Just a qq about how the chain got started in 2020. What was the launch model? i.e. at genesis was there a small group of trusted validators from the community/devs/investors who ran validators and then new validators were free to join afterwards?

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Initially there was a testnet which was incentivized (= mostly open) for validators to join. Then there was a SLP Network with a restricted number of validators and the actual genesis was processed by a single bootstrap validator. SLP Network became mainnet beta after a few weeks and mainnet beta participation was also incentivized via the same program as testnet.

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