What's more contagious: COVID or Helium?


A clickbait headline admittedly, yet the explosive growth of the Helium network is not unlike the spread of a powerful meme or a contagious condition.

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Cryptocurrency has always been a solitary endeavor: stake in a pool, operate GPUs, trade the market, or click-to-compound in a yield farm (reminiscent of swarmsim.)

Helium is different. Helium brings to crypto the #1 rule of the oldest asset class: location location location. As I recently pointed out, well placed nodes are 40x more productive than poorly placed nodes. This effect creates huge pressure for an enterprising individual to work his or her network to spread out geographically.

Viral MLM

Helium operators have all experienced it. You just finished an install, then as if by instinct, the host states: I can get more locations. What’s my cut? Congratulations: you are now a Helium superspreader. And believe me, the idea of Helium is contagious. It rings in your head like a bell. It’s like learning about bitcoin for the first time. The simple rules dictating Proof of Coverage produce amazing emergent social behavior — it’s an effect to behold.

These days, everybody knows the measure of a disease virality is the basic reproduction number (R0), defined as the average number of people infected by a contagious host. According to the NIH, COVID-19 R0 is between 2-3 by most estimates. What is the basic reproduction number of Helium? Let’s take a look.

Getting quantitative

Calchip and Bobcat have disclosed the average order being about 2.5 to 5 nodes per order. At the time of writing, there are 48k wallets and 146k hotspots, for an average of 3 hotspots per wallet. If we take the average of these numbers as the reproduction number, then we wind up with a number on par with COVID R0 estimates. So perhaps in a very crude way, we can answer “The Same” to the question posed in the title :)

The full distribution of hotspots & wallets sheds more light. Over half of all hotspots are owned by wallets containing less than 10 hotspots, who I dub the weekend warriors. The top 4.5% of wallets are the superspreaders, with between 10 and 70 hotspots to their name. (Yes, I know it’s possible for one person to create many wallets, but I argue the current tooling and hotspot onboarding experience makes this infeasible.) The heavy hitters, ie Hosting companies, own about 25% of all hotspots.

Class # of hotspots % of wallets % of hotspots
Weekend warriors 1 to 10 95% 55%
Superspreaders 11 to 70 4.5% 20%
Hosting companies 71+ 0.5% 25%

Helium Inc has confirmed 500K preorders across 50 manufacturers, and 2 million in production. Frank Mong, COO, quoted a chipset backorder as high as 3 million in a recent interview. For each order, that’s a cascade of retail users exposed to Helium and possibly crypto for the first time. Helium is like Alexa meets viral multi level marketing, except instead of selling lotion and vitamins, we’re building something obviously useful.

The idea of Helium just clicks and is sweeping through retail like wildfire. Watch out world.