Sei, Blockchain Designed for Trading, Goes Live but 'Frustration' Mounts Over Airdrop

The buzzy blockchain project's SEI token saw a flurry of trading as it debuted on several crypto exchanges, but there was much confusion over the status of a promised token "airdrop" to early adopters of the network.

AccessTimeIconAug 16, 2023 at 5:38 p.m. UTC
Updated Aug 16, 2023 at 11:03 p.m. UTC
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Sei, a new trading-focused blockchain backed by Jump Crypto and Multicoin Capital, went live Tuesday, setting off a flurry of trading for the project’s just-launched SEI token and pushing its first-day market capitalization to more than $400 million.

Trading volume for SEI has topped $1.6 billion in the past 24 hours according to CoinMarketCap, with major crypto trading venues like Coinbase, Binance and Kraken all listing SEI in tandem with the network’s debut.

However, posters on X (formerly Twitter) lobbed complaints about apparent delays in the token’s hotly-anticipated airdrop – a planned giveaway of tokens to early users and community members.

The team behind Sei initially said in a blog post that "the airdrop will open for claiming at Public Mainnet launch." When the network launched on Tuesday, however, users were unable to claim tokens – fueling discontent and confusion among early Sei adopters eager to claim their share.

The status of the airdrop remained vague in the 24 hours following Sei's mainnet launch. In an X post on Wednesday – a day after the network's launch – Sei Labs clarified that "airdrop rewards will be claimable following an initial warmup period," but it failed to provide a concrete timeline. It wasn't until later that day – after the SEI airdrop had already been dubbed a "fiasco" by some observers – that the airdrop claim process ultimately opened to users.

By then, the incident had already come to illustrate the messiness inherent to crypto airdrops: a popular, albeit problem-prone method for attracting network users.

Application-specific blockchain

Sei is a new network built using the Cosmos SDK – a so-called software development kit that can be used to easily construct new blockchains that are interoperable with other networks in the Cosmos ecosystem.

In April, Sei Labs, the main contributor behind the Sei blockchain, raised $30 million of funding, for a valuation of $800 million.

The organizing principle behind Sei is that it’s an application-specific network; unlike general-purpose blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum that have evolved to support a range of use cases, Sei is designed with a special focus on speed, low fees, and other features specially tuned to support certain kinds of trading apps.

Sei co-founder Jeff Feng said in an interview that the focus will be on social platforms, gaming and carbon credits.

“Every single successful application in crypto right now is either directly or indirectly a trading application,” another co-founder, Jay Jog, told CoinDesk TV on Wednesday. “What we observed is that trading applications built on-chain right now, they just cannot scale. And rather than keeping iterating on exchange-mechanism design, we think the solution is a fundamental rewrite of the underlying infrastructure.”

Sei airdrop

Sei’s mainnet deployment came alongside the official announcement for an “airdrop” of the SEI token, the asset that will be used for network fees and proof-of-stake security. Airdrops are a popular method for blockchains to attract users and bootstrap liquidity – rewarding some allotment of a network’s tokens to early adopters and network testers.

Although airdrops have become a mainstay of the blockchain-launch playbook, they're almost always marred by legal, operational, and technical snafus. The SEI airdrop was no exception.

The SEI airdrop, according to Sei Labs, was configured to allow users of popular blockchains like Ethereum, Solana, and Binance Smart Chain to claim an allotment of SEI tokens upon “bridging” assets over to the new network – an incentive scheme designed to lure over users from these incumbent platforms. Users of Sei's test network were also poised to receive a provision of SEI tokens.

After Sei Labs announced its official plans for a SEI airdrop – some users found issues claiming their allotment of tokens and reported trouble understanding the exact eligibility criteria. Users have also had difficulty accessing Sei's official Discord server – the messaging platform that community members use to interact and share updates. Sei's Discord appeared to go offline starting on Tuesday and CoinDesk was still unable to join it at press time.

Asked about airdrop delays on the CoinDesk TV interview, Jog said, “That is not really something that I can comment on from my side.”


On Wednesday, around five hours before the SEI airdrop ultimately opened to users, a Sei Foundation spokesperson wrote in an emailed response to questions from CoinDesk: "The airdrop is not delayed. While many assumed the airdrop would occur on Mainnet launch, token dispersals are handled by the Sei Foundation, which has never specified the timing of the airdrop."

The criteria for eligibility for the airdrop will be available when it happens, wrote the spokesperson.

"While the Sei Foundation is aware the community's frustration due to the misunderstanding about the connection between the mainnet launch and the Atlantic rewards and airdrop, we encourage the community to remain patient as we wait for the final ecosystem partners and globally distributed validators complete their work to ensure their decentralized applications function smoothly for the Sei community on mainnet beta launch," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also addressed the Discord drama: "The Sei Foundation decided to limit channels due to increased spam and fraudulent links in the official discord as a result of the excitement around mainnet beta launch."

According to Sei Labs, 40% of the circulating supply for SEI has been set aside for its team and private investors. Some 48% of the supply of the token is set to go toward ecosystem reserves – which includes initiatives like the airdrop and other incentive programs. The rest of the supply will go towards the SEI Foundation (9%), and Binance launchpool incentives (3%).

UPDATE (August 16, 23:01 UTC): An earlier version of this article was posted before the SEI airdrop went live. The article has been updated to reflect new details on the status of the airdrop.

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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Sam Kessler

Sam is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for tech and protocols. He reports on decentralized technology, infrastructure and governance. He owns ETH and BTC.

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