In this article, I will examine whether Strong Coin is a legitimate protocol.
On the one hand, you have detractors who claim that Strong Coin is a Ponzi scheme that has been swindling people’s money.
On the other hand, you have promoters who believe that Strong Coin is a bona fide project with future upside potential.
Firstly, I want to lay out why Strong Coin’s attackers are so unhappy.
Here are their main arguments.
Summary of main criticisms of Strong Coin
- Strong Coin is a scam. Many who invested with Strong Coin never made their money back. It’s normal to start pointing fingers when you invest in something and it swallows your money.
- It’s a Ponzi scheme: rewarding old users relies on new users coming into the system.
- It’s a closed circuit: the whole system is dependent on propping the price of STRONG up but the only reason to buy STRONG is to get more STRONG.
- It’s a hoax. While you pay StrongBlock to set up nodes they don’t actually set up anything. Instead they are pocketing the setup costs and monthly maintenance fees.
- The latest iteration of Strong Coin caps earnings per node and the new STRNGR token which replaces STRONG can be infinitely printed thus diluting its value.
- The StrongBlock team is not very transparent: their site is a jumble of FAQs and their Twitter profile has turned off comments. Their latest light paper is generic and contains a lot of legalese that sound like they are covering their asses.
I am going to dive into each of the above points.
But before we start, if you know nothing about StrongBlock, I recommend you read my deep dive into how Strong Coin works.
Alternatively here is a quick refresher.
Strong Coin one-minute pitch
- StrongBlock is a DApp built on Ethereum. To be robust blockchains require both miner nodes and “full” nodes. However, while miners earn rewards there are no incentives for people to set up full nodes.
- StrongBlock sets full nodes up on your behalf and rewards you in its token called Strong Coin.
- To set up a token you need to pay them in Strong Coin. Currently, you can set up Ethereum, Fantom, or Polygon nodes. I will focus on Ethereum nodes to keep it simple.
- To set up an Ethereum node you need to pay 10 Strong Coin.
- StrongBlock will subsequently reward you ~0.1 Strong Coin per day. Hence, if the price is stable you break even after about 100 days.
- You also need to account for a monthly maintenance fee of ~$15 plus any gas fees.
- In May 2022, Strong Coin was replaced with Stronger Coin. New coin, same model.
Ok, so that’s Strong Coin in a nutshell but is it a scam?
Why are people unhappy with Strong Coin?
First of all, you should know that a lot of people lost money investing in Strong Coin. While in theory, you break even after about 100 days it really depends on the price of Strong Coin.
Let’s look at 3 scenarios.
Assume it’s August 2021 when the price of STRONG = $400
1. Price of Strong Coin stays stable
In this scenario, you buy 10 Strong Coins for 10*$400=$4,000. That’s not a small amount of money. Especially if you are buying more than one node.
Now, each day you get rewarded with about $40 worth of STRONG.
After 100 days you break even and anything you earn after that is pure profit.
Many people were drawn to the prospect of turning a quick buck. After 6 months you have almost doubled your money. After 9 you have tripled it.
Wow! Could this be the magic goose that keeps on giving?
And things get even better if the price of STRONG is rising.
2. Price of STRONG rises
With a rising price, breakeven arrives even faster!!
If you had indeed bought an Ethereum node in August 2021 you would have experienced a jaw-dropping increase in prices over the next couple of months.
By the end of October, the price of STRONG had risen to $1,400.
So let’s see how this plays out.
If you had held on to your STRONG for a couple of months, by the 20th of October you would have 5.7 STRONG.
It’s true. I did the math in a big spreadsheet.
By that time the price of STRONG was $741.
So you would have 5.7*$741=$4,226 i.e. you would have broken even on your investment in less than 2 months.
Everything from there on was pure profit. At STRONG’s peak price, you would be making $120 per day.
Dude! That’s 3% per day! If you project and annualize it works out to 10x your investment.
Imagine the adrenalin pumping through your veins. So exciting!
It is around this time that many videos came out on YouTube and Crypto Twitter turned hysteric.
You know the type of videos with people making oh-my-gawd-I-can’t-believe-this expressions touting how much money they had made by investing in Strong Nodes.
Many were even reinvesting their break-even revenue into more nodes so as to compound returns.
All is rosy until the price of STRONG turns and points downwards.
3. Price of STRONG drops
If you had held on to your STRONG rewards for a year you would have been in deep trouble by now.
When the market started to turn, STRONG followed suit as people started to sell.
If you had held on to your STRONG instead of selling, your investment would have yielded ~37 STRONG by the end of August 2022.
Wow you might be thinking! I invested 10 STRONG and got back 37 STRONG after one year.
The problem is that a year later those 37 STRONG were worth $264.
You invested $4,000 to set up a node and paid $14.95 per month in maintenance fees only to get less than $300 in revenue at the end of it.
This turn of events obviously made many people unhappy.
But why exactly do people liken Strong Coin to a Ponzi?
In a Ponzi scheme, new users pay for old ones. The scheme is not sustainable and collapses unless new suckers keep coming in.
The main reason people liken Strong Coin to a Ponzi is that the proceeds from node sales are used to reward node owners.
When you buy an Ethereum node for 10 STRONG, 6 of those STRONG go into a rewards pool reserve.
According to this logic, existing node holders need new users to come in in order to fill up the pool for future rewards.
Recognizing that they would need to be able to mint more tokens to reward investors StrongBlock decided to pivot its model.
It introduced and distributed a new token called Stronger Coin (STRNGR).
Whereas the supply of STRONG was fixed, the supply of STRNGR is flexible.
Ponzi issue solved. If there aren’t enough new buyers coming into the system they can always print more STRNGR.
OK so, strictly speaking, it isn’t a Ponzi scheme.
But is Strong Coin a scam of some sort?
There are a few arguments here.
A key one that gets jumbled up with the Ponzi argument is that in order to break even after a year the price of STRONG needs to stay above a certain level.
Sticking with our previous example if I make ~37 STRONG after a year then STRONG’s price needs to be at least $4000/37 = $108 for me to break even on my investment a year later.
In other words, the price must not drop by more than 83% over the year.
In fact, after switching to STRNGR, StrongBlock introduced a ceiling of 20 STRNGR per Ethereum node. This decision made investors extremely unhappy.
Take a look at this guy.
He is so pissed off that he started a trolling account on Twitter shortly after the introduction of STRNGR:
The rewards ceiling means that if I set up a node today it will shut down after 200 days.
Hence, if I want to at least make my money back, ignoring the monthly maintenance fees and gas fees, then the price of STRNGR must not fall by more than 50% over 200 days. Check out my strong node rewards calculator to make your own simulations if you like.
But what props the price up? This would be demand for STRNGR dear reader.
What props the price of STRNGR up
The problem is, there is no incentive to buy STRNGR when the price is dropping. Again you need new suckers to come into the system to prop the price up.
Currently, suckers come into the system in 3 ways:
- They buy STRNGR to buy a node. These are probably people who think that the price of STRNGR is close to its bottom.
- They buy STRNGR to invest in the STRNGR pool that rewards them in more STRNGR.
- They buy STRNGR to invest in the ETH-STRNGR liquidity pool on Uniswap that rewards them in more STRNGR.
StrongBlock has seen that these mechanics do not suffice. The system is a closed circuit. You buy STRNGR to get STRNGR but STRNGR has no other economic use.
Blockchain to the rescue
To bolster demand for STRNGR, StrongBlock is building its own Proof-of-Stake blockchain called StrongChain. Here stakers will earn a return for delegating their STRNGR token to a validator.
Instead of paying exorbitant gas fees to Ethereum, these fees will get distributed to the STRNGR community.
I am not entirely convinced this will help.
Building your own blockchain does not resolve the closed loop issue unless your native STRONG has some other use. Maybe StrongBlock has other plans up its sleeve with StrongChain.
Will staking on StrongChain create enough buying demand to support the price? Possibly.
But as momentum picks up again we then might have the bubble repeat.
Those who bought low and sell high will be the winners and those who buy high and sell low will start screaming “PONZZIIII! IT’S A PONZIIIII”
However, the new blockchain that StrongBlock is building allows their governance to have more flexibility on their monetary policy.
So it could be the case they try to exercise some control over the price of STRNGR by minting or burning STRNGR tokens accordingly.
The introduction of bad tokenomics to address ponzinomics
At this point, we’ve hit a strange fallacy.
Please bear with me and follow my thought process here.
If the price of STRNGR is stable then the ponzinomics kick in.
Let’s assume the price was stable. Say there is no token involved and you only use dollars:
“Here mate give me 10 dollars and I will use 6 of them to pay you back 20”
“Huh? Where are the other 14 going to come from?”
“Ah, not to worry mate. Not to worry. I am going to sell more nodes to fund you. “
“Arghhh! PONZZIIII! IT’S A PONZIIIII”
To avoid being accused of being a Ponzi you need to either be making money or be printing it.
But if you print more tokens you dilute existing holders putting downward pressure on the token’s price
People are going to shout “Arghhh! Scaaam! It’s a scaaaaam!”
So the only way to solve this is to have the business model generate revenue. Which brings us back to the beginning: No one is interested in paying for full nodes. You can’t magic demand through tokenomics.
So far, StrongBlock’s efforts to sell full nodes have failed. They are apparently necessary for a robust blockchain but no one wants to pay for them.
In the meantime they’ve explored alternative models of making money such as becoming a validator for other blockchains. But, to date, there are no major successes to speak of.
But Dude! Hello??? They are building their own “blockchain”.
Strong Chain to the Rescue
Will having their own blockchain address their problem?
Let’s assume for a moment that StrongBlock’s business model was copied by some other blockchain where the demand for its native token is not correlated to the demand for nodes.
For example, imagine if Avalanche started setting up and rewarding nodes.
Great! AVAX has so many uses that its price will be less influenced by Avalanche’s new Nodes-as-a-Service product.
But again, how are you going to reward node owners if your business ain’t making mucho dinero? The tokenomics just don’t work. You can’t magic your way into something if there is no economic value being traded.
So, right now, I can’t imagine how the transition to StrongChain will help.
Other reasons that people consider Strong Coin a fraud
The announcement of a new blockchain, a new token (STRNGR), and a limit of 20 STRNGR tokens per node REALLY irritated people.
The new blockchain was seen as unnecessary and the switch from STRONG to STRNGR means that the token can now be infinitely minted thus diluting its value.
Moreover, people have started to wonder whether StrongBlock is actually setting up nodes in the first place.
This YouTuber doesn’t seem to think so. He says that the nodes look fake.
To be honest, it sounds farfetched but I don’t have a technical background to further evaluate this argument. Please comment below if you do.
Further criticism focuses on whether, in fact, having multiple full nodes on a blockchain is as much of a necessity as StrongBlock claim it to be.
After all, StrongBlock was never able to sell its full nodes to any third parties.
Finally, StrongBlock has gone pretty quiet. They have turned off comments from their Twitter feed and they are pretty quiet on Discord too, so it is hard to know what is going on exactly.
Arguments that are in favor of Strong Coin
Having summarized all the extreme criticism out there it is important to bear in mind the following:
Firstly StrongBlock is backed by some key people in the industry. StrongBlock’s CEO, David Moss, for example, helped to launch a number of blockchains.
The most famous of these is EOSIO and its EOS token. EOS is seen as an overhyped failure by many. However, it is a top 40 token by market cap so you shouldn’t discount their expertise.
Secondly, we don’t know exactly how StrongBlock plans to pivot with their StrongChain blockchain.
Some whisper that they plan to set up their own Blockchain-as-a-Service. This will make it super easy for anyone to set up a blockchain at the click of a button.
Maybe this could turn into a revenue stream. I guess we will find out.
The final verdict on Strong Coin’s legitimacy
Having looked at both sides of the argument I do not think that Strong Coin is a scam. Neither is it a Ponzi scheme, technically.
I think a better word to describe the Strong Coin project is that it is ill-conceived.
The StrongBlock team seems to have identified a real need: the need for full nodes. I am no developer but the team’s investment in time and resources and their partnerships with major blockchains makes me lean into the idea.
The problem is that StrongBlock is saying, “Hey! This is really important” and everyone else is replying, “Yes, very important” and then they just turn around to continue what they were doing because things seem to be functioning just fine as they are.
No one is willing to pay for this public good.
Having spent many hours researching StrongBlock there is still one basic question that I cannot answer:
What is the business that StrongBlock is really into?
I believe they are still trying to figure this one out.