Understanding DAOs: Tools, Governance, Pain Points and more

Founding members of Agora DAO, Reka and RAZ share the current state of DAO tooling.

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Background

Mint Season 3 episode 12 welcomes the founding members of Agora DAO, Reka and RAZ. Their vision is to supercharge Web3 adoption by creating gasless, multichain, and platform-agnostic solutions, without sacrificing decentralization or privacy.

  • 0:00 – Introductions
  • 2:13 – The Origins of Agora
  • 5:47 – Digging Into DAOs
  • 8:04 – DAO Tooling 
  • 11:25 – Biggest Pain Points in DAOs
  • 15:09 – The DAO Stack
  • 18:23 – Increasing DAO Adoption
  • 22:55 – What’s Next for Agora?
  • 24:37 – Outro

…and so much more.


Thank you to Season 3’s NFT sponsors!

1. Coinvise – https://coinvise.co/

2. POAP – https://poap.xyz/

3. Socialstack – https://socialstack.co/

Interested in becoming an NFT sponsor? Get in touch here!


Introductions

Réka and Raz, welcome to Mint. Thank you so much for being on. How are we feeling? 

Réka: Really good. How are you? 

I’m good. Raz is like smiling in the corner. All right, guys, let’s just jump right into it. The first question I always ask is tell me a little bit about yourself. But, more specifically, what were you guys doing before crypto and where are you now? 

Réka: I’m Réka and I’m originally a veterinarian. Now I build DAO tooling, a really funny story. I’m not going to go in full detail, but like, along the line, I had my own sustainable agriculture startups. I have a little bit of startup experience in web 2.0. I ventured into digital marketing and social media for a little bit. So that’s kind of how I got into this, like being the people’s side of co-foundership here at Agora. I got into crypto on a random volunteering trip when I was in Sweden for a bit, and the host I was staying with knew all about crypto back then in 2016, I was like, whoa, this is cool. So I got familiar with Ethereum then, and then I was following along with the development of things and how the whole market and everything changed and got heavier into it last December, and we started working together this January. Then we co-funded Agora Space and here we are.

Raz: Yeah, and then that was after Réka and got into Forbes for an interview because we knew each other from high school, but then she created this environmentally sustainable startup. 

Cool, and Raz, what were you doing before crypto? 

Raz: Yeah, so I got into programming when I was just six years old because my father was co-founder of the first Hungarian internet provider company, or one of the firsts actually in the early nineties, and because of this I basically grew up on the internet and played a lot of massive multiplayer games. That’s how I learned first about trading and then how to operate like a bigger group of people over the internet. And my interest in virtual economics was very messy, and so I discovered Bitcoin in 2011, and then got into this space with all my savings in 2014. I started a small software firm, which then quickly grew out into a 20 plus people operation, but I also run the family office where we invest in early stage companies in this space. 

The Origins of Agora

Oh, wow. So actively building, actively investing. Réka, you were a vet before, like what is going on here? What a cool team, what a cool dynamic. And I also know you guys have a bigger team behind you as well that you guys are kind of co-building at Agora, what’s the story, I guess, with forming that? Because I remember when you guys launched, you already had a product, right? You had already had a team, you already had these things. As you went to market, typically, it’s just two co-founders, three co-founders kind of like pushing their vision into life, but you guys had a foundation. How did that come about? 

Raz: Yeah. We have a very heavy tech background in the team as well, and most of us are developers. It was really a lot of experiments and for a while the main purpose of the software firm was to build experiments and the exciting new tools for ourselves and for our portfolio companies and to support our investments. When yield farming became a thing, we built our first cross chain yield farming analytic tool, and when the DEX became a thing, we built our own solution, like a member system trading contractor. So we built a lot of different things, even did some ecosystem development for some chains. But to get more deal flow, I participated in different venture DAOs and investor syndicates. I started going through concerns about the tools they use because these communities had a lot of high net worth individuals in small groups discussing all sorts of sensitive information. 

Honestly you never know what happens in the background. It’s private, okay continue. 

Raz: Especially the tool called Collab Land, and I basically just as usual, wanted to create something like Collab Land, but actually make it open source for our own use so we can adopt it and recommend it for our communities. That was last December. We discussed it with a couple of DAOs, they were very, very interested. So we built it in January, but then we quickly realized that token gated access and later NFT gated access and just access control in general will have a huge impact for not just token gated access for discord and telegram, but in many different places, and it’s going to make going to create a lot of different new markets for monetization for artists and all sorts of different things. So we started doing more experiments regarding and around this topic. We also wanted to bring a lot of different mechanisms around DAOs into social media where people actually are because I’m a huge DAO fan. DAO is what initially attracted me to Ethereum and how people coordinate together. I invested in a lot of different DAO frameworks and I am still actively exploring them and trying them out and always trying to be on the edge of these DAO technologies and DAO tools. But what I was really missing is massive user bases when I saw that only these nerds used the DAO frameworks for the last couple of years and we really want to onboard more people to DAOs even without letting them know that they are even part of the DAO. 

Which is a whole nother conversation that I actually want to have with you. But before we get into that, investing through a family office. What’s the fund called? 

Raz: The firm itself is just called cryptocurrency.

And it’s a blockchain and crypto only fund? 

Raz: Yeah. 

And you said, how long have you been investing through that vehicle? 

Raz: Through this vehicle, only like two years. So it’s fairly new, but I’ve invested in many different things since 2014. 

Digging into DAOs

Another question I want to ask you guys is it takes a certain individual to join a DAO and to kind of fall in love with DAOs. Réka, you were a vet. You were working with animals, and Raz I mean, you’ve been programming for what feels like ages, but still. What is it about the DAO that kind of aligns with you guys organically? Like, what is it about that framework, that coordination framework that gets you guys going so much so that now you’re building for it, right? It’s always interesting to kind of hear about how people are wired. So I’m curious to hear from your point of view.

Réka: I think what really, really struck me when I first heard about what a DAO is, is the automatic aspect of it. So I really love how it gives the freedom for the communities to not be like that kind of bound to an organizational structure, but they can vote and discuss things. I am a big fan of starting organizations, I did a little bit of that in university. How I experienced it was so closed up. Like you had this basic structure to follow and I hate it, and I’ve never been at a corporate job, but, you know, I have friends who have been and a lot of other people, and I could never, and I really like how DAOS allow you to basically form companies within almost like friend groups kind of, and have this aligned vision and just work for it from different parts of the world at the time that suits you best. And you have this full freedom of operating in a way that suits that group the best. That kind of struck me first, and then of course I realized all the other potential that it holds. First, like this whole freedom that it allows people to have is what was crazy new to me, and I was like, okay, we have to get on this. I then dug myself deeper in that rabbit hole.

Yeah, it makes sense. 

Raz: Honestly, I hate paperwork, so that’s probably the most important point, but other than that, I always seek out for more freedom and DAOs make it possible to automate in a much deeper sense. Every aspect of a corporation or a foundation or any organization over the internet. So that really attracts me in the line of my vision about the future of the internet. 

DAO Tooling 

Let’s pivot to Agora. What are you guys building exactly at Agora? On the site, it talks a lot about tooling, but that’s also a very broad word. What does tooling kind of mean for you guys and what are some of those initial products that you guys have laid out? 

Réka: So at Agora, we’re basically like the studio of building all of these tools. And what we try to do is build this set of composable tools that are very collaborative and give back the ownership and sovereignty to the founders and the groups themselves. So that kind of is aligned with what got us into DAOs first. Like having this complete sense of sovereignty and freedom for the groups and the founders to do what they do best and do it in a way that suits them. And so we are doing very simple tools that are lacking in the space. If you go on Twitter or anywhere, you see all the problems that DAOs have, like the organizational side, and the governance, and rewarding mechanisms, communications, and time zones even. So there’s a lot of things that need to be solved. And so we started with gated access. That’s kind of like our first cornerstone. That’s like our first step. And then we have a few other tools planned for onboarding, education, and also transforming back to communities to help them through the gate and start utilizing web 3.0 opportunities. So that’s where we’re going.

Raz: To summarize what we are doing, we are building an accessibility layer to Ethereum DAOs and everything around DAOs without sacrificing decentralization or privacy. That’s very important. So we built very user-friendly tools with that user centered design, but still our focus is on keeping the core philosophy behind Ethereum. 

Makes sense. So what would you say is the current state of DAO tooling? Like where are we right now? Cause we’re seeing thousands of new communities pop up, living on discord, living on telegram, WhatsApp, iMessage, whatever platform, right? And then opening up multisig and then opening up snapshots or tallies or any governance from discourse, or whatever it may be. And like everybody’s at like their foundational layer and they need more tools of automation and tools to kind of get them going, so where are we in the world of DAO tooling right now? 

Raz: I think since snapshots, we have experienced a huge boom on the off-chain parts. So there are a lot of new tools now for DAOs, but for off-chain computation basically. What we aim to achieve is to make a bridge between the blockchain and the social media accounts or any platforms or games, the circular information flow. So not just off-chain tools based on activity on blockchain, but also on chain settlement based on activity in social media, in games or anywhere else, physically. So we wanted to create these tools which are really off chain, but eventually work the same as on chain tools, and launching frameworks. 

Réka: I think on a scale of one to 10, I think we’re at a three. Like, it works, it’s okay. We can make it work, but we talk with a lot of founders and community like heads and this space, and also like us forming a DAO ourselves now, it’s a lot of struggle still, and we have a lot to improve on. 

Biggest Pain Points in DAOs

What are the biggest pain points right now? And it could either be from the end user’s point of view of joining an organization or from an organization’s point of view of setting up that organization, right? 

Réka: I think from both points of view. Like starting at a DAO, let’s say you join a DAO that’s already like 300 people, and you’re at the brim. How do you get closer in towards the inner circle and find ways to contribute? Cause you really like the vision. They made a good point of getting their vision on Twitter, and you love it and you’re aligned with it. But like how do you find ways to actually put value there and contribute to them and start working together? I think, for me as well, like I joined a bunch of DAOs and like Discords on a fairly regular basis. If you really, really want it, you can find ways and find the right people to message to get a job or have something to do for them. It’s very hard for users, I think. From a manager’s point of view or the core community’s point of view, they see a lot of people coming filtering in and how do they make sure that, you know, the right people get the right access to things and they can safely have them come closer. So it’s the same issue from two sides. I think that’s something from a social perspective and with tooling as well that we should work on a little better. 

Raz: I think the biggest struggle comes from, as we are trying to innovate on two fronts simultaneously, one of them is the technological front. Obviously we have a distributed ledger and it makes everything different, but on the other hand, people still try to innovate with the social part. They try to be better philosophically and that’s very, very difficult to do. So I would advise them and we always try to innovate just on one side and copy the other from existing mechanisms.

Réka, I like your analogy of saying that we’re at 3 from 1 to 10, right? 10 being like the whole world is tokenized and 3 is like, we only have like a few thousand communities adopting this model. What does five look like from your point of view? 

Réka: I think, when it takes founders way less time to spin up a community and kick it off, and for users to browse and find the communities that are best aligned with their personality, their mission, or their skillset as well. Cause I think users can participate in a lot of DAOs at the same time. So now you can participate full time or like part-time in one or two meaningfully and then have like five others that you visit on a weekly basis and have another then that you don’t actually do anything, you’re just part of the discord. And I think we could do a lot more and do a lot of work. But I think to be a five for that process, to be way more open and accessible and easy to understand, step by step is something that we have to work on. And it’s also like a language barrier as well, because everything is in English. I understand that the younger generations are, you know, fluent without even putting too much effort in it or they’re pretty good at English, but yeah, I don’t know, like making it more accessible. It’s a first world thing.

Is there a bot that translates discord messages to any language?

Réka: I don’t know, maybe. 

All right guys, new opportunity here. Hit Réka, Raz, or myself up. If you’re building this, we want to hear more. So that’s a five. What does an eight look like? Raz, what do you think an eight looks like in terms of adoption? 

Raz: Probably hundreds of millions of people, at least. For that,Discord is probably not enough. So we have our own platforms at that point. 

Réka: I think Discord is probably not enough for a five. 

The DAO Stack

Interesting. Next question. When you’re starting a DAO, you guys obviously have a lot of purview into the tools and development that kind of take place to form a DAO from the ground up. What does the tool stack look like right now? What does every new decentralized community need to kind of get started? What does that look like? List it out for me.

Réka: You could use a few of them, but I think I see a lot of communities using certain tools. You need some sort of voting mechanism for governance and they usually use a snapshot. 

Raz: For treasury it’s better to use on chain mechanisms instead, but yeah, that’s difficult for now. 

So multisig, some governance. What about automation, and reputation, for example? What does that look like? 

Réka: I think we’re just exploring that. I think that’s not in the basic toolkit. I think communities that are a little bit more mature and have a little bit of experience in running the DAO, they’re exploring the reputation system. I think it’s still very new. I see a few projects that are utilizing that like colony, or you could do it to some extent and coordinate for example. And I think that’s something that we should definitely work towards to have this reputation system, because that gives accountability to people long-term to actually perform, not just come in, say they will do something and they don’t provide. So that’s definitely necessary. So yeah, I see an emerging number of DAOs starting to use that, which is very promising. 

Raz: Source Cred is promising as well. 

One thing that also, I think is super unique about you guys is obviously you’re building products in this space essentially, right? Like consumer products for crypto, and you mentioned earlier that we need to find ways to lower the barrier for meaningful contribution, lower the barrier to entry. What does that look like from the point of view of design thinking for building products? How do you guys think about that? 

Raz: So first we don’t want to force the users to leave their desired place, likeDiscord or Telegram. So we want to bring everything inside the chat room. I think one thing we meant before to mention in a DAO stack is that you will definitely need a communication channel as well. It shouldn’t be token gated in every case, but it’s good too if it’s token gated. Yeah, so you need a communication channel and I think it’s still heavily underutilized what you can do with it. It shouldn’t be just the channel, especially in discord, for example, right? There are emoji reactions that you can use eventually to do votings and all sorts of different stuff. The most important thing is to leave everyone where they are already and don’t force them to go to a website or something like this. 

Réka: Can I just add to that? Let’s use less of a hardware wallet situation, because for example, what I don’t like about using snapshots all the time, I don’t really cause I’m lazy, and the point is I have to go to a different website. I have to use my hardware wallet, and that’s like at least two points where I get lost and lose interest. And I think one point is bringing everything to where people are and people are active and have the conversations, which most of it is of course off chain, and it should be that way. And also to kind of find ways to use less hardware wallet action, to minimize that to the maximum. 

Increasing DAO Adoption

Got it. So minimizing the use of hardware, as important as that is, it really risks user experience is what you’re saying, right? I also think part of that is you’re required to hold these assets in a hot wallet, to an extent, to kind of have a seamless flow of an experience, and that within itself is highly risky. Just having so many tokens and so much money in a hot wallet so I agree with you. You know, I think we’re so early with where we’re at. I think it’s very fair. I’d even say, I think we’re at a 2, like maybe like a 1.5, to be honest. But I think the point is like, we’re very early on, on the spectrum. What do you think is missing to kind of get us to that next level to get to the five? Like what steps? What progress, what tools, what interactions, you know, what I mean are missing to kind of reach that next level of adoption? 

Raz: I think what’s missing really is, is not some specific tool itself, but more like the way these already existing tools could cooperate and share data between each other. And that’s obviously not possible if these tools are not open source or cannot be self hosted. So I think the missing part right now is to have an integration layer between all of these different tools or have a suite of tools that cooperate and share data already. 

Réka: We’re trying to do both.

How do you kind of tackle both at the same time? 

Réka: Well, we try to create tools that are interoperable between each other and also make them open source and have APIs for them so that we can have the maximum amount of integrations with other tools and projects and platforms in this space and on the internet basically. I think that may be a good approach, obviously I’m biased, but I think that’s a good approach of maximizing collaboration between DAOs, between communities and tools at the same time. Because that can kind of quicken this whole thing of, we have less tools or we have too few, or this problem is not solved. As Robert said, if they can communicate on the backend and make the user flow way more seamless and maybe find a way to connect it back to the channels and they are using the same tools, but it’s somehow connected back in a way.

Raz: This could also create lazy scenarios. When I use it, I don’t necessarily have to do something immediately, but I can do that later, and I think that’s very important for the next step. 

I think something just like trying to dig through your words, is that better funnel of bringing a user in from one destination to another. And one thing that we were talking about behind the scenes, I think it was even yesterday was, a lot of these let’s say creators that want to build their own creator DAOs, that want to explore modern day fan clubs, all their audience lives on social media. And they only really have 2 calls to action. They have that swipe up on Instagram or a link in bio, right? Or if they post a link in a tweet, still everything is like taking them from one platform and leaving that platform to go to another platform. And that entire funnel from just like entering a community to kind of like making your initial contributions, that entire funnel is really broken. It’s very multi-step. You know, and if you look at web 2.0 solutions, you think of their funnel. Let’s say you’re doing a drop shipping campaign. You’re selling, I don’t know, Christmas lights for the holiday, you open up a Shopify page, you’re on Facebook ads. Every single interaction, if your page doesn’t load fast enough, you will lose user drop off like 50%. I don’t know what the metric is, but it’s really high, right? If one button doesn’t work people leave, right? And I think a lot of products are failing to kind of take into consideration what you said, like optimizing for that user journey. Because it’s one thing, making it super easy for a community to start a community, it’s another thing making it even easier for their audience to join that community. Is that kind of what you’re referring to? 

Raz: We always talk about the onboarding of the next few millions in the next year, and that’s kind of something that creators talk about or founders talk about, and that is a crucial step in that. Because people don’t want to leave their usual platforms to try a new one. It’s weird. It looks different. I have to use my wallet. You have to try to do that, and you can’t just do it when you’re in the bathroom. You have five minutes to do it. People won’t do it if they have to sit down, read everything, think everything through. It takes a lot of time. So we have to make it as smooth as possible for creators and everybody to basically funnel their user base back into some web 3.0 thing so they can start utilizing all the goodies that are available in web 3.0. 

What’s Next for Agora?

You know, the first thing that comes to mind when you mentioned that is one, the point of basically building products for two different audiences. Right now, you, I, us, we don’t care eating shit to kind of enjoy the pleasure of being early adopters. Like we’ll go through those additional steps because we have a lot of curiosity, we understand what’s like the opportunity here, right? A lot of other people, and this also comes in tact when discord teases us with their Metamask integration and then kind of being like, Hey guys, we’re actually not doing it because all of our web 2.0 users that kind of run discord in our core audiences and users for a subscription model, they gave us shit for it and we don’t want to risk losing them because we have a SaaS model, you know? But then there’s this small web 3.0 audience that’s kind of like using discord as a way to just kind of bootstrap cause it’s the only thing available. And I think part of what you’re saying, from what I’m understanding, is like it’s also building for that right audience. That web 2.0 audience has different needs, preferences, and wants compared to that web 3.0 audience, you know? And I think part of making a better funnel is kind of capturing both sides of that market without even realizing that they’re joining a DAO to begin with. They’re just joining a community, right? Guys, I know we’re running out of time. Really quick before I let you guys go, I guess I have one final question for you. What’s next for Agora? What can we expect? Cause I know right now you have guild.xyz. What’s coming up next? 

Réka: So we have two MVPs ready. We’re not going to put them out in the open yet. Guild comes out of alpha state now in December, which is fun. The next tools are focusing on onboarding, so that users don’t really realize that they’re doing it, but they get rewarded for every step and it’s much smoother, and for fundraising.

Outro

Cool, amazing. Best of luck! Before I let you go, where can we find both of you and Agora in general? 

Réka: Twitter. Like we’re doing the full web 3.0 thing, so you can find us on Twitter at @L1sp3r, @reka_eth, @AgoraSpaceDAO, at guild.xyz. 

Amazing guys. Thank you so much for joining me. We’ll for sure have to do this again at some point once we’re at stage five, hopefully, but this was fun. Thank you so much. 

Raz: Thank you so much.

Réka: Thank you so much, Adam. That was a blast.

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