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DAOs: Social networks that may rewire the world

Exploring the brand new world of decentralized autonomous organizations


Around the Block from Coinbase Ventures sheds mild on key traits in crypto. Written by Justin Mart & Connor Dempsey.

What the web did for communication, DAOs can do for capital.

The web and social networks have made it simpler for like minded people to speak than ever earlier than, no matter geographic location. The appearance of digitally native cash and finance have now enabled a brand new type of social community that permits for like minded people to not simply talk, but additionally coordinate round capital. As with their predecessors, these new networks are unconstrained by geographic borders, able to forming at large scale or throughout a small variety of choose members.

Probably the most optimistic thinkers imagine that decentralized autonomous organizations can reinvent how people arrange and finally eclipse the dimensions and scope of the world’s largest companies and even nation-states.

On this version of Round The Block, we discover the present DAO panorama and massive questions surrounding their future.

What’s a DAO?

Merely put, DAOs are software enabled organizations. They permit individuals to pool sources towards a typical objective and share in worth creation when these objectives are achieved.

Simply because the LLC (restricted legal responsibility company) was the popular organizing primitive of the economic revolution, DAOs may be the identical for Web3. The place companies are rooted within the legacy monetary system and arranged by way of authorized contracts, DAOs run on prime of open blockchain networks like Ethereum, organized by tokens with their guidelines encoded in sensible contracts.

DAOs aren’t tied to a bodily location, which permits them to mobilize shortly and appeal to expertise from everywhere in the world — a notion that was on full show when the ConstitutionDAO lately raised over $40M from 17,000 contributors in lower than every week in a failed bid to purchase one of many authentic copies of the US structure.

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However DAOs can achieve this rather more than mobilize web pals to collectively bid on historic paperwork — they’ll rework how we arrange any method of financial exercise.

What do DAOs do?

There are already over 180 DAOs (tracked by with $10B+ in property below administration and almost 2 million members. These vary from DAOs that assist handle a few of the largest protocols in crypto, to smaller DAOs organized round funding, social communities, media, and philanthropic pursuits.

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Protocol DAOs

Ethereum led to an explosion of latest crypto property. From there, builders created protocols that allow individuals commerce and lend these new property (like Uniswap, Compound, and Aave). Nevertheless these protocols have been meant to be decentralized, which created a necessity to determine how you can govern their development and evolution.

Moderately than put each key choice within the fingers of a small staff of builders, protocol DAOs emerged as a approach to give a protocol’s customers a collective say in its future route. Sometimes, customers are issued governance tokens, typically straight based mostly on previous utilization and contributions, that convey voting rights. Any person can suggest methods to enhance the venture, and token holders can vote on whether or not or not the builders ought to transfer ahead with the proposal. Extra tokens = extra voting energy.

For instance, Uniswap token holders are at present voting on which layer 2 networks the decentralized change protocol ought to be deployed on. Token holders additionally suggest and vote on something from advertising initiatives to how Uniswap’s $2B+ treasury ought to be managed.


Governance tokens align the neighborhood across the future success of the protocol, as they need to respect in worth because the protocol grows — or fall ought to it fail.

As of December seventh, the most important protocol DAOs by AUM are Uniswap, Lido, Radicle*, Compound,* Olympus, and Aave.

Funding / Collector DAOs

The second largest class is funding and collector DAOs. These let individuals pool capital with the goal of investing in particular property. They vary from enterprise investments in issues like DeFi protocols or NFTs, to more and more formidable efforts like shopping for rare historic documents and even professional sports franchises.

Just like different types of crypto crowdfunding, these DAOs offer a fast and simple means of capital formation when in comparison with expensive and sophisticated authorized setups related to a typical enterprise capital fund. These funds are additionally extra clear than conventional enterprise funds, since members can audit all transactions on chain.

PleasrDAO, MetaCartel Ventures, Flamingo, Komerabi, are all nice examples of DAOs pooling sources, collectively making funding choices, and sharing within the upside when these investments respect. In an identical vein, Syndicate* is a venture constructing a set of instruments that allow anybody simply spin up their very own funding DAO.

Social DAOs

Social DAOs intend to carry like minded individuals collectively in on-line communities, coordinated round a token. The main instance is Friends With Benefits and its $FWB token. To affix, members should submit an software and purchase 75 FWB tokens. Entry comes with entry to a neighborhood stuffed with distinguished crypto builders, artists, and creatives in addition to unique occasions.

By organizing round a token, members have the motivation to create a useful neighborhood — share insights, host meetups and throw nice events and so forth. For instance, as extra individuals understood the advantages of becoming a member of the FWB neighborhood, the token appreciated in lockstep, sending the $FWB worth from $10 to $75 and subsequently membership value from round $750 to round $6,000.


Different social DAOs use NFTs because the mechanism for unlocking entry to a broader neighborhood. Proudly owning a Bored Ape NFT for instance, unlocks entry to the Bored Ape Yacht Club discord, occasions, NFT airdrops, and merchandise. On this case, the perceived worth of the neighborhood drives worth to the gathering of NFTs.

This class of DAOs are all nonetheless of their infancy and it’ll take time to be taught which fashions work and which don’t, however the speedy rise of those communities recommend that they signify a robust new highly effective type of social group.

Service DAOs

Service DAOs appear like on-line expertise businesses that carry strangers collectively from everywhere in the world to construct services. Perspective shoppers can challenge bounties for particular duties and as soon as accomplished, pay the DAO treasury a portion of the charges earlier than rewarding particular person contributors. Contributors additionally usually obtain governance tokens that convey possession within the DAO.

A lot of the early service DAOs, like DxDAO and Raid Guild, are centered on bringing expertise collectively to construct out the crypto ecosystem. Their shoppers include different crypto tasks and protocols that want every thing from software program improvement to graphic design and advertising.


Service DAOs can reinvent how individuals work, permitting a worldwide expertise pool to work on their very own time and obtain possession stakes within the networks they care about. Whereas early service DAOs are crypto centered, one can envision a future the place Uber is changed by UberDAO that pairs drivers with riders, whereas paying drivers an possession stake within the community (although it will likely be whereas earlier than DAOs built-in past the purely digital realm).

Media DAOs

Media DAOs goal to reinvent how each content material producers and shoppers have interaction with media. Moderately than depend on promoting based mostly income fashions, these DAOs use token incentives to reward producers and shoppers for his or her time with an possession stake in a given outlet.

The concept of decentralized media dates again to 2013 with the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” podcast, however BanklessDAO is a number one instance in 2021. Bankless is an Ethereum-focused media outlet that produces a well-liked podcast and publication. Just lately, the Bankless staff airdropped the BANK token to its viewers. With BANK acquired, readers can take an lively function within the media outlet and earn further BANK by producing content material, analysis, graphic design, article translations, advertising providers in addition to vote on key choices to direct the DAO.

At a time when many agree that the present ad-based media mannequin is damaged, media DAOs current a compelling different for realigning the pursuits between readers and producers.

Grants/Philanthropy DAOs

Grant and philosophy DAOs, just like funding DAOs, pool capital and deploy it to numerous endeavors. The one distinction is that allocations are made with out the expectation of a monetary return.

Gitcoin is a pioneer of this mannequin, supporting grants for critical open source infrastructure that will in any other case have bother getting funded. Equally, massive protocols like Uniswap, Compound, and Aave have particular grant DAOs that allow the neighborhood vote on how their treasuries may be deployed to pay builders and builders to additional the protocol.

Philanthropy DAOs are additionally beginning to emerge to re-imagine how charitable donations may be made. Dream DAO for instance, issued NFTs to boost funds earlier than letting NFT holders vote on how these funds ought to be allotted in direction of the DAO’s mission (funding civic leaders in Gen Z).

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The hurdles for DAOs

As this more and more numerous panorama reveals, DAOs can turn out to be the organizational primitive of Web3, reinventing how we govern, make investments, work, create, and donate. Count on to see the classes, quantity, and high quality of DAOs evolve dramatically sooner or later.

That mentioned, they’ve an extended approach to go. Contemplate that DAOs are primarily tasked with reverse engineering a whole bunch of years of classes realized from democracy and company governance! The dimensions of the problem is palpable, and at the moment we acknowledge four predominant deficiencies:

  • Lack of authorized/regulatory readability
  • Lack of environment friendly coordination mechanisms
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Sensible contract, fragmentation, & sustainability dangers

Lack of Authorized/Regulatory Readability

Companies have at all times been rooted in a selected place, with their proper to exist bestowed first by monarchs, and finally by cities and states. Those self same municipalities have at all times set the foundations that companies of their jurisdiction should abide by. Provided that DAOs don’t exist in anybody place and don’t function like companies, they don’t match cleanly into current regulatory frameworks.

The place the foundations round forming a brand new company whereas defending members from sure liabilities are effectively outlined, DAOs should grapple with all types of thorny regulatory and authorized points. How are DAO tokens and treasury actions handled from a tax perspective? How ought to revenue paid to a DAO member be reported?

Within the US, DAOs are at present confronted with a faustian cut price of forming an LLC in a selected jurisdiction or being handled as a common partnership. The previous undermines a DAOs capability to be ruled by guidelines encoded in sensible contracts in favor of ordinary LLC articles of incorporation (and being restricted by the constraints of current LLC legislation). The latter probably exposes members to liabilities by way of the partnership, which might in any other case be protected by the “restricted legal responsibility firm (LLC)”.

All of this uncertainty makes it tough for DAOs to work together with non-crypto/Web3 entities, which is a serious detriment. Wyoming has pushed ahead laws that can enable DAOs to function on the identical authorized footing as conventional LLCs whereas permitting them to be ruled by their very own sensible contracts however has been met with SEC resistance. In the meantime, a16z, and OpenLaw have proposed clear authorized frameworks for governing DAOs, however DAOs must proceed to function in a gray space for the foreseeable future.

All of this uncertainty underscores the notion that within the close to time period, DAOs development will doubtless be concentrated purely within the digital realm — the authorized complexity will get amplified when DAOs try to crossover to the bodily realm (e.g UberDAO).

Lack of environment friendly coordination mechanisms

There’s a cause companies and governments don’t have each worker or citizen weigh in on each choice — it’s a extremely inefficient method of getting issues finished and never everyone seems to be certified to take action.

Company hierarchies exist since you typically want certified individuals making the onerous choices. Many DAOs at the moment exist below considerably crude governance constructions the place 1 token equates to 1 vote. In bigger DAOs with 1000’s of token holders, this will result in chaotic choice making processes the place voting energy is extra a perform of shopping for energy than experience. Equally, unappointed however high-profile members can achieve outsized affect over choice making.

Most agree that for DAOs to be actually efficient, they’ll should discover developments in governance constructions, like shifting to a delegated authority mannequin, the place token holders can vote in certified leaders to make key choices in a clear method (one thing Orca Protocol* is exploring). Within the close to time period, it’s doubtless that DAO governance will stay messy and chaotic as they experiment with completely different fashions earlier than finally determining what works (very like the lengthy experimental path from monarchies to democracy).

Lack of developed infrastructure

Simply as companies take pleasure in clear authorized frameworks and environment friendly choice making processes, in addition they profit from extremely developed infrastructure on which to function. DAOs alternatively, are tasked with constructing most of that very same infrastructure from scratch.

DAO instruments for governance, payroll, reporting, treasury administration, communication, and each different useful resource on the disposal of contemporary day companies are nonetheless nascent. Fortunately, the DAO tooling panorama runs deep, and there are a whole bunch of groups engaged on tackling these deficiencies throughout a spread of approaches.

There’s too many nice groups to call however on the governance tooling entrance, we’re enthusiastic about Messari’s* new aggregator for monitoring and collaborating in governance all from one interface.

Sensible contract, fragmentation, & sustainability threat

It’s onerous to debate DAOs with out referencing “The DAO:” The primary ever DAO on Ethereum, designed round enterprise investing in 2015, that had 40% of its treasury hacked and drained of $60 million. Because the latest $130 million exploit of BadgerDAO showcased, DAO treasuries stay susceptible to sensible contract threat.

Equally, the most important crypto networks have a historical past of fragmentation brought on by division from inside the neighborhood. The Bitcoin/Bitcoin Money cut up was brought on by a technical dispute over blocksize. The Ethereum/Ethereum Traditional cut up was brought on by disagreements over how to reply to the above talked about hack of “The DAO”. It’s affordable to assume that we’ll see the most important DAOs face related headwinds.

On the opposite aspect of that coin, how sustainable are DAOs come one other attainable crypto winter? Will individuals proceed to be enthusiastic about DAOs when token costs are regularly falling, treasuries constrict, and each participation and membership dwindles?

Re-wiring the world with DAOs

Whereas obstacles abound, DAOs signify a paradigm shift in financial group. If Web3 is to turn out to be an web collectively owned by its customers, DAOs would be the organizational primitive during which that possession is metered out.

2021 has seen a renaissance in new DAO experiments and fashions. In the meantime, the panorama of tasks and firms constructing out the tooling wanted for DAOs to achieve their true potential is among the many richest within the trade. (Coinbase Ventures is actively investing within the DAO panorama, with quite a lot of offers within the pipeline — attain out should you’re a venture pushing the DAO panorama ahead!)

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Ought to these traits proceed, we might at some point see the most important organizations, enterprise companies, media retailers, and establishments constructed not on authorized contracts, however on open crypto networks. As crypto UX improves, DAOs might very effectively usurp the LLC as the popular mode of group in an more and more digitized world.

PS — Search for extra DAO centered services coming from Coinbase within the close to future.

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