Kusama treasury annual spending analysis - 2020 > 2023 (june)

This post extends the analysis of topline figures first outlined in Media Spend, Costs, ROI and Superbowl ads and connects into @asteeber’s Kusama Treasury Follow-up Analysis: Continued Budgeting Incompetence. The initial spending dataset was aggregated by Goku.


Since May 2020 the Kusama Treasury has spent c $22m

There are fundamental issues when attempting to categorise and assess spend via domain based approaches, since definitions are in constant flux, metrics are unclear and outcomes are not considered.

For example maintenance and infrastructure covers an ever expanding area including the following:

  • Analytics
  • Explorers
  • Discussion forums
  • Contract frameworks / compilation tools
  • Treasury interfaces
  • Substrate API client
  • Web3 alerts
  • Snapshots
  • Indexing
  • Moderation
  • Media

Whilst education could in principle be applied across wallet UX, media production, documentation, discussion forums, treasury interfaces and explorers.

As a result assessing the public good ROI of any one domain is practically impossible and remains a resolutely subjective and individualistic process.

Moving forward, only by unifying domains under directions, where the full stack is considered and coordinated under a clear strategic framework and talent matrix can we move forwards more effectively generating reliable, consistent and sustaining onchain impact.

Annual spending

Year 2020 2021 2022 July 2023 Total
Wallets $94,034 $600,985 $936,762 $207,749 $1,839,530
Development $491,659 $1,218,280 $4,616,067 $2,346,304 $8,672,310
Education $26,987 $330,999 $2,208,839 $661,728 $3,228,553
Art-Experiment $141,088 $5,670 $39,800 $12,018 $198,576
Events $0 $51,743 $807,492 $231,753 $1,090,988
DEX liqudity $0 $0 $4,740,000 $0 $4,740,000
Maintenance $3,470 $146,114 $1,391,633 $364,064 $1,905,281
Totals $757,238 $2,353,790 $14,740,593 $3,823,616 $21,675,237

KPIs and ROI

The below is purely an estimate - but is included to outline how different areas may assess ‘success’ differently and on their own terms, rather than as a collective endeavour.

  • KPI = key performance indicator
  • CPA = cost per acquisition
  • DAU = daily active users
  • MAU = monthly active users
  • TVL = total value locked

Note we have no idea yet what on-chain metrics matter to Kusama - but we need theses.

Key points

Spending to date has generally:

  • Been scattergun in nature
  • Rarely focused on KPIs (key performance indicators)
  • Allowed team to set, optimise and succeed when benchmarked against their own targets
  • Generally been of low quality with little support or talent development
  • Seen lots of duplicated effort
  • Led to an increasingly fragmented distribution of content, UIs and tools.
  • Been reliant on the incentives and platforms of Web2 and the attention economy
  • Seen little inter project cross-over or collaboration
  • No over-arching strategic framework, direction or vision
  • Had no consistent oversight or review of performance
  • Lacked meaningful experimentation
  • Had little to no impact on delivering against on-chain adoption


Current discussions are mainly focused on adjusting spending parameters, but this doesn’t really cut to the existential issues facing Kusama (and eventually Polkadot).

The following are some high level strategic recommendations:

  • Review spending priorities
  • Establish what success looks like from a network centric perspective
  • Define what public good means and in what context for the network
  • Source and undertake regular independent and critical research and analysis
  • Feed research insights - qualitative and quantitative back into funding processes
  • Create tools, processes and initiatives that more tightly bind diverse talent into organisations
  • Formalise support and financing structures across the full lifecycle of talent development
  • Establish on-chain adoption as the core KPI for assessing eventual success of public funding
  • Return responsibility for ‘marketing’ to independent token economies
  • Set clear social conventions around conflicts of interest
  • Evolve discussion forums (like this) into a fully featured and closed loop Kusama experience.
  • media → debate → proposal → proposing → fund management → reporting → analytics → media
  • utilise public funds to advance and support open source software initiatives e.g. Owncast / Peertube, integrating them into the core of Kusama.
  • Move towards more vertical integration of funded projects into a cohesive operating system (chaOS).
  • avoid unecessary use of tokens or parachains with independent economies.
  • ensure all public funded development projects use KSM or public good identities for fees, access or permissions
  • develop an on-chain public good parachain incubator to cater for free-market failures
  • source and advance more creative and experimental projects
  • get weird, get fun and make kusama crazy again.

Sure there are lots of others… feel free to throw your own thoughts.


Great analysis, thank you! All the spending on KSM and DOT seem to grow the ecosystem in a disorganized direction. Probably the polkadot community should pause, take a step back, look at what it did, before continuing to spend too much, and look at the roadmap. From all the ecosystem, what I see missing is the fundamental understanding and philosophy of what is actually Polkadot but that is for a next discussion.