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Are promos and giveaways really the future of crypto?

What started out as a process of unnatural selection has turned into a hotbed of controversy, after TRON founder Justin Sun offered a free Tesla to a selected tweeter who retweeted his Tweet.

It seems an easy enough proposition in the digital age, but things turned complicated when Sun cited a glitch in the selection process and the lucky winner – identified as Washington DC tweeter @uzgaroth – was offered a free ticket to 2020 TRON instead.

It is alleged that the team at TRON used a “Tweet randomizer tool” to choose the winner, but they were not familiar enough with how it worked to ensure a just result.

Two Teslas are better than one

Sun attempted to duck the media backlash and came up trumps with an enhanced offer of two free Teslas – so the hunt was on for a second winner using a selection system for a giveaway already tested in China on the microblogging social media platform Weibo.

“I’ve happily decided to give away two Teslas to further my mission of creating transparency, reliability and openness about blockchain,” Sun announced on Medium.

“We’ve reached out to both contestants, including the second winner in Vietnam, a user called @LeoHuynhPro, and will update if we hear back,” he added once the second lucky winner had been found.

However, the real result was that people were transparently, reliably and openly incensed about the promo. Some criticised the process for not being live-streamed so that everyone could see justice being done and enjoy the ride.

Although two Teslas are obviously better than one, the Tesla debacle has highlighted the issue of hard sell disguised as freebies in crypto – a digital currency supposedly free from all the usual ties that bind attached to traditional currencies. There are now more than 1,650 cryptocurrencies and in an increasingly crowded field, new cryptos may in the future have to resort to age-old marketing tactics to find some space in the market.

Waves launches ‘Lada Nivaway’

The latest update to the situation is that Sun is not only getting trolled over the promotion, but that Sasha Ivanov – CEO of Russia-based dApp and ICO platform Waves – has in response stuck his tongue in his cheek and organised a ‘Lada Nivaway’, with a Lada Niva cross-country offered to one lucky winner.

All entrants have to do is retweet @Wavesplatform and say why Lada Niva is the new Tesla. The winner will be chosen on 12 April 2019. So far, there will be just one Lada in the Nivaway and there is no mention of a cash airdrop.

Promoting transparency in Blockchain

In Sun’s original tweet on 12 March, the car offer was touted as only the beginning of his mission to further the “transparency, reliability and openness of blockchain”. He added that he was going to give away $20 million in a free cash airdrop.

The promotions are apparently his own initiative and are not linked to TRON or BitTorrent – his aim appears to be to offer his Twitter followers the chance to win a free car and catch some money.

Previous money-for-nothing offers by Sun have also been subject to a backlash, however. In December 2018, a TRON Accelerator hackathon sponsored by the TRON Foundation offered cash rewards amounting to $1m to the top 56 teams – and then decided to award less money to more teams instead. The reason allegedly was that the standard among all the teams entering was so high that rewarding just 56 hackathon teams with free cash did not cut the mustard.

However, TRON defended Sun and said that he increased the jackpot and was transparent about why the rules were suddenly changed.

TRON itself has claimed that the promotions are intended to “grow interest” in the industry – but as Justin Sun finances TRON himself, the offers of free cars and money are not just from him personally, but could be seen as being from TRON. In 2017, TRON’s token sale raised $70 million – the BitTorrent sale raised $7.2m earlier this year. The company remains insistent that Justin Sun funds his various giveaway promotions from his own funds, accumulated from previous business ventures.

Hacked off

However, despite Sun’s intention to improve transparency, reliability and openness in the industry, his self-funded promotions appear to be having the opposite effect, with disappointed entrants in the hackathon complaining their submissions were not considered and others alleging that they did not receive all the prize money promised.

In January 2019, TRON, announced that the $1m hackathon prize money had been shared out between 113 contestants – twice many – without referring to the rule change or the number of awards given to hackathon entrants, according to one website.

But Sun’s spokesperson at TRON insists that Justin Sun’s objective is to be transparent and generous in order to achieve “broader outreach”.

“This is Justin setting the rules for these things. This is Justin’s money, not TRON or BitTorrent.”

The recent story of Justin Sun’s mismanaged generosity and a tale of two Teslas is certainly now all over the Internet and you cannot get much broader an outreach than that. But the fallout does raise the question of whether promotions such as free cars and money actually aid the industry.

TRON success

There is good news, though, for Justin Sun – in the future, TRON itself might actually be able to chip in for hackathons, freebies and airdropathons, given that it has recently been ranked by Weiss Ratings among the Top 4 cryptos for one-year growth in daily user transactions, with daily user transactions rising from 3,000 in 2018 to 1.9m to March 2019.

Whether the two Teslas ever found their owners remains unclear,

but at least TRON is finding its way. also reports that Sun himself might be suffering from burnout after claiming to work “50 weeks a year, 80 hours a week” – which he is apparently planning to do for 50 years, taking him up to around 80 years’ old when he retires.

His open apology over the Tesla promo debacle hinted at the fact TRON and its team are still finding their feet – and that he himself is living up to his self-appointed image as a workaholic, spending “many hours” thinking of ways “to show how blockchain and the newly launched TRON stablecoin will be a game-changer for both consumers and businesses”.

“We will more than likely have a few setbacks along the way,” he added.

But as Sun puts it himself, “Crypto never sleeps.”

Hopefully both Sun and the two Tesla winners will manage to sleep peacefully again once the new cars have been delivered.

Now for the $20m airdrop. Arms open wide.

Tron image licensed via Shutterstock

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