchain frameworks have reduced the development costs of application-specific blockchains. However, as they mention, these solutions are still time and capital-intensive.
Identifying these bottlenecks, the Octopus Network aims to become the go-to solution by providing flexible leased security, out-of-box interoperability, one-stop infrastructure, and an active community. The Octopus Network believes that they could reduce the bootstrapping cost of application-specific blockchains (which they call “appchains”) by a considerable amount. The Octopus Network is a decentralized two-sided platform for Web 3.0 investors and Web 3.0 application teams.
The project was launched by a technically capable team already active in the Substrate development space in Asia. In their early days, the team successfully obtained grants from both the Solana Foundation and Interchain Foundation. The Octopus Network also secured strategic and financial partnerships with a well-known group of investors and projects.
The project’s native token, $OCT is considered a utility token with three principal utilities attached to it. Upon completing their recent Initial Dex Offering (IDO), the OCT token is currently traded on several exchanges and Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs).
With a rich open-source codebase, the project is planning to move to a decentralized governance model ultimately. Substrate-based projects can integrate with Octopus and seek registration as an appchain upon its Mainnet’s launch (scheduled for October 2021).
Our researchers gave Octopus Network a final rating of 53.20%. The breakdown of this rating is available at the end of this report.
PRODUCT & COMPANY DESCRIPTION
Octopus Network is a network for bootstrapping and running Web 3.0 application-specific blockchains, which they call “appchains.” It is committed to spur innovation in the Web 3.0 ecosystem by minimizing the capital expenditure needed to launch appchains. Octopus is a relay, a set of smart contracts running on the NEAR blockchain, rather than a blockchain from a technical standpoint. The Octopus relay is the central infrastructure for appchains to function. There could be multiple relays on different shards of the NEAR blockchain to cater to increased adoption. One distinction to make is that only Substrate-based appchains can reside on Octopus.
Besides being a crypto network that provides infrastructure, interoperability, and leased security to appchains, Octopus also serves as a meta-community for hatching Web 3.0 application communities.
Octopus Network Technology. Source: Octopus Network
Octopus seeks to solve the critical problems developers or blockchain project teams face when building Web 3.0 applications. Building and bootstrapping a blockchain from the ground up takes a lot of time, effort and is costly. Further, building on a Virtual Machine (VM) blockchain (like Ethereum) comes with pros and cons, particularly limits imposed by smart contracts and their language. Identifying these barriers, Octopus wants to develop a network that makes it easier for developers to optimize for their specific requirements in mind. The key advantages Octopus offer to appchains are:
- Flexible leased security.
- Out-of-box interoperability.
- One-stop infrastructure.
- Ready-to-be-engaged communities.
Several projects are already working in this space to make it easier for application-specific blockchains to thrive. The pioneers in this regard are Cosmos and Polkadot. However, Octopus is planning to offer Web 3.0 appchains a cost-effective alternative in contrast to established players.
Web 3.0 applications may need to optimize for certain features, namely a UI that can compete with Web 2.0 equivalents, faster version controlling and web speed performance. These requirements may be beyond what VM smart contract chains offer. Moreover, appchains may not need to spend on a more extensive security budget at their early stages. However, they may demand flexibility to change these requirements as they grow. As discussed in the Whitepaper, Octopus can deliver these outcomes.
Octopus value propositions. Source: Octopus Guild
The product is currently at a Testnet stage, and plans are to go to Mainnet in October 2021. At present, six Appchain candidates are looking to go live.
We could consider that Octopus is an on-chain incubator that could groom appchains, which could eventually venture out on their own or to other larger chains like Polkadot.
That said, we identify two factors that might underscore the product-market fit aspect of Octopus. These factors are:
- They only serve Substrate-based blockchain applications.
- Present appchain candidates and potential candidates are all early-stage projects which might not succeed in the future.
The project has published a whitepaper. Its related documentation is published separately and it contains General Information, an FAQ, Development Guides, and Maintenance Guides.
The project does not have any patents assigned to it and is built on open-source software.
Octopus is open-source and their GitHub hosts 52 repositories. Github also shows around six to eight people contributing to the codebase at present. Substrate-based projects could build on top of Octopus and use the infrastructure and tooling that Octopus has built. For example, their IBC Substrate Pallet for cross-chain activity. The project is very open and invites Web 3.0 developers to build on top of Octopus to benefit from the services they offer.
Octopus Network has published a whitepaper that details the project’s idea and technical aspects of the project. In addition, the Octopus Documentation page contains general descriptions and key technical explanations (e.g., Appchan development and connections guides, Validator guide). The project has made reasonable efforts to make the idea clear to anyone.
Octopus Network’s success could come from the below factors:
- Operating in a growing market segment, i.e. the Substrate blockchain framework, Web 3.0, etc.
- They are supported by a group of prominent financial and blockchain partners.
- The product offers multiple benefits to appchains (Leased PoS, a low-cost alternative, connectivity to Cosmos, Polkadot, and any IBC enabled chain, an ongoing community, etc.)
- The core team has technical expertise in Substrate-related development.
MARKET CONDITIONS AND COMPETITION
Substrate is an increasingly popular blockchain framework for over 130 developer teams, and is currently used by many different decentralized projects. These projects range from Layer-1 blockchains, Polkadot parachains, infrastructure, and tooling solutions. This growth has also coincided with the development of the Polkadot blockchain that itself is built on Substrate.
Similarly, the Web 3.0 space is steadily picking up pace. As per this blog post by the Web 3 Foundation, since they launched their grants program in December 2018, they have received 840 applications. As of the third quarter of 2021, 302 projects have been accepted. This list of projects can be found in this link.
The market of Web 3.0 cryptocurrencies is growing. Statistics published by Arca show that the Web 3.0 assets returned 26% in the week ending August 1, 2021. On a year-to-date (YTD) basis, Web 3.0 assets grew at 244%.
Primarily, the two main competitors of Octopus Network are Cosmos and Polkadot. These two blockchains are trying to solve the problems inherent to building application-specific chains on Virtual Machine (VM) blockchains. Cosmos achieves this via zones and Polkadot via parachains. Both these chains offer interoperability to connect to other blockchains.
The ecosystem around Cosmos and Polkadot has projects offering some of the benefits provided by Octopus. Cosmos chain examples are Juno, Straightedge. Similarly, on Polkadot we can see projects like Moonbeam, Astar Network and Edgeware.
Outside of the players mentioned above, Dfinity is a large-cap project that Octopus is competing against. D-CORE has previously produced a report on Dfinity.
How is the project different from its competitors?
- Octopus offers a cost-effective solution to developers to build appchains. Given that Octopus is not a blockchain, there is no staking of OCT tokens, meaning that appchains do not have to compete with the Relay Chain in terms of the yield they pay to attract OCT holder support. This characteristic contrasts Polkadot, where parachains have to exceed Relay Chain staking yield to attract crowdloans.
- Appchain selection is an on-chain activity where OCT holders can select appchains by up or down-voting projects.
- Octopus also offers significant autonomy to developers:
- Developers can enjoy more freedom to develop appchains with a user focus.
- Developers can also start with a low security budget and improve as growth picks up.
- If they gather critical mass, Octopus projects can move on to a different chain (Cosmos or Polkadot) without radically changing their codebase.
Octopus Network is a multichain network born to bootstrap and run Appchains. The Network is a set of smart contracts running on the NEAR blockchain, aka mainchain, that implements the security leasing market. The appchains pay rent in their native tokens to lease security from OCT token holders. The Octopus Relay enables appchains’ interoperability with the NEAR protocol and Ethereum via the Rainbow Bridge. Additionally, appchains can utilize an out-of-box IBC pallet to connect with any IBC-enabled blockchains directly. Any asset issued on Ethereum, NEAR, or any IBC-enabled blockchain can be transferred into and utilized by Octopus appchains trustlessly, and viceversa.
Octopus Network. Source: Whitepaper.
Although the mainnet is yet to be launched (planned for Q3 2021 – October 8th), the product is deployed on the Testnet. Recently the native token of Octopus Network, $OCT, was released, and it is available on several exchanges. The plans are to register the first set of appchains (six projects waiting) in October 2021.
We can see that Octopus’ open-source code has a healthy level of developer contribution. The codebase represents 52 GitHub repositories.
Octopus Network Topology. Source: CoinGecko
The blockchain of choice is NEAR Blockchain. NEAR is a developer-friendly, sharded, Proof-of-Stake public blockchain. In comparison to the dominant Ethereum network, NEAR offers a faster and cheaper solution. NEAR currently achieves a block time of ~1.05 seconds. The NEAR Rainbow Bridge allows Ethereum and NEAR assets to flow between the two chains freely.
As depicted in the below diagram, NEAR has seen a rapid rise in developer activity (partly a result of its developer-friendliness) and attracted interest from investment firms. However, NEAR is a young and evolving protocol in comparison to Ethereum.
NEAR Protocol sees a fast growth in developer activity. Source: Electric Capital
With this understanding, we believe that NEAR fits the purposes of Octopus.
As discussed, NEAR is a sharded blockchain and hence achieves 10x more transactions than Ethereum 1.0. With more shards, NEAR could perform even better.
Octopus is a relay on the NEAR mainchain. The Octopus Network relay is expected to host hundreds of appchains without difficulty. It is also possible to deploy multiple relays on different shards on the NEAR blockchain to achieve scalability. Ultimately, Octopus’s scalability can only be as good as the mainchain’s (NEAR). The Octopus Network is building on top of NEAR’s smart contract layer. As a result, they rely on NEAR’s consensus mechanism.
The network also uses a mechanism called Leased Proof-of-Stake (LPoS). In LPoS, OCT holders become validators and delegators for appchains. Chain Validators stake OCT on an appchain in the Octopus Relay and set up a node to run the appchain’s protocol. The delegators can stake their OCT with any Validator of their preference. Staking rewards are paid in the appchain’s native token (appchain-native tokens are NEP141 on NEAR). Nodes are subject to slashing if they misbehave. There is a fraud-proof process to challenge any malicious nodes. The fraud-proof is a hybrid solution whereby certain fraud-proofs are verified by the Octopus Relay directly (automatic) and others through a governance process. To address the data availability problem, Octopus uses a challenge-response game. Other solutions are also explored. The ultimate aim of the LPoS is to ensure the safety of cross-chain assets.
There are no available audit reports for the project at the time of writing.
An Octopus Medium article indicates that a security and functionality audit was to be done along with the release of the Stage III Testnet, which was scheduled for July 2021. The roadmap indicates that the security audit was to be done in August 2021, but no further information has been provided.
There was a public OCT Token Timelock Contract Bug Bounty Program conducted on Gitcoin. It is expected that this program would enable them Octopus to address any vulnerabilities present in their token release contract. These contracts were audited by SlowMist. The Report, however, is only available in Chinese. It can be found here.
A roadmap exists for Octopus, although it is not detailed enough. The current roadmap version does not go beyond October 2021, so it does not provide a long-term picture of what the team is trying to achieve, and there are no quantifiable metrics for the development of the project. However, the roadmap spells out clearly what has been achieved so far and what the near-future goals are.
Octopus Network Roadmap. Source: Octopus Network
The team behind Octopus has skills and experience, specifically in blockchain/crypto and software development in general. They have worked across several Layer 1 networks like Cosmos, Solana, Flow, Oasis, PlatON, and Chainlink. They have specific knowledge and interest in Substrate. The team is one of the active participants and co-organizers of the Rust community in China (RustCon in China). Their specific advantage lies in the Chinese market.
The Octopus team, previously known as Cdot, has been working on universal blockchain interoperability protocol IBC and cross-chain integration for quite some time.
What follows is a brief account of the project’s core management team.
Louis Liu, the Founder, was the CTO for Beijing Keyin Tech Co. for three years before founding Octopus Network. He has also worked for companies like China Mobile, Aspire China, and HP. He obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Nanjing and Tsinghua University.
Julian Sun functions as the Chief Software Architect at Octopus. He founded two ventures in China and later joined RR Mine as the Software Architect.
Burt Chen is a full-stack blockchain developer at Octopus. Burt spent about six years in Singapore working for different companies in the capacity of software developer. Back in China, he worked for DataExa and Xiamen Jinzhong Technology before joining Octopus. Burt studies at the Fuzhou and Xiamen Universities.
The project has not appointed advisors.
General Comments on the Team & Advisors
Although the team seems to have an extensive community, development and blockchain skills, they without a doubt require legal/compliance partners, as well as relationship management (exchanges) resources.
They have focused on building a strong community management team and promotional dynamics with their Ambassador Program.
During the review period, our researchers did not find any evidence of publicly known controversial projects that team members have/had been involved in.
LEGAL AND COMPLIANCE SPECIFICS
There is no formal information available on the project’s registration as a company or JV (although there were references to the company in Telegram conversations). The whitepaper discusses an Octopus Foundation (page 15). However, we couldn’t find more information about the Foundation during our review period. For example, the Crunchbase profile does not list a company type, but mentions a Cryptonetwork (with headquarters located in Seychelles).
There will be an Octopus DAO to govern the network. It will be a federated governance structure implemented via the Octopus Council (page 24). The community elects the Council Members. To become a Council member, one needs to have at least 1 million OCT tokens in their NEAR account. There’s no fixed term or term limit applicable for Council members. Members have equal voting rights on proposals.
Proposed Governance Structure. Source: Whitepaper
Octopus was founded by a team based out of China. There is no information available on any formal entity registrations in any jurisdiction. Therefore, it is fair to assume the project’s jurisdiction as China.
China is a blockchain-friendly jurisdiction. According to reports, China filed more patents in blockchain technology than any other country in 2019. The Chinese government created a Blockchain-based Service Network to facilitate Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).
From a cryptocurrency perspective, China has one of the largest crypto communities. Some large projects, such as Binance, Huobi, and TRON have roots in China.
Nonetheless, there are conflicting reactions from the country itself when it comes to cryptocurrencies. From time to time, we have witnessed regulatory crackdowns. Most recently, a Bitcoin mining ban and a cryptocurrency crackdown made headlines. There have also been instances of CEOs or Senior Management of crypto firms being questioned in the past. Therefore, we believe startup projects and founders that wish to operate in China should exercise caution.
There are no formal legal agreements by Octopus. The project’s token is listed on several exchanges and DEXs. Apart from that, Octopus also raised funds from multiple different investors and in multiple funding rounds.
There is no publicly available evidence that Octopus has obtained any government licenses.
The project has established several different funding and ecosystem partnerships. As per the project’s homepage, these ecosystem partners include NEAR, Octopusguild, Cosmos, Solana, Chainlink, Arweave, KYVE, Platon, Oasis Foundation, and Flow. The NEAR Foundation became an exclusive strategic investor in Octopus and NEAR Protocol was chosen as the blockchain of choice for launching Octopus Network’s appchains. Naturally, they are supported by NEAR Guilds.
Octopus Network has a technical collaboration with KYVE on their Alpha-Testnet. In the past, they received grants from the Solana Foundation and Interchain Foundation for their IBC Substrate pallet proposal at very early stages. Arweave is used to provide forkability by archiving the appchain block history to Arweave.
OctopusGuild is a community of enthusiasts, developers, appchain candidates, and appchains within the Octopus Network crypto network.
Octopus Network Partners. Source: Octopus Network
More than 25 prominent investors back the project. For example, Electric Capital, Digital Currency Group and NGC Ventures are some of the investors.
There is no information about any legal advisors for this project.
KYC & AML
The project’s website and documents do not contain any GDPR or Privacy Statements. There were no KYC/AML related procedures applicable for their public offering/Initial Dex Offering (IDO) conducted on Skyward Finance. Skyward is a launchpad supporting projects on the NEAR protocol, and participants in the IDO had to subscribe using only NEAR tokens.
OCT is an ERC20 token. A number of tokens have been bridged to NEAR protocol as NEP141 tokens via the Rainbow Bridge. OCT is considered a utility token. The team has not sought to register it under any securities regulations.
Three primary utilities for it are:
- As collateral to guarantee appchain security.
- Endorsing appchain candidates by upvoting them in the candidate queue.
Based on the above, we have identified the following areas that may present potential legal risks to the project:
- Regulatory or legal actions against the token offering: No KYC or other measures (like restrictions to US investors or certain other jurisdictions) were implemented during the IDO.
- Any unfavorable Chinese or regulatory actions against the project or the project team could have potential legal implications in the future.
The total OCT supply is capped at 100 million tokens. The initial circulating supply of tokens is around 30 million tokens. (Access token contract at this address).
OCT Token Release. Source: Octopus Network
The Octopus Network is a decentralized two-sided platform for Web 3.0 investors and Web 3.0 application teams.
A critical success factor for Octopus is community-building. Finding and attracting outstanding appchain projects to the network is not easy. To achieve this goal, the Octopus team aims to launch the Octopus Accelerator Program. They expect to fund 20 projects with $1 million each year. It is not clear whether this is paid in OCT or any other currency.
The first 100 appchains to go live on the Octopus Network will be awarded 0.1 million OCT tokens each. This allocation accounts for 10% of the total token supply.
Lastly, there is a social media allocation of 5% of the total token supply. At this stage, it is unclear what type of campaigns are planned to allocate these tokens effectively.
Token allocation. Source: Octopus Network
The project’s blog disclosed a Series A funding round of $5 million. However, it did not discuss any other funding rounds. A third-party article has information on the Strategic investment of $1 million from NEAR Foundation and the seed-funding round of $3 million. There was no transparency around the Angel investors who got a 6% token allocation.
Team tokens are vested linearly over three years.
The token allocation has been planned with the primary objective of bootstrapping and running appchains on Octopus Network. Therefore, the principal purpose for the majority of the funds raised is to support this goal. The annual direct expenditure is of ~$1.5 million, which will be spent on the core team for the development, maintenance, and promotion of the Network.
Given the nature of the Octopus Network, the support from Web 3.0 investors like Electric Capital is essential to have a healthy appchain network on their Network. These investors have the technical know-how and resources to operate nodes on the Network to secure appchains.
Taking into consideration these factors, we think the token distribution is logical.
The project has raised approximately $14.5 million in all funding rounds known to the public. The funding is expected to be used predominantly to bootstrap the community and to meet this direct expenditure. The team is confident that the available funds are sufficient to meet the expenses for the next four years.
The project has already launched on Testnet version III. They expect to go live on the Mainnet in October. The project will then be ready to onboard the first six appchains.
The three funding rounds helped Octopus reach these milestones. Additionally, the project has received a grant from Interchain Foundation to develop the IBC substrate pallet. They conducted a public fundraise just a few weeks back.
OCT is already listed on several different centralized and decentralized exchanges. Coingecko lists four exchanges where $OCT tokens trade: Gate.io, MEXC Global, Uniswap, and Hotbit. Besides these four, three additional exchanges are shown on the Octopus Network’s homepage as places to get the token: DEXT, Jubi, and ZT Global.
Among these exchanges, Gate.io and Uniswap are considered important exchanges.
There is a finite total supply of OCT tokens. The Foundation and the team hold 59% of the total token supply, of which 20% is unlocked at Token Generation Event (TGE). It is expected that a majority of this 20% would remain in the Octopus Network (will not go into circulation). The team tokens and the rest of the Foundation tokens are released over three years.
There are no token locks for any category except that certain token holders are subject to a 3-year vesting period.
Slashed tokens are transferred to an on-chain treasury.
Token distribution, by D-CORE.
Supply and Demand Dynamics
- Vested tokens: 50% of the total token supply is scheduled to be vested linearly over a three-year period. Based on calculations, ~1.3 million shares are vested every month (equivalent to 1.3% of total supply). If the vested tokens come into circulation, there is a likelihood that OCT price might be negatively affected.
- Staking reward program: There is no OCT staking on Octopus Network. However, they have launched a staking program on Ref Finance. As of writing, there are ~1.2 million OCT tokens locked in an OCT/wNEAR pool. Higher demand for staking purposes is positive for the OCT market price. The current program is running for just 14 days and hence the impact is likely to be short-lived unless there are other campaigns to drive token demand.
- LPoS demand: This is expected to be sustainable and long-term. As more and more appchains look to use the Network, token demand from Validators and Delegators should increase. Growth in the adoption rate also means that there should be a higher demand (albeit not significant) for OCT for appchain registration.
Collateral demand: OCT could also be collateral for cross-chain assets between the mother chain (NEAR) and appchains.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND VIRALITY
15.8k followers follow the Octopus Network Twitter channel. It is an active channel with regular updates and news about the project and community.
The project’s LinkedIn and Facebook pages are relatively new. These profiles do not have a significant following and activity.
The management team communicates with the community via Telegram and Discord.
The project has active engagement on their Telegram channel. There are 8.4k followers on the channel.
Their Discord channel is also very active (1.6k members). It is the best place for developer-related queries and discussions.
The IDO platform ran a referral campaign to incentivize anyone to invite peers to participate in the public offer. The IDO was completed successfully, and over 3,900 participants took part in the IDO.
There were no other reported referral programs.
Recently, there was a bug bounty program that focused on the timelock contract and the prevention of loss to investors and the core team. Rewards were distributed according to the impact of the vulnerability evaluated by Octopus Network.
The project launched its own YouTube channel in June this year. So far, the channel has not gained any significant traction.
Several different channels are discussing Octopus Network. However, none of these videos gathered large numbers of views.
Risks to the Project
- Developing a sustainable community: The project’s success is heavily reliant on a thriving community of Web 3.0 developers (specifically Substrate) and a network of appchains. Moreover, they need to retain a professional network of Web 3.0 venture investors as Validators to register potentially successful appchains.
The project’s team has identified this critical element and has several ideas to mitigate the risk. For instance, the Octopus Accelerator Program is one such initiative.
- Dependence on Motherchain: The project is susceptible to any risks that could arise from being a relay network on the NEAR protocol. Technical or other problems at NEAR would have a spillover effect on Octopus.
- Technical challenges: The network security audits are still not completed at this stage. We consider this an essential item especially given the involvement of bridges to connect to different networks. Any vulnerabilities at any technical element are risks to the project.
Unfavorable regulation: The core team is based out of China. We see any governmental regulation on Chinese nationals against crypto projects might negatively impact the project. This risk would be mitigated once the project is more decentralized and dependence on the core team is minimal.
Everything you see in this report is the aggregate result of an extensive research process carried out by a distributed team of researchers and crypto enthusiasts around the world. The process consists of 60 questions divided into three phases. Researchers are called to answer these questions about a project, while providing links or screenshots as evidence to support their answers. For every answer, they also provide a rating from zero to ten. The average of their ratings is detailed below.
Our researchers gave Octopus Network a final rating of 53.20%.
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