The Blockchain Ecosystem

39 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2018

See all articles by Sarah Hammer

Sarah Hammer

The Wharton School and The University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: November 8, 2018


The dynamics of blockchain, its ongoing development, and its systemic vulnerabilities are rooted in its ecosystem – the community of producers, suppliers, customers, stakeholders, and competitors. This paper provides a high-level description of the framework of the blockchain ecosystem, beginning with blockchain development, and drilling down to a level of detail about blockchain use cases and stakeholders. To provide strategic perspective, this description takes place at the highest possible level, bearing in mind, of course, that many smaller ecosystems comprise blockchain. In order to elucidate the components of the blockchain ecosystem, this paper provides examples of companies currently operating in each area. However, this paper does not endorse or criticize any particular business, practice, or model. Notably, however, blockchain companies do not always easily fit into one area of the ecosystem – they may operate in more than one area, evolve in capabilities and transition between areas over time, or even cease to exist. This illustrative map can serve many purposes. Using this map, policymakers can obtain insight into how they can incentivize a strong blockchain ecosystem with reduced vulnerabilities. Traditional companies can use this map to gain insight into how the blockchain ecosystem will come to interact with the ecosystem of their own traditional businesses. Investors and business analysts can use this map to gain insight into which companies will hold the leadership roles in the blockchain ecosystem over time. And of course, entrepreneurs can identify potentially profitable opportunities to participate in and enhance the blockchain ecosystem. Importantly, the blockchain ecosystem is a "living" map, exhibiting constant change, and it will therefore require updating on a regular, real-time basis. What is provided in this paper, then, is simply a snapshot in time of the blockchain ecosystem as it currently exists. The intention is to continue to study the ever-evolving blockchain ecosystem, obtain insight, and subsequently improve and refine the map.

Keywords: blockchain, fintech, digital currency, cryptocurrency, ICO, initial coin offering, distributed ledger, smart contract, bitcoin, venture capital, financial infrastructure, blockchain ecosystem

Suggested Citation

Hammer, Sarah, The Blockchain Ecosystem (November 8, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Sarah Hammer (Contact Author)

The Wharton School and The University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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