The Delphi Podcast Host and GP of Delphi Ventures Tom Shaughnessy hosts Kevin Owocki, The founder of Gitcoin who covers the entire Gitcoin story, from quadratic funding to the future of public goods. Kevin also dives into GTC, its use and decentralizing the project ?
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Hey everyone, welcome back to the podcast. I’m your host, Tom Shaughnessy. I help run Delphi Ventures and I host the Delphi podcast. Today, I’m amped to have on Kevin from GitCoin. Kevin, how’s it going?
Hey, hey, hey.
Kevin, you describe yourself as the founder of GitCoin, but also an EVM whisperer. What does the last part mean?
Yeah, so the EVM is the virtual machine that executes smart contracts on the Ethereum-network. And so, an EVM whisperer is someone who knows how to program that, I think. I was just being cute on Twitter. That we don’t have to roll. Let’s just call me the founder of GitCoin, I guess.
You’re going to be stuck with that forever now. Kevin, you guys had a big launch this week. Full disclosure. We helped advise a bit token E-con related things to Delphi. But I want to hear from you, what exactly is GitCoin for those that, for some reason live under a rock and haven’t seen you guys?
Totally. Yeah, so GitCoin is a place that you can get coins if you’re a software developer. We’ve delivered about $19 million worth of funding to Open-source software developers in the space primarily through GitCoin grants, which is the largest crowdfunding platform in the Ethereum ecosystem, to our knowledge. But we also run virtual hackathons and we have an accelerator called KERNEL, which is basically an eight-week program that will take you from someone who has a project idea, and then puts you in the room with some of the top 200 people in the Ethereum space. And then out comes a company or a protocol, or a better version of yourself is the idea. So, our job is to economically empower software developers.
And what we launched this past week is GitCoin DAO. So, basically, we are now structured as a company and we felt like there was a limit to how far we could go with our mission if we were a company that was domiciled in a specific legal jurisdiction. And so, the idea is to start building a vessel that can be worldwide and can be governed by the community that is based on, that is basically a DAO and it’s a fork of Uniswap’s governance mechanism that we launched this past week. But the biggest thing that we did when we did the DAO launch is we set the users to a token distribution experience, and we had them delegate their governance. So, we launched the governance token this past week. And what we did is we made everyone delegate their governance to a member of the Ethereum community they trust. It could be themselves, or it could be Austin Griffith or Linda Xie or Trent from the Ethereum Foundation.
And the whole idea here is that if we’re going to use liquid democracy, and as your audience may know, Uniswap and Compound are liquid democracy, and have this delegation mechanism built into them. But we felt like we needed to have 100% coverage of people delegating as soon as they got their tokens, which would just enable governance to get off on the right foot at the start. So, our big launch was GTC and GitCoin DAO to answer your question. And GitCoin is a place that you can get coins if you’re a software developer.
Kevin, the experience to claim your tokens delegate was incredible. I mean, the UI and the UX was just out of control good. How long did that take to create?
We’ve been working on it for about six months. I mean, I think that I’m sitting on a mountain of software developers and designers, because we’re GitCoin and if we didn’t have a token claim experience, then it wouldn’t be us, so I’m glad that I’m glad that you saw it. And if any of your audience wants to follow along, you can go to quadraticlands.com and get to the token distribution site. The quadratic lands is this sort of mythical land where Open-source is well-funded and there’s more digital democracy. And so, our token distribution center is called quadraticlands.com.
I love that. Yeah. No. The whole process was awesome. The proof knowledge reviews claiming. And side note, I love that you’re able to claim to a different address than the one you used to, I guess, accrue the rewards, which I thought was pretty awesome.
Yeah, for sure. So, far we’ve seen about seven-
7,000 people have claimed thus far of 25,000 in the airdrop. So, I’m excited to hopefully get closer to that 25,000 number. Sorry, go ahead.
That’s awesome. No. It’s exciting. And I mean, just zooming out, what would you say is GitCoin’s mission? How does it drive everything you do? How’s it at the core of what you do every day? What would you say that is?
Totally. Our mission is to build and fund the open web to make sure that Open-source software developers are well-paid. Open-source creates $500 billion per year in economic value. And for someone like me starting a startup, when I start a startup, I don’t write my own database server. I don’t write my own web server. I don’t write my own encryption and SSL, I just use Open-source software. And we all sort of take that for granted. And because of that Open-source maintainers are working like Chase Bank, while they have to nights and weekends moonlight on building our digital infrastructure.
We just feel that’s a fundamental unjust way of setting up our digital infrastructure, so we just want to make sure that Open-source software developers are paid and we want to accelerate the builders and funders of the open web, both in traditional Open-source and in this new punctuated equilibrium that we call the crypto space and making sure that Open-source software developers are paid. And I feel like if people can quit their corporate jobs and work on Open-source, or if people can shy away from doing an ICO and just work on protocols and just work on our digital infrastructure, then that’s a win for us. We’re trying to create that incentive mechanism for the world.
Kevin, how does GitCoin work from the bounties’ perspective in the grants’ perspective? How do you go about funding public goods on GitCoin exactly?
Totally. Yeah, so the mission is and always will be and always has been grow and sustain Open-source building from the open web. And we first launched in 2017 as a product where you could basically come to GitCoin and you could say, “I have X tokens, and I would like Y done.” And the exchange there is that we find a software developer in our list of 150,000 software developers that is a fit for your project and they will get those tokens if they do that scope. We soon realized that that was a very transactional way of funding Open-source software. And we wanted to build something that was a little bit more Kumbaya within the ethos of Open-source.
And also, we recognize that a lot of people already had projects that they were working on and they wanted to get paid, so we launched GitCoin grants, which is basically you come to GitCoin, and you would say, “I am doing X and I would like Y tokens in return for building this.” And so, it’s just basically a crowdfunding platform that is the now the largest crowdfunding platform in the crypto space to my knowledge. And it’s just a way of donating to your favorite projects that has really taken off because of the support of Vitalik Buterin. And we use this mechanism called Quadratic Funding to really make it worth people’s while to contribute to Open-source on GitCoin grants.
And then the third mechanism that we have is KERNEL, which is basically like the mechanism there is, “What would you do if you were in a room with the top 250 people, 250 builders in the Ethereum space for eight weeks?” So, we basically take the upper echelon of people that we’ve met through the network of GitCoin, whether it’s through hackathons or through grants, or just going to a theory meetups, and we put them through an eight-week program, where we train them about the values of the Ethereum space and how to build a startup, how to build a protocol, and at the end of that, we have a graduation day where they can pitch all these investors.
So, those are basically three different mechanisms that we found to connect capital and labor in order to accelerate the open web, but I’m sure there’s more ways to build and fund Open-source. And now that we’re a DOA, anyone can permissionly launch an experiment that is meant to build and fund the open web. It doesn’t just have to be the three that the centralized company conceived of.
That’s awesome. Kevin. Yeah. No. It makes sense to go from bounties to grants, definitely seems more sustainable, long term. I guess, one of my questions is like, it’s just a different way of thinking, right? I mean, as of you see I come from the perspective of, “If you’re going to create a product, I want to see a long term path to sustainability and profits, so you could fund this and grow this.” GitCoin takes like a totally different approach here, right? How do you, I guess, convince people or tap into that altruism to fund things that might not have a business model? We might have an Ethereum weekly recap or something like that, or a core piece of infrastructure that, frankly, we can’t monetize, but we all like, but it’s just, it’s very hard to get people to fund that.
Totally. Yeah, I mean, I could make a lot of arguments to you about like, “Well, this is our digital infrastructure. And if it’s not on a sound foundation, then we’re going to have a black swan event where something gets hacked, something gets robbed, and your for-profit venture will lose a lot of money because of that. And I can make that argument till the cows come home, people won’t listen until it happens to them. And the whole point of this is to prevent people getting ragged and the infrastructure being brittle.
And so, we’re kind of looking for incentives that are a little bit upstream from that to get people to contribute to Open-source. And one of the mechanisms that we just kind of inherited from Vitalik and Glen Weyl was this mechanism of Quadratic Funding, which basically is a way of funding projects in an ecosystem based off of which projects have the broadest base of support. Not just the projects that have the support of the rich people. So, it’s a matching campaign that runs contemporaneously, which is just a famous… or sorry, just a just a fancy way of saying at the same time as a crowdfunding campaign.
And we fund, we have matching contributions that we give out to the crowd during the crowdfunding campaign. And so, the way that Quadratic Funding works is that in traditional one-to-one matching if Project A and Project B both get $10, then they’ll both get $10 in matching. But with Quadratic Funding, if Project A has 10 supporters who each get $1 and Project B has 10 support or one supporter who gives $10 then Project A will get way more the grant matching funds because it’s supported by a broader swath of the ethereum community. So, it’s just basically a way of funding public goods or funding Open-source software based off of whether or not your peers respect them as opposed to some central grants administrator, say at the Ethereum Foundation or at any other… I mean, I think the Ethereum foundation grants program is awesome, but I do believe that there’s room for a product that funds things based off of what your peers think of your project, not just what some powerbroker thinks.
And so that’s the cool thing about Quadratic Funding. And Tom, I wouldn’t look at it as sort of a replacement for VC funding, at least not at the scale that we’re at yet, but it’s kind of a feeder where you can say, “Oh, this project had 100 people donate to it on GitCoin. There must be some heat there, because all of their peers respect what they’re doing. And that’s like alpha for the investor community,” is how I’d look at if I was you.
So, just to clarify, Kevin, who exactly does the matching? And sorry, if I messed up, but I want to make sure that gets across. The Quadratic Funding makes a lot of sense, but who funds that side of it?
Totally. It’s basically anyone who wants to build an ecosystem. So, if you’re the Ethereum Foundation, and you’re trying to make sure that your infrastructure is funded, and that there’s a budding entrepreneurial ecosystem built on top of the Ethereum Foundation, you can contribute money to the GitCoin grants matching pool, and we will run these crowdfunding campaigns every quarter for your ecosystem. So, it’s basically allowing the community to self-organize and whoever’s interested in building that ecosystem provides the capital. The Ethereum found it, so we’ve done nine rounds of GitCoin grants. The Ethereum Foundation provided all of the funding for grants rounds one through six.
In round seven, we’ve raised about a million dollars per quarter from the DeFi community, just projects that are looking to give back and to support the Ethereum ecosystem. And it’s sort of a marketing expense for them/also a goodwill expense. But for the last several rounds, I’m very proud to say that we’ve graduated from being funded by the EF to just being funded by what we call the Funders League. Amazing projects like optimism and Chainlink and Kraken are all funding the public goods in the Ethereum space. And I think it’s really great to see people giving back and making sure that the next cohort of builders are funded.
And Kevin, I guess the other thing that runs into play is, I guess you’re not really running into a problem with people making fake accounts and kind of skewing those results, because people have to donate. So, there is kind of a “cost” associated with that. I guess, if we’re thinking about it from a civil perspective, or am I thinking about that the wrong way?
Totally. So, yeah, basically, because Quadratic Funding optimizes the preferences of the poor and the many over the rich and the few, basically, that grant that got $10 from 10 people is going to get more of the matching funds than the grant that got $10 from one person. There is a crypto economic incentive to make up identities. And this is what’s called Civil Resistance, like “If I have that $10 and I’m just going to give it to one project, why don’t I make up 10 identities in order to do that?” And the answer to that is, and we’re going to channel Vitalik Buterin here, who’s just next level smart.
You got to make a system that it’s cheaper to defend than it is to attack. This is a core principle of Proof of Stake and it’s actually a core principle of Quadratic Funding as well. So, you just have to make it as expensive as possible to manufacture new identities and we’re integrated with the latest and greatest civil resistance mechanisms in the space: Bright ID, Idena, Proof of Humanity. We’re also using Collapse and ENS names as civil resistance. And so, basically, the idea is to just make new identities, hard to manufacture, but easy to verify if you’re already an active organic member of the space. I think, I don’t know if you’re familiar with dGen score, but that’s a great example of simple resistance.
Someone who’s built up reputation over time.
Yeah. No. That’s an incredible way to do it. And I guess the other question is like. “How do you get the feedback?” Right? Quadratic Funding is incredible, because you’re basically giving more funding to something that more people want, but how do you get the feedback loop on that? How do you know that that’s the right way to do it? Theoretically, it makes sense. You’re funding something that more people want versus say a rich person, but how do you like see that in the wild? Is it just like more people loving the product? Yeah, it might be the wrong question. I’m just trying to figure that out.
Totally. Yeah. So I mean, I’m super proud to say that GitCoin Grants has been running through the last bear market. And we have alumni that are as esteemed as Uniswap and 1inch exchange and Yearn Finance that were partially funded by GitCoin Grants during the last bear market. And so, I can’t say that every project that’s gone through GitCoin Grants has been a success, but there’s at least some that are really strong success. And so the really, the way that we’ve designed it to have a feedback loop is that we run the grants round every quarter. And the basic mechanism is that the market decides every quarter, which projects are going to be funded. GitCoin, it just runs a credibly neutral platform that’s designed to allow the market to express itself and so, we have no-say over which grants get funded.
And basically, the idea is that there’s a feedback loop insofar as the Ethereum community now expects that GitCoin Grants is going to be around. And every quarter, there’s going to be grants round and if you don’t ship something over the next quarter, well, then the rational economic behavior for the market is to not fund you anymore. So, there’s this sort of a quarterly feedback loop where the market gets to decide who’s worth funding and that can evolve over time as projects either grow too big to even need Quadratic Funding or if they raise money outside of GitCoin grants or if they are now defunct. I mean, I think failure is a part of entrepreneurship. And so, we shouldn’t be ashamed of the projects that have gone through the system and are now defunct. So that’s basically the feedback mechanism that we have. Is that what you were asking, Tom?
Yeah, yeah, no, totally. And I’m glad we can hop around because you know your stuff, Kevin. It’s great that we could go quite quick.
The other side of this is like what is the difference in, I guess, I know GitCoin is funding a lot of software and stuff that we don’t see. A lot of stuff behind the scenes that power a lot of apps, stuff like that. But for DApps themselves or things people could see and touch, what’s the difference in the experience in those applications? Because I mean, they don’t have to rush to productize and monetize because they’re basically, they can get funded through GitCoin.
Totally. Yeah, so there’s basically a spectrum here of infrastructure to DApp layer. And I don’t know, if you’ve read any of Fred Wilson’s stuff. I think there’s a famous post about the myth of the infrastructure phase, where basically, we go through these cycles, where infrastructure is being built and then there’s NFT crazes, that are actually consumer facing brands that are taking off. And so, I think the market ebbs and flows between building infrastructure and building consumer facing apps, so you can’t have one without the other, right? They’re the chicken and the egg.
And so, GitCoin Grants is really great for infrastructure stuff. It’s just plumbing. It has no business model and we do run an infrastructure grants around and have for the last five or six rounds, but then there’s a whole another category of things, which are just like, “What’s going to be the next hot NFT platform?” is a really good question. I don’t know the answer to that. And GitCoin Grants is sort of like a market layer for figuring out, which projects in both categories have heat and people are excited about. And I think the key is that people who know infrastructure are the ones that are funding infrastructure grants, and people who know, DApp layer stuff are the ones that are funding that. And you kind of use the wisdom of the crowds to take the best projects and accelerate them to their next funding tranche to make sure that they stay afloat, and things of that nature.
No. That’s awesome. And Kevin, just to give like a little color on this. What’s your favorite grants that had been funded historically by GitCoin? What’s something that maybe came to the platform, got funded, and now, it’s like a core piece of infrastructure where a core app or use case that people kind of use every day?
Totally. But I think I may be humble bragged a little bit, that 1inch Exchange and Uniswap and Yearn are all Bitcoin alumni. And those are-
Those are all good alumni.
Yeah, yeah. Those are super legitimate projects. And I just think, “Wow, Uniswap is just core infrastructure for a DeFi.” But the things that I’m most excited about and it’s because I have a Computer Science degree. And not much of a background in finance, although I’m trying to learn very quickly as the space evolves, is the client teams. So, basically, if you’re building an Eth2 client, if you’re building an Eth1 client, there’s really no business model for that, but it’s the infrastructure. It’s the plumbing upon which everything realized.
And so, there’s sort of a spectrum of things that will have a business model one day to things that will just never, ever, ever probably have a business model. And making sure that that core infrastructure is well-funded, or at least is well-funded as we can is super near and dear to my heart. So, Prysmatic Labs, Lighthouse, Nimbus, all have GitCoin Grants and unless you’re following the Eth2 clients then you don’t know who those are. But you’re certainly going to rely on them when Eth2 goes live. And so, those are my favorite teams that have gone through GitCoin grants.
When did they leave GitCoin grants? Yearn and Uniswap, those are all massive projects that don’t necessarily need funding anymore. Right? They have their own feedback loops. When do they leave? What’s the decision?
That’s a great question. And if you had had ask me on this podcast a quarter ago, when they leave, I probably would have fumbled through some answer in which I was thoughtfully weighing trade-offs about, “Well, how should we fund public goods in the Ethereum space.” But now that we’ve launched governance, I can say, “I don’t know it’s up to governance.” And I’m just so happy that we’re governed by the community that we serve. And I’m also happy that it’s not my decision to say it anymore. And so, I don’t know governance will figure that out.
I’ve heard some murmurs of basically having a criteria where if a project has raised at least X dollars and VC funded, they should no longer be eligible for GitCoin Grants or for a portion of the matching round. I don’t know if the community is going to ratify that by GitCoin Grants Round 10, which is in about two weeks, but I’ve heard some murmurs of that. And I’ve also heard some murmurs of, “Well, you have to be built on the Ethereum chain and not a fork chain of the EVM chain in order to be funded by GitCoin Grants.” And the community may ratify it. They may not. It’s out of my hands and I’m just here to support the conversation. I’m trying to take a page out of Italics book and stay out of the politics as much as possible. And just really focus on making sure the technology is built in and that’s where my focus is right now.
No, that makes a lot of sense. And before we go to the DAO and the governance side of things, let’s just close out the conversation on GitCoin to date. What’s the stat on how much funding GitCoin has driven today?
Yeah. We’ve done about $19.4 million worth of funding for Open-source software developers, that is over the last three years, although 80% of it has happened in the last year, because we’ve been accelerating quite a bit, which I’m very excited about. And, I think that two points that I’d make about the volume that we have is that finding a funding for Open-source software developers is a little bit more of a complex problem than like order routing, on say, like unit… well, I don’t know. Maybe we should cut this enter out in editing, but-
Yeah, don’t worry.
Yeah. So, like, the thing is that there’s $500 billion per year in economic value created by Open-source software, and we’ve only done $20 million over the course of three years. There’s like three orders of magnitude of growth ahead of us, I think, if we’re going to truly achieve our mission of funding Open-source.
Makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of crazy to think about the value that GitCoin has driven, right? I don’t know. What would you look at? I mean, the examples you gave are incredible, but are the projects that GitCoin has helped fund worth hundreds of millions of dollars or what metric would you point to, if you had to?
Totally. I think there’s value created, and then there’s value captured for a lot of these projects. And for me, it’s about we want to be the pilot light of the bear market. We want projects to be able to be funded by GitCoin Grants even if funding elsewhere dries up and survive the bear market, because that’s how you survive the bear and that’s how you make it into the bull market. And I think that the top line value of all the projects that have been accelerated by GitCoin is like the widest funnel that we could create. And I don’t know what that number is, but I’m super proud of the projects we’ve been associated with. And I just believe in this space so much in its ability to create a better world for so many people. And at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
I love that. And let’s switch over to the GTC launch. You guys launched the governance token this week. We’ve kind of discussed how people claim it, which I thought was awesome. I guess we could go into the dynamics of how this compute or we could go into… I’d rather go into like the use case of GTC token kind of long term, but let’s take this either way you want to go with it.
Yeah, totally. So, basically, the idea here is that you delegated your governance to someone when you got your distribution. And so, hopefully, we’re going to have an active group of between 20 and 50 of what we call stewards, who have the consents of the governed that are able to, I don’t know, do whatever protocol politicians do. This is all the bleeding edge and we’re still sort of discovering it. But the two things that are on my immediate horizon from a governance perspective is, “Okay, GitCoin Grants Round 10 is coming up. We know that we’re going to move $2 million, at least for GitCoin Grants Round. What should the criteria for the round sizes and who’s accepted into the Round B?” And so, I think that from a governance perspective, that is something that will be decided.
The other thing is that your listeners may or may not be familiar with this, but Vitalik Buterin just went through one of his wallets, in which he was donated a bunch of doggy coins, Akita and Shibi and took those tokens and funded the India COVID relief fund that the Polygon team is running, and they also funded GitCoin Grants. So, now we have $500 million worth of doggy tokens that we need to figure out what to do with. And that’s with active governance thing that the community is trying to decide. So, but anyway, the answer is governance to start, Tom.
Makes sense. And let’s just go back for a second because I think it’s worth noting kind of how you figured out with your team how to do this airdrop. It’s an incredible kind of way to… I just think it’s incredible how you guys figured this out. I know Asha from our side helped a bit, too, so shout out to him as well for helping. But how did you guys figure out the airdrop itself? Because I mean, the breakdown on the blog is incredible, right? You’re giving allocations to those who actually use the platform, but you break that down by kind of how active they actually were. It honestly seems like the most dynamic airdrop I’ve ever seen in crypto.
Totally. Yeah, I mean, so the thing that I’ll say about GitCoin is that we have almost four years of operating history. And in 2017, when everyone and their brother was launching an ICO, we just decided, “Let’s just ship a product that people love and focus on our community and finding product market fit. Why launch a governance token when there’s nothing to govern?” This is in 2017. And so, now we’re moving $6 million per quarter, and there’s all these governance problems like coming out of our ears. And so, we had we had scope, we had surface area for a governance token. And then the question becomes from there, “Okay, who do we want to govern the platform?” I’m a big believer that the consent of the governed is the only legitimate basis for a government as opposed to like the divine right of kings or something like that.
And so, the idea was just to have the community that GitCoin serves be the community that is governing GitCoin. And in order to do that, we sort of worked with Delphi Digital in order to come up with a distribution using the… I think we have about $19 million worth of history 150,000 users. And we have somewhere on the order of 100,000 transactions that have been facilitated by the platform. So, there’s a lot of raw material from a data perspective that we sifted through with your consultation. And I’m really happy to say that a lot of the token distribution was decided by my co-founders in by Delphi Digital and in consultation in the conversations that we had there.
And so, I’m super proud of the of the distribution of the airdrop. No one person got more than 2% of the year, of… I think was actually 1.5% of the airdrop. And if you look at the pie chart, like the pie chart has so many different colors on it, the pie chart of distribution that it crashes my computer. So, I’m pretty proud of how wide that distribution was.
Yeah. No. I appreciate the shout out. And no, we’re just glad that it worked out. well. I mean, I know most people probably won’t see the specific kind of numbers and breakdowns that went into it. But what I have to say is like, it’s definitely the most specific granular airdrop I’ve ever seen and we had the pleasure of helping to work on, so kudos there. And Kevin, just going down the line a bit like-
Do you mind if I just interject one thing, Tom? I’m sorry to interrupt you.
Yeah, of course.
GitCoin Grants is actually one of the foundational pillars of funding in the Ethereum ecosystem. And we’ve actually started to see other token airdrops that want to have a wide distribution for airdrops. And they’ve been emailing us saying like, “Hey, can you tell us how many grant funders contributed to this category? And what their addresses are and then we’ll ship that data off to them?” And they’ll include GitCoin data in airdrop. So, if you’re involved, if you’re listening, and you’re involved in a project that’s doing an airdrop and you want to reach some of the upper echelon of Ethereum community, then please reach out to us and we can help you out with that.
Anyway, sorry, Tom, go ahead.
No, no, it’s awesome. I mean, it’s a huge compliment, right? I guess what those teams are missing, though, is like you have a wide distribution, but you also have a very specific distribution. You’re giving more tokens to those who gave more money, who were more active on the platform, who actually are you’re differentiating between those that are here early, and those that have been here longer and those that have stayed on. You guys, I guess, are using the benefit of having, like a very successful and highly engaged community. And you’re leveraging all of that data for your airdrop, whereas I think a lot of new teams, they don’t have that data to even run with yet.
Totally. Yeah, that’s true. But I mean, we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants in this space. And if we can, and yeah, we’re building on top of Open-source and a lot of stuff pre-existed when we started. And so if we can pay that forward by helping teams with their airdrops, and I’m just super happy to do that. So, reach out if you’re in that category, and you’re looking for help on that, please. [email protected] is our email.
Awesome. And so, Kevin, what is actually governing GitCoin? I mean, I know we alluded to a couple of things here, like “What you’re going to do with some Treasury tokens that you guys got?” Which is incredible, but on a day-to-day basis, let’s say GitCoin is fully mature, fully decentralized, like, what are the GTC holders doing on a day-to-day basis?
Totally. That’s a good question. I think that we’re sort of learning about this future and creating it. And it’s much more of an iterative thing than it is something that we really have said at this point. And GitCoin operates on a quarterly basis where we run these grants rounds. We try some stuff and we see what works and then we learn from our failures and we try to get better every grants failed. And so, in my mind, governance looks a lot like that.
And beyond that, I’ll just couch my opinions and say that I am, but one member of the DAO. And I may be CEO and founder of GitCoin Holdings, the company that got this off the ground, but I’m just one protocol politician in the DAO over the long term. I think for me, basically what GitCoin is going to become is going to be a DAO of DAOs. We’re basically going to be where builders and funders come together to fund the open web. You’ll know that that’s the mission that we started with and it’s still the mission today.
And so, we’re just going to be where capital and labor comes together to build new projects that could be combo public private goods, and then accelerate those projects and then eventually govern those projects. And I can envision a world in which governors are deciding policy about what projects want, what criteria for the rounds should go out. I could see a world in which they’re proposing token swaps between the GTC Treasury and these other projects. I can see… basically, it’s about providing as much value to people who are building ecosystems. And also, to people who are building in these ecosystems is what I think the long arc of GitCoin DAO is going to be. And I just, I got my start 12 years ago, getting into startups by people who mentored me, and if we can pay that forward to the next generation of builders, I just think there’s no higher calling than that. And so, that’s the hope.
I love that. And Kevin, I asked you before, when projects graduate from GitCoined, but when do you think you’ll graduate from GitCoin? You have this GTC launch, it’s centralizing with the community. You’re obviously like you’re the, I wouldn’t say philosopher, because I know you don’t want to run with that, but you’re the guy that’s creating the mind engine here to kind of drive what the focus and mission is here. When is the day when you don’t have to work at GitCoin when the community really takes over? Do you see that as becoming a reality?
Totally. I think that, so this mission of building and funding Open-source software has just opened up a whole world to me of understanding how we can use cryptocurrency to build a better world to take us to the Quadratic Lands and to build regenerative finance as opposed to dGen finance. And I think that mission is in many ways my life’s work. And I will never get away from it unless we solve it in my lifetime, which would be great. But in terms of GitCoin, I am sort of mindful of, because I’m the OG founder that my opinion or something that I say could sway the DAO or be seen as meddling by an insider. I mean, it feels weird to think about myself as an insider, because I just look like the scrappy kid with a chip on my shoulder when we started GitCoin, but I guess, we’ve worked our way there.
But I see myself trying to create as many power vacuums as possible, and also, escalating, like elevating the people around me, so that they could do the jobs that I used to do, and then eventually letting it run on. It’s like the whole point of it being a DAO is that you’re anti-fragile and decentralized away from one person. So, maybe over the course of the next four or five years, we’ll see that happen, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop caring about the mission and wanting to work on the mission.
I love that. Now, you’re extremely passionate Kevin and I always love that and switching gears a little bit. One of the things that’s important is obviously the proliferation of multiple chains, multiple ecosystems, do you think GitCoin will expand beyond Ethereum?
So, GitCoin decentralized site and company has already done that. If you go to GitCoin and you post a new bounty, you will see that there’s about a dozen different Blockchain options in order to post a bounty. BitCoin, Binance, Harmony, Polkadot, Kusama Ethereum Classic, Zilliqa, Filecoin, Zelle, RSK, XinFin, Algorand. We also have PayPal in there. You asked about Blockchains, but we’re Open-source maximalists not any specific chain maximalist, although we are very thankful to the Ethereum ecosystem for giving us our start.
Makes sense, makes sense. And one of the other questions I had is like, I guess just, it’s kind of a vague question, but I guess projects and communities like whether it be Layer-1 or Nap or an NFT project, what have you, I think a lot of them eventually, one who go the full DAO route, right? Hiring the talent they need in kind of a decentralized trustless way. How would a project of the future like leverage GitCoin in an automated way, so that it can handle all of their hiring, all of their funding and everything happens on GitCoin like forever? Am I thinking of that the right way or is that still going to be like a manual process?
Maybe I’m old school. But I don’t think about trustlessness when it comes to hiring people. I think, “Can I trust this person and do I want to get a beer with them at the end of the day?” Yeah, but for us right now it’s just about having as many builders as possible join our community and routing them to projects that they’re going to love and that are going to love them back. When you’re hiring an engineer, there’s a non-fungibility aspect to it. You want to hire the right engineer for your project, not just any old engineer. And so, it’s really about building like if you think about it in a finance perspective, getting that liquidity and building an order routing mechanism that can just put people to projects that they’re a fit with is kind of like what I think is the data science problem that we’re working on here.
But I’d say if you’re listening to us, and you want to and you’re trying to build a company or a DAO then the best thing that, like the easiest way that we can help out with that is just running a virtual hackathon on GitCoin. They run for about two weeks and we can channel anywhere between 100 to 500 builders, depending on the theme of the hackathon to you. And it’s just really nice to like… I’m a big fan of when you’re first meeting hackers just talking to a lot of them, putting your API in front of them, trying to pitch them and just kind of taking a little bit more of a shotgun approach where you’re engaging with tens or hundreds of builders at a time and just seeing what sticks.
That’s how I got GitCoin off the ground. And that’s kind of what we offer as a service to these ecosystems. So, reach out to founders at gitcoin.co if you’re interested in running a virtual hackathon with us.
That’s awesome. And I guess, you kind of mentioned that, these people that are on GitCoin can work for multiple different ecosystems. Are there any concerns that come into play? And is there any way to police that? Let’s say I’m a dev test of building something for Uniswap, does this all happen publicly in the wild? Because I wouldn’t want like say, a Sushi swap team to go and hire that same person, probably.
Totally. Yeah, I think a lot about positive sum games in this ecosystem. And I think that one of the amazing things about like, it’s just the pie is growing so fast that it makes more sense to try to capture the pie as it grows for a lot of these teams than it does to like play the zero sum games against each other. And maybe Uniswap, and Sushi swap are two projects. They’re in a mature enough part of the space where they have to worry about it. But I haven’t seen a lot of that so far. I think everyone’s just trying to figure out how to provide as much value as possible to their ecosystems. And that’s what we want to facilitate.
Makes sense. And I guess one of my last questions for you, Kevin is what is the biggest issues that still exist with GitCoin? Is it operational? Is it technical? What are the biggest hurdles you’re attempting to solve over the next 12 to 24 months. And I would also love to hear your opinions on what the biggest hurdles are to getting people to take part, to donate, to fund grants, et cetera because you’ve clearly done a ton of work. But I’m just wondering, what keeps you up at night?
Totally. So, our highest calling is to fund public goods, to build in front of the open web. In order to do that we’re building a funnel, a DAO of DAOs that creates public goods funding experiments for ties to the ones that don’t work, and then accelerates the ones that do work. And then, we are basically the ones that are accelerating, helping them decentralize. And so, taking a look at answering your question, with that funnel in mind, we have hackathons and grants in KERNEL, which are mature products that are funding Open-source in the ecosystem. And we’re looking to decentralize those that they can be operated not by any one company, but be operated by the DOA.
So, that’s task number one. And there’s a governance to decentralization in that and then there’s also a technical decentralization aspect of that. Right now, we’re centralized AF. You got me, I plead guilty, we’re centralized. And so, rewriting that to be decentralized is a high order bit for me. And then it’s about accelerating as many builders as possible into their own career arcs. And whether that’s funding digital infrastructure or starting startups or just generally quitting their corporate jobs or their local jobs. And working for the open Internet is what we want to help as many people as possible do. And there’s a network effect to the GitCoin network where the more funders join GitCoin, the better it is for builders, and the more builders join GitCoin, the better it is for funders, and it’s just about building that flywheel and making it accelerate.
And I mean, over the long arc, I’d love to slay LinkedIn or something like that. I just think like a decentralized user governed platform that has a reputation data, it can route you to talent. Holy shit, that would be so cool. And so, on the long arc, that’s how I see things going, but we’ll see what the DAO decides is the priority. I forgot your second question. I know you asked me two questions, but I forgot what the second one was.
No, no. Frankly, me too. Your answer was incredible. I mean, just building off that, is there anything that a centralized company like LinkedIn could do to thwart your growth and success?
That’s a good question. If there is then we should probably figure it out and build something preventative to it. I mean, I don’t know. I think that LinkedIn… LinkedIn, the major problem I have with LinkedIn is that you sign up and you give them your reputation data and then they just sell it to recruiters. And they built a multibillion dollar business off of just selling people’s data and giving them no cut of it. And so, I believe that a more just version of LinkedIn would basically just be a crypto-economic protocol where you can upload your resume data and your contact information.
And the protocol could issue unlocked keys where people can contact you, if they pay a price that you specify. And 80% of that money could go to the person that’s being contacted and 20% could go back to the protocol or something like that. And so that, the whole problem with web-2 companies is that they work really hard to attract users, and then they hit their network effects, where their success is inevitable, and then they start extracting from them. And the cool thing about the Ethereum space is that you could build a crypto-economic protocol that works to attract people to the protocol.
And then because it’s immutable and transparent, the rules can’t be changed on you. And so, you go from attract to extract to attract and enable. And I think that that can enable more growth over the long term. And that’s sort of the theory of what we’re trying to do with GitCoin. And I don’t know how LinkedIn stops that, they already have a pretty big head start with their network effect of having more data than us. So, it’s just about catching up to that, so that we can compete toe-to-toe with them, I think.
That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I don’t really see much that they can do. I mean, my last question, because I want to ask while I have you is how do you, I guess, educate people on the differences, right? I guess if everyday people go on LinkedIn, are they okay with the trade off, right? They trade their data, they potentially get a curated job that they want. Hopefully, it’s not just like ultra-targeted, but how do you get people to kind of think along the way that you’re thinking about it versus just logging on and sharing data and getting a job?
Totally. I was actually talking a little bit about this with Nathan Schneider, who is a professor of Media Studies at CU. And we were at happy hour last night and we’re just jamming on, “How does a decentralized Uber actually be Uber?” And we were talking about this case study in Texas where Uber was removed because of some regulatory concern. And then, basically, a local co-op version of Uber sprang up in its place, but the whole problem was the out-of-town drivers would come in and they wouldn’t have the local co-ops app on their phone or something like that.
So, there’s a network effect to these businesses and I think that recognizing that that network effect is like the moat of these Web-2 companies is really paramount, because there’s only 5% of the population that cares about web scale co-ops and DAOs and stuff like that. You just got to deliver a better product, Tom, I think is the answer. And, the idealist to me isn’t, we’d like to think that we can make an appeal to morality or to reason that it would be much better if we did it a different way. But I honestly think that the answer is that people come to these, to Uber because they have a job to be done. They want to get from A to B.
People come to LinkedIn, because they have a job to be done. They want to get hired, or they want to hire someone. And you just got to build a better mousetrap. And I think we’re going to get… the reason why crypto is right now, the tools are harder to use than Web 2, but Web 2 has a 15-year head start. So, imagine in 15 years, Tom, in which we have all these composable tools, the Internet of money, that are all being assembled in unstoppable Blockchain networks that actually have network effects in them.
And I think it’s inevitable because of the compounding exponential growth of the Blockchain space that you have a bunch of… you have a million monkeys writing Shakespeare. You have a million developers that are building composable code in the Blockchain space, eventually, someone’s going to find a configuration that disrupts Uber and is going to disrupt LinkedIn. But they’re going to do it by building a better mousetrap. And the reason I’m sure of that is because of the exponential growth and the talent that’s pouring into the space right now. It won’t be within the next few years. But within the next 10 years, I predict someone will disrupt LinkedIn with unstoppable code and Blockchain networks.
No, no, I’m totally with you. And I mean, I agree with the foundation of your thesis, like that is [inaudible 00:44:16], people should control their data, the whole nine yards. The funny thing is, even if LinkedIn wanted to, I just don’t think like you’re a centralized company with a ton of bureaucracy and the other thing is I don’t think they’re built to do what you guys do on a data level, right? They’re built to steal your data, get a long-term job.
They’re not built to track small jobs, give you the next little gig. It’s not like a fast agile workplace, if that makes sense.
Totally. Yeah. So, here’s the analogy I would use. How come Kodak didn’t build Instagram, Tom? Their culture…
That’s a good point.
… or it’s their bureaucracy, it’s just so rooted in the old world. And it’s the same thing with LinkedIn versus GitCoin.
No. You’re totally right. It’s a good way to close out. Kevin, I love talking to you because you’re able to go so quick with answers and yet so deep. Takes me a while to catch up. I appreciate it. Kevin, tell people where they can learn more about GTC, learn more about GitCoin, go down into a grant and follow you.
Yeah, totally. So, if you Google GitCoin, I think we’ve finally reached the level of legitimacy where Google doesn’t autocorrect it to Bitcoin, so we’re winning there. And yes, so if you Google GitCoin, you will find gitcoin.co which is the site. Token claims are live for the next 28 days. And so, if you’ve used GitCoin in the past, please go claim your GTC in Govern GitCoin @ gov.gitcoin.co.
And the message that I would love to leave with you is that if you’re building a crypto ecosystem, if you’re building a dev team, then hit us up, we love nothing more than helping developers find the next protocol that they’re going to love building. So, if you need developers or if you’re a developer that wants the GitCoins, come check us out.
And thank you to Tom and Delphi so much for helping us build the economics of GitCoin DAO. I’m a computer scientist, and I’m only LARPing as an economist. And so, thank you for doing the hard lift, heavy lifting there.
Yeah. No. We’re happy to help [inaudible 00:46:17] and shout out to Asha up on our side. I just helped him out on the side a little bit. But really appreciate that, Kevin. I’ll link to everything in the show notes. And just shout out to you, man. You’re extremely passionate, altruistic founder. You don’t find them too often in crypto. So, love that and best of luck. We’ll stay in touch.
All right, Tom. Thank you so much.
(1:39) – First Question: Kevin, an EVM whisperer.
(2:15) – Gitcoin’s Elevator Pitch.
(5:32) – Gitcoin’s Mission.
(6:45) – Funding public goods on Gitcoin / Going from bounties to grants.
(9:12) – Gitoin’s digital infrastructure / Quadratic Funding.
(15:06) – Thoughts on how to get the feedback loop going.
(17:18) – Gitcoin and dApps.
(19:09) – Kevin’s favorite grants that had been funded historically by GitCoin.
(22:00) – Gitcoin’s stats.
(23:54) – Gitcoin’s Governance Token (GTC).
(30:00) – Thoughts on governing Gitcoin.
(32:09) – Will the community take over Gitcoin / Will Gitcoin expand beyond Ethereum.
(38:00) – Gitcoin’s biggest issues / Biggest hurdles to get people to fund grants.
(40:20) – Thoughts on centralized companies thwarting Kevin’s growth and success.
(45:39) – Where to find Gitcoin.