2020 in review: Looking back on Cardano’s transformation

Looking back on Cardano’s transformation: 2020 in review

As the year draws to a close, let’s highlight the major milestones and events that have shaped 2020 for both the Cardano Foundation and the entire Cardano ecosystem.

It has been an extraordinary year. We have all made huge adjustments to the way we work and live. But despite this, the Cardano ecosystem has flourished.

The Cardano Foundation, EMURGO, and IOHK were lucky enough to meet in London in March 2020, for a three-day Cardano design workshop. The workshop was a great chance to coalesce on a shared vision for Cardano ahead of an incredibly busy year.

As we predicted, 2020 did not disappoint in terms of development milestones, and Cardano’s third anniversary year has been a whirlwind journey.

In our progress review in July 2020, we shared some of our biggest milestones for the first half of 2020. Shelley has now been rolled out, and the Cardano ecosystem has transformed faster than ever—with the first components of Goguen already being implemented.

This year has turned out to be one of our most memorable years to date, and for all the right reasons. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and reflect on the major events that made 2020 instrumental to Cardano’s history.

Development progress

This year has been most significant for the Shelley hard fork, beginning Cardano’s transition from a federated blockchain to a decentralized and robust network of independent stake pools. Shelley was also the first time that IOHK’s Hard Fork Combinator was deployed, enabling the seamless transition from Byron to Shelley.

Shelley saw the arrival of staking and delegation, representing the first time that all ada holders could participate in consensus on the network, and earn staking rewards for their contribution.

Since Shelley’s arrival on 29 July 2020, the Cardano ecosystem has grown to around 1,400 unique stake pools. This was made possible through our dedicated community of stake pool operators and delegators, who have made Cardano one of the most truly decentralized blockchains to date. The Cardano Foundation supported these stake pool operators through our Stake Pool School initiative, which is still available to assist new pool operators.

Following hot on the heels of Shelley, Goguen components began rolling out towards the end of 2020. Goguen will add tokenization, smart contracts, and decentralized application (DApp) capabilities to the Cardano blockchain.

The first of these components included the arrival of native tokens through Cardano’s multi-asset ledger; and token locking to pave the way for smart contracts and voting mechanisms. We also saw the arrival of metadata on Cardano, and the launch of the KEVM devnet for smart contracts. Some of these components are already being leveraged by enterprises building on Cardano.

Cardano’s development progress is hugely promising—but it is hardly surprising, as Cardano frequently tops the charts for the most daily code commits on any blockchain protocol worldwide.

If you would like to explore what Cardano currently has to offer, you can explore our development environments, including our Plutus, KEVM, and Marlowe capabilities, here.

Driving the adoption of Cardano

Cardano Foundation, Scantrust, Baia's Wine
Our focus has strengthened this year. The stage is now set for us to welcome new adopters to the Cardano blockchain—namely enterprises and developers. This will define our focus throughout 2021.

In December 2020, we announced that the Cardano Foundation had developed a metadata connector for Cardano, allowing enterprises to leverage metadata for commercial use.

The first pilot for this technology, developed alongside international supply chain tracking technology provider, Scantrust, has been launched with Georgian wine producer, Baia’s Wine. Each bottle of wine produced by Baia’s Wine will include a tamper-proof QR-code identifier, allowing consumers to verify the wine’s authenticity via metadata on the Cardano blockchain.

Scantrust is the first enterprise solution to deploy a product built on the Cardano blockchain. The solution is powered by transactional metadata—the first fully available feature for enterprises building on Cardano.

The Cardano Foundation’s transactional metadata connector solution was designed by our Integrations team and represents an enterprise-grade use case of Cardano to solve real-world economic problems. As a full product, our metadata connector will be live in 2021.

Our connection with Scantrust began in January 2020 in Davos during the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF was one of the few in-person events to be held before worldwide travel restrictions came into force.

Here, for the second year running, representatives of the Cardano Foundation met with multiple innovators and leaders from around the world. Here, we helped drive discussions and generate Cardano integration ideas with business leaders.

In addition to the Scantrust proof of concept which has now come to fruition, Davos also saw the Cardano Foundation signing memorandums of understanding with other interested enterprise partners. You can read more about these projects in our July 2020 update.

Shaping regulation

One of the Foundation’s overall goals is to shape regulation across multiple jurisdictions. This is part of our commitment to creating a regulatory-friendly environment for blockchain technology.

Earlier in the year, the Cardano Foundation met with regulators in Davos. This strengthened our existing work to help shape pan-EU blockchain regulation. We have advanced this through our close collaboration with the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA), and Brussels-based Blockchain for Europe (BC4EU).

In the United Kingdom, the Cardano Foundation together with Global Digital Finance (GDF), a London-based industry body, is helping shape policies around anti-money laundering, market integrity, tax treatments, and legislation. We also expanded our regulatory outreach in Africa, giving our support to the South African National Blockchain Alliance (SANBA).

During the second half of 2020, the Foundation made more significant progress in our regulatory outreach. In September 2020, the Proof of Stake Alliance (POSA)—a steering group the Cardano Foundation is a member of—brought the issue of staking reward taxation before the U.S. Congress.

Also in September 2020, Cardano was recognized as promising distributed ledger technology (DLT) by a Swiss Confederation draft law. We are pleased to see that our home jurisdiction, Switzerland, is now taking proactive steps to include DLT technology and its products in existing regulatory frameworks. This was evidenced most recently through an official DLT support bill brought into force in December 2020.

Growing the global Cardano community

With the arrival of staking and delegation and the broader reach of Cardano among developers and enterprises, our community has grown at a great pace throughout 2020. A large part of this has been driven by our increased focus on marketing, but also through the contributions of our Community Management team and our dedicated Ambassadors.

The Ambassador Program launched in 2018, now in Phase Two through the rewards scheme, has grown rapidly in 2020. Our active Ambassadors grew from 40 to 73 in the space of a year—onboarding around four new Ambassadors per month!

Our Cardano brand reappraisal, Project Renovare, also concluded in 2020 with a fresh look for the Cardano Foundation and the Cardano protocol. In collaboration with McCann Dublin, Cardano’s brand reappraisal sought to transform our visual identity in anticipation of the new and diverse target audiences that we will soon be welcoming to our ecosystem.

This resulted in a refreshed look for the Cardano.org and CardanoFoundation.org websites, as well as a new suite of Cardano animations and the creation of our brand story.

We were delighted to hear that the Cardano brand reappraisal was selected for commendation by the Irish Institute of Creative Advertising and Design (ICAD). The nomination, called ‘Creating change with Cardano’, was shortlisted for the ICAD 2020 Awards among a handful of other rebranding exercises. Our refreshed branding was showcased across the city of Dublin as part of a two-day exposition.

Maryam Mahjoub, in charge of our marketing, was also recognized by blockchain intelligence agency Flipside Crypto in November 2020 for her fantastic work in blockchain marketing. Maryam earned a top spot among 34 marketing professionals worldwide working to advance decentralized technology. Read Maryam’s unique perspectives on how to attract more users to Cardano here.

Ensuring stakeholder accountability

As Cardano’s technology evolves, it is important that our approach and responsibilities evolve alongside it. The Cardano Foundation is a custodian of the Cardano protocol, but we are also highly aware that our own practices need to be documented, auditable, and above all, transparent to our community.

To ensure accountability, in 2020 we began welcoming suggestions on how the Cardano blockchain could be improved through Cardano Improvement Proposals (CIPs). Designed and maintained by the Cardano Foundation, the CIP process is a transparency platform that provides a formal process for the Cardano community to discuss and propose new features to the Cardano network.

CIPs are a form of off-chain governance, but they are open to the public and form the basis for structured feedback on the Cardano blockchain. There are currently over 10 active CIPs in the repository, both accepted and in the deliberation phase. You can view a list of active CIPs here.

With the arrival of staking and delegation, the Cardano Foundation was in a unique position to be able to support our community-led stake pools through delegating our ada holdings in a fair and distributed manner.

In early October 2020, we released the first iteration of our delegation methodology. This was a transparent insight into the way the Foundation chose stake pools to delegate to, and our efforts to promote decentralization on Cardano.

On 6 December 2020, with the upcoming change of the k-parameter and shifting stake pool saturation points, we adjusted our delegation methodology to provide greater support to our stake pool operators.

During this process, we called on our community to provide feedback, and we were heartened to see the community-led discussions that grew out of this. Our community has helped shape our delegation methodology for the good of Cardano. Throughout 2021, we will continue to evolve our delegation methodology alongside the protocol to support our community of stake pool operators.

Our commitment to ensuring stakeholder accountability goes beyond the confines of the Foundation’s internal processes. At Davos in early 2020, the Cardano Foundation provided a research grant to Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center to study aspects of blockchain governance. These issues will be of critical importance to the health of decentralized ecosystems in the future.

Likewise, in October 2020, we announced our donation to the pan-African Trust Graphic Novel initiative—an educational animated novel designed to teach African youth the power of blockchain for fighting government and monetary corruption.

Setting the direction and milestones for a cutting-edge blockchain protocol is difficult. On 1 December 2020, we hosted the first fireside chat with our executive team led by our recently appointed CEO Frederik Gregaard. In this detailed conversation, we aimed to give our community a deeper overview of our goals and high-level strategy, sharing our plans for 2021 and beyond.

We recommend everyone take a few moments to watch the fireside chat, where Frederik also answers some of the top-rated questions from our community.

Expanding the Cardano Foundation’s talent portfolio

26 nationalities work at the Cardano Foundation (January 2021)
Since our first half review 2020 update, we welcomed several more new team members to the Foundation, each of whom brings unique skills to help advance our missions.

In September 2020, to expand Cardano’s reach to new audiences, we welcomed two new North American team members to our ranks. Marlene Velasco, Graphic Designer and Social Media expert from California, and Digital Marketing guru and digital nomad Gina Rubino, joined our Marketing team.

We also bolstered our operations team with Zürich-based Management Support and Events Coordinator Josianne Seydoux and Alexandre Maaza in Geneva who will help drive adoption in Africa. This is in addition to welcoming seven other new team members earlier this year.

Last, but certainly not least, was the appointment of the Foundation’s first CEO Frederik Gregaard and Eva Oberholzer to lead growth acquisition, who joined in October 2020.

We are immensely proud of how the Cardano Foundation has expanded its talent capabilities throughout 2020. Our multilingual and distributed core team is now spread across 21 locations, with a member of the team on almost every continent.

The message for 2021: Cardano is ready!

So, we prepare to close the book on 2020—a year that has been unforgettable the world over. We are grateful that for the Cardano ecosystem, 2020 has been a year marked with achievements and milestones. But, what message should we take from 2020 to carry through into the new year?

For us, it is that Cardano is ready. The rollout of Goguen’s components, many of which are already functional and ready to explore in either a devnet or fully-functional environment, is the blockchain equivalent of cutting the tape and opening our doors to enterprise and industry.

In 2021, it will be the Cardano Foundation’s job to usher in these new users through Cardano’s open doors. We look forward to seeing who walks in and starts building on the most decentralized, formally-verified, and peer-reviewed blockchain ever built.

What was your memorable Cardano highlight of 2020? Please let us know what milestone of 2020 was your favorite.

Happy New Year and Welcome 2021!

The Cardano Foundation.


The CF videos are always so good, great work team! :blue_heart:

Despite the chaos, 2020 has been a year of some amazing achievements.
2021 will be even better!!


Just :clap::clap::clap::+1::+1::+1:


Although it was a difficult year, in 2020 Cardano brought satisfaction and confidence to our entire community. In 2020, I learned a lot about Cardano and the crypto industry and got very close to the community. I am sure that 2021 will bring us all more peace and health, but also more achievements.

Happy Holidays!


Fantastic work :clap::ok_hand: Stakepool CASP is proud to be part of the Cardano Family :pray:


Lots of really interesting info in that post - thanks!

Two questions:

  1. There doesn’t seem to be much activity on this forum - are other places preferred?

  2. There is no Australian flag in the Foundation diag! - surely there must have been others more involved than I have been?!

Don’t know about “preferred” (by whom?), but there are plenty of other places: Telegram, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter…


That’s a great summary! Congratulations to everyone that participated in video production :)))

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