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Starting a DAO (Part 1): A step-by-step story of the initial few weeks

✍️ The purpose of this series is to detail my experience forming a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) from the ground-up with the best tooling, patterns, and practices available today.  

The idea started in mid-to-late 2021 after observing that most “Learn Web 3” tutorials and resources out there (e.g. https://learn.figment.io/, https://rabbithole.gg/, etc…) were built for software developers.

Of course, software developers are badly needed and a critical part of the ecosystem, but from my perspective as a founder/investor/engineer and Managing Director of an operator-investor group (Prota), there are tons of great entrepreneurs and investors out there looking to gas the next great thing, but a severe lack of product managers able to lead excellent teams of developers, designers, data scientists, etc…  

The Web 3 space needs people who are able to look at the landscape from a 30k-ft perspective, not get unnecessarily sucked into being a maximalist on any one particular chain or technology preference, and keep experiences for human beings front and center.  

Venturing into Web 3: My story

The short version of my Web3 story starts in 2016 while playing around with Ethereum as a new world computer. The ability to write Solidity smart contracts on a global computer to update the state of a distributed ledger was enough to hook me in.

I wish I could say I started mining and investing heavily in ETH at the time, but I didn’t. I was looking at it purely as a software engineer tinkering around with cool new tech.

The bull market of 2017 came around, however, and I invested in a good handful of ICOs and started writing primers that year (you can see archives at the very back page of my articles/podcasts on Web 3 here → https://satchel.works/@wclittle/blockchains).

The bear market of 2018 came, of course, but by then my partners and I were hooked. The co-founders of the yet-to-be-created Figment.io met at our private blockchain conference in Chicago in Q1 2018 and we were all fascinated by Proof-of-Stake and running validator nodes to secure new blockchain networks. Having a front-row seat as an early investor in what has become one of the largest Web 3 infrastructure providers in the world has been nothing short of breathtaking. The team is absolutely incredible.

Still, most of my work the last few years has been outside Web 3, investing in entrepreneurs around the world in many different domains. More recently, however, I’m noticing a convergence across many markets; all roads are leading to Web 3, and now seems like the time to seriously up my personal game to - in addition to writing checks - help roll up my sleeves and build (or BUIDL, as the Web3 community would say) :)

Starting the DAO

Originally I wasn’t actually thinking of it as a DAO. I went to a conference in NYC in late-Sept 2021 and met a bunch of the Figment team in-person for the first time. I pitched the crew on creating a Product Manager track for Figment Learn, but - as good product managers - they were staying true to the original audience (developers). However, they certainly encouraged me to take action on the problem/opportunity so I decided to get after it.

I first recorded a few podcasts on my show, Ventures (https://podcasts.apple.com/ug/podcast/ventures/id1523559862):

  • Sept 28, 2021 - Training Web 3.0 Product Managers: a brief introduction to Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), and scaling trust :: with Spencer Graham and Tony Little (link)
  • Oct 5, 2021 - Training Web 3.0 Product Managers: a conversation with Figment.io’s Product Lead, Yannick Folla (link)
  • Oct 19, 2021 - Want to learn how to be a Web 3 product manager? Let’s talk. (link)
  • Nov 9, 2021 - The past, present, and future of DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) :: with Spencer Graham (link)
  • Nov 16, 2021 - How Web 3.0 will impact the future of entrepreneurship (link)

Along the way, I published a simple LinkedIn post (here) with a call-to-action for experienced product managers to raise their hand - by emailing me directly - for an alpha cohort.

The response was fantastic (I hope to let everyone in as soon as possible).

Then, on Nov 20th I spun up my very first Discord server “Web 3 Product Manager Training DAO” and invited in the initial alpha cohort members and Web3 experts from the Figment and Prota communities. We kicked off a series of conversations about how/why we should think seriously about forming a DAO, which led to a recorded Zoom call w/ Spencer Graham (https://twitter.com/spengrah, DAO expert) that I will be publishing Nov 30th on the Ventures podcast.

In that call we asked a number of questions around the practical steps, design, and implications of forming a DAO. The big takeaway for me was that DAOs really do make decentralized governance over a public treasury extremely simple. This alone is a game-changer, since founders of DAOs - and all participants in DAOs - don’t need to work on setting up traditional banking to pay workers.

Building the Discord server channels

In the first week since spinning up the server we went from a single #general channel to the following:

As folks have been rolling in, the group is still small enough that we are able to hear from everyone in the #intros channel to say hello.

From here, we will be diving into all the various topics (and many more to come) and then building a curriculum together that we will work through, likely in cohorts.

Practically, there needs to be a strategy developed for the DAO formation (likely on DAOHaus) and coordination outside Discord (likely on Coordinape).

- - -

As of this writing on Nov 30, 2021, this is our current status. I also published a podcast today: Practical considerations when designing and forming a DAO :: with Spencer Graham and members of our Web 3 Product Manager Training DAO.

I will write more as things develop and I learn more about how to help lead this group into full-on DAO mode on-chain.

Thanks for reading!