Contextualizing the DAO Landscape with Joey DeBruin

Joey Debruin, founder of, explains the overlap between being a neuroscientist to building consumer applications in web3 for DAOs.

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Mint Season 5 episode 10 welcomes Joey DeBruin, founder of, who explains the overlap between being a neuroscientist to building consumer applications in web3 for DAOs.

In this episode, we discuss: 

  • 00:14 – Intro
  • 00:05 – Understanding Joey’s Interest in Token-based Communities.
  • 07:25 – Biggest Challenges in Starting a DAO
  • 09:55 – Improving Education Around Crypto
  • 12:15 – How to Find Your DAO’s ‘Why’ and Purpose
  • 15:17 – How to Build a Minimum Viable Community
  • 25:50 – Understanding the DAO Scale
  • 35:42 – Traits of a Good Community Manager
  • 38:44 – Current State of Social Tokens
  • 45:50 – Best Practices in Reaching Anonymous Collectors
  • 56:26 – Outro

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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Joey, welcome to mint. How are you doing?

Joey DeBruin: I’m doing well. Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Thank you for being on. Thank you for being a part of season five. How does that feel?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, a lot of history. So, it’s kind of see if I can live up to it.


I know better, it’s better than Ellen. That’s what I tell everybody. All right. There you go. The way I like to get this thing started is with a quick intro. Okay. So, for those who don’t know, you, and they don’t know what you’re working on, who are you, Joey? What does the world need to know about you? And more specifically, how did you get your start into crypto?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah. So, I’m Joey. I think what the world needs to know about me is that I started out as a neuroscientist, and so I still very much take like a scientific approach to, I think, for better or worse, everything that I do. I’m currently the founder of a company called backdrop, we basically help people launch and participate in tokenized communities. And I got my start in crypto actually, as a writer, so I was writing a newsletter and I wrote actually originally about sea club, and kind of like, why the article was like, why I think the crypto for YC will be bigger than the original. And yeah, just like founder of sea club reached out and was like, you know, no more writing, like start doing, which was awesome. And, and that’s kind of like pulled me and I started work for some DAO as you know, experienced the pain points there. And then, you know, I’ve been like a product builder for a long time and just needed to build something like I just had this urge and that’s how we started building backdrop.

So, neuroscientist, that’s not something you hear every day, I usually hear like X RuneScape player tends to be like a lot of the silver lining, but how did you go from studying neuroscience to then transitioning into product building and crypto, I feel like it’s like two completely different worlds.

Joey DeBruin: There were a couple steps in between. So, I left science, because I was just frustrated with the way that like the system of science works and I started working, I moved out to Silicon Valley and kind of like worked at a few companies there. And yeah, so I think generally speaking, I’ve always been really excited and interested in kind of like public goods, and how do we make it easier for people to, you know, follow their passions, which is exactly what being a scientist is all about. And that’s kind of what has brought me back, you know, I think to crypto now, it feels like a coming home. For me in some ways. I think a lot of like the ethos of the space is very much rooted in academia. And yeah, I still have some long-term aspirations for what we can do with academia and crypto.

So, did you fit you finish your studies studying neuroscience, and you also practice as well?

Joey DeBruin: I was in a lab. Yeah, doing a lot of like, you know, slicing of my brains and staining like very non sexy, moving clear liquids into other clear liquids was kind of like, so I did that for a while. But yeah.

What would you say the similarities are between, I guess, being in the lab to building products? I feel like there’s a lot of underlying similarities.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I mean, I think in general, like, what feels very similar to me is that a lot of people think that, like, science is this, you know, just like wandering down the various paths like undirected just learning curiosity, it’s actually the reverse. So, people, you know, scientists have a belief, and then they basically try to disprove that belief via experiments and so, it doesn’t actually work in the other direction, you can just like, have random experiments and figure out like, you know, what you believe. Same thing with building a product. So, I think you have a belief, you have a vision for the future, and then you just run as many experiments as you can and iterate until you get there. So that process, I think, is very similar, which is why I think a lot of scientists are attracted to that kind of entrepreneurial work in general.

So, when you kind of jumped into Silicon Valley, then I guess, presumably working at startups or bigger companies.

Joey DeBBruin: I worked like a garage startup, basically.

Oh really?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, my first, that was, you know, 10 years ago.

Doing product?

Joey DeBruin: Actually, doing growth. So, my, basically, I called my friend, and I was like, you know, I’m pretty frustrated in the lab. Like, I feel like this bureaucracy, I had some pretty bad experience. I was like, these really bureaucratic experience. Like, this is not how it’s supposed to be. This is like, you know, entrepreneurialism at, like, at its worst, and he was like, hey, there’s this thing called growth. Like, it’s basically you can still be a scientist, you just run experiments, but, you know, there’s no bureaucracy, and you can move at the speed of your ideas, like rather than experiment costing millions of dollars and taking, you know, two years it cost like $10 and takes, you know, 20 minutes, and that was, it was just the right pitch at the right time. For me, I was like, yes, like, that is what I need. And so, I had no idea what growth was or what product was or any of that and it just like knew that it had experiments in it. And I was like, well, I’m good at experiments like, I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Understanding Joey’s Interest in Token-based Communities.

Yeah, I feel like there still lacks a lot of solid products in crypto, I’m still tainted by the defi days where it would be like the curves interface, and it’d be like old windows. And then all the interesting steps that you’d have to climb through just to submit a transaction, all these signatures and all these experiences that are still pretty, pretty bad today, but early adopters have kind of swallowed the pain for the upside. So okay, jumping into crypto wrote about Sea Club got justice attention, who’s also think he was a part of season two of the podcast, big fan of what they’re doing at Sea Club, I also hold the sea tokens. I’m part of the M Club as well as the M Club, are you part of that? I assume you are as well. Yeah. So, I’m a big believer in Jess, I’m a big believer in Sea club. But I guess like, to your point why you had to initially write about tokenized communities? What is it about like the foundation of a token-based community? Like why the natural alignment towards it?

Joey DeBruin: For me, I think I’m most attracted to the ability for people, creative people to follow, like what their interests are, and I think in the modern world, the scarce ingredient to that is basically helping people go from zero to one. So, I think if you’ve been like a builder of any kind, or creator of any kind, you just, you know how excruciatingly difficult it is to get something off of the ground and I think the magic of crypto for me is basically like, you know, lowering or Lacoste to that like first meaningful piece of traction, because there is like a community is aligned with you from the very beginning. So, you know, I always like thought about as like a newsletter writer or something, it’s like those first 10 subscribers that are with you, like, they are as much like on your team, and they’re as much like your investors as they are consumers and I think like, that was what initially drew me to the space. And I think still, what is actually most exciting to me is how do we just help more people launch interesting things, follow their passions, and like kind of like leverage community ownership to do that.

Biggest Challenges in Starting a DAO

So, I guess you’re also from what you told me like an active participant in DAOs. You mentioned that there’s quite a bit of challenges with DAOs today, I’d love for you to kind of like take a swing at breaking them down. Like what are the biggest challenges? Because DAOs is very much romanticized. In my point of view, I say this a lot on the podcast, like more people want to start a DAO, than actually necessarily participate in voting to help grow collectively a DAO with a group of people. What, from your point of view are some of the biggest challenges in starting a DAO today?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I think one of the biggest challenges is that DAOs is, you know, like, at least in our current conception of them, they are big and complex, like multi layered beasts. So, if you want to really build like a self-organizing community, that takes a lot of effort, and especially, like, so many DAOs have lost have grown so quickly, that the work of really like building that process just takes a lot of time and there’s a lot of chaos involved. And if you think about, like, the different layers of the community onion, you know, there’s like a core team of whatever, five or 10 people that are typically like, really steering the ship and making sure that things are moving forward. And then there’s, you know, a much wider group of, you know, supporters and contributors, and then there’s even wider groups of people that are interested and all of those people are kind of, like, thrown into the same soup, I think, in a lot of places. And, and to me, that’s partially just the nature of the game. And it takes time for those processes to be built. But I think it’s also because the perceived cost of creating, you know, communities is really high. And so, and the actual cost, I think, as well, which means that you kind of need to have these, like big, you know, hefty organizations that then take on a lot of overhead, where I actually think that like, over time, we’ll see much smaller, more granular, kind of more focused communities be like more of the dominant model. So that’s one of the problems I see right now is just like, there’s very few DAOs that have traction, and the ones that do have just a huge number of people that are interested in them and they’re just kind of drowning in that a little bit.

Improving Education Around Crypto

So, one thing you mentioned that you’re excited about is the education side of crypto, I think with better education comes better knowledge and better participation, better contribution, from your point of view as someone who went through academia so intensely, and seeing probably what good education looks like, what are some of those missing components that you think Cryptos lacking? That could I guess, better the entire ecosystem as a whole, from a DAO point of view, from an adoption point of view, from a user experience point of view everything? Like, what are your thoughts are on that?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, there’s a lot of answers to that, I will tell you the one thing that I’m thinking a lot about now is there. I think there is like a fundamental mismatch between the people that are excited to create something or to launch an experiment or to launch a community, and the people that actually have like the tools and network to do that. So, if you think about this as like, a marketplace for ideas, there is like, I think a large like there’s like a market failure in that, there’s actually tons of people like everyone’s like, oh, the crypto space is small and yet it’s small. But there are definitely millions of people that you know, are really excited and passionate and want to create something, want to like, see what it’s like to build something of their own. But the number of people that can actually build something that have the resources and network and knowledge to do that is super small. So, if you were to go out on the street, and you were to ask someone like, hey, do you have an idea for maybe not the street, maybe like the crypto Street? Do you have an idea for, you know, something that you that you’d like to see in the world? Like some experiment that you think would be cool, I think generally you’ll find the answer to that is yes. But then if you ask like, okay, how would you get that done? By and large, you’ll find people saying, like, I don’t really know. And I think to me, that’s like the biggest missing educational and kind of like, UX piece, right? Like, I think these tools that crypto is building are, generally speaking, they should be to make things more seamless, more frictionless, more permissionless and more like lighter, like more fun. So, I think you the experience of using them right now is the opposite. So that’s both like an education and like an implementation, you know, aspect that we I think we need to work on.

How to Find Your DAO’s ‘Why’ and Purpose

Yeah, I think with starting any community, you first have to find the why like the purpose as to why the community should exist and the why ultimately finds those initial few contributors and of joining the community. And then to which a token may be issued, where incentives are aligned, and then you grow harmoniously. Hopefully they’re on after, but finding the why right, finding that underlying purpose is quite difficult. There’s only so many groups that have found the why that may have otherwise done like Treasury diversification, rounds, issued tokens, brought outside investors, etc. And I think this may be like more of like a human question like, how do you find your purpose? How do you find your why, but from an organizational point of view, how do you actually find your why like, why? How do you find that question? Okay, and I’m trying to phrase this correctly? How do you find that reason why you should exist? And then from there on out, find the first few people that align with that purpose? Like, what’s the process of doing that?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I think what you’re describing is something that we and someone like sometimes internally talk about as, like, the minimum viable community and, I mean, that is like, not as sometimes people think about minimum viable community and like the kind of like 1000 true fans sense, which is like, hey, like, you have something that you’re building and you need, like, a core group of people to help support it, and then kind of just be your diehards. But I think a little bit differently, in the sense that the most important thing that you need in the beginning is people to like battle test and refine your vision for what it is that you want to do. So I think there is like, in general, there’s too much of this feeling that you need to when you start something like know exactly what the 10 year vision is, or what like the, you know, world changing impact is, I think there’s that’s like a myth also, that comes from people post rationalizing, you know, whatever, Jeff Bezos and being like, oh, yeah, he could have he foresaw, you know, Blue Origin from the first day that they launched a Book Marketplace. It’s like, that’s, frankly, bullshit.


Joey DeBruin: And so, you know, like, the way that we experience I think communities and projects is typically at the first moment is when they like, launch and put a stake in the ground and say, like, this is who we are, this is what we’re doing. And I think actually, the most important moments are actually before that. So, it’s that group and the way this happens in the kind of the quote unquote real world now is like you have the people who are lucky. Like they have some core network of people who they can bounce ideas off of, and they can get feedback on, and they can iterate and learn and then they get to the point where they’re like, okay, this is that, you know, like, let’s go out and do this. And I think there’s just a huge number of people that don’t have that kind of a community and so, I think that’s like the minimum viable community to actually building something purposeful. Is that kind of like initial core group?

How to Build a Minimum Viable Community

Yeah, I, that’s something that we talk a lot about on the podcast like the MVC, like, how do you build that minimum viable community? And everybody has a different answer. And the only reason I keep asking you about community related things, because backdrop the core, like, core reason why it exists is to support these tokenized communities, which I’ll let you talk about in a minute. But one thing that stood out to me about backdrop, it feels and I’m looking at it, my screen over here, like it feels like the aggregation layer, to DAOs and everything that a DAOs kind of needs it’s there, at the top, from governance, to participation, to who’s doing what, who bought what, and it feels very much like this, this really fun and friendly feed, that allows you to keep up with the day to day of your community. Right. So, I guess, like transitioning into backdrop, like, did I did I tackle that correctly? What am I missing here?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, you did. That’s totally kind of what we’ve been building, I think, like, you caught us at a good time. Because, you know, we were kind of three months after our launch. And I think we’ve been able to, like, we’ve been lucky to have like, a lot of success momentum and think about, you know, what is like the next major push for us, and I think where we started is exactly what you mentioned. So we believe that, you know, the world is networked, especially like now more than ever, and I think that when we think about web three, and DAOs, and all these kinds of communities, there’s often like, sometimes it’s easy to be like, okay, these are new organizations that like, oh, you know, that kind of like, there are these walled gardens for people to live in and do stuff in. But I think in general, like, they are more like, you know, think about community as overlapping clouds. And so, you know, if you and I are part of two of the same communities, and also two different communities, like, what is the experience that we want, and I think it’s much more like people centric than it is, you know, just a community centric. So that’s what we wanted to think about building. And so, what we do is we, basically, aggregate key information from all the different communities and projects that we can find and we put it into like a people centric network, so that the experience for you Adam is like, just, you know, to be able to have one place where you can go to discover and keep up to keep up to date with communities that you care about. And just make it easier for you to participate and you know, to be to belong, I think like, as we are, you know, going forward, we actually want to take it one step further, which is to, like I said, like help more people create new communities, new projects. So, we want to actually extend the value that we’ve built to stuff that’s even earlier and kind of even newer. So that’s kind of like the next major milestone for us is that we think about our long-term vision of like, making it easy for everyone to participate in web three. Part of that is making it easier to connect with your existing communities and then I think the next major frontier for us is like helping you actually go out and launch something brand new.

So, let’s talk about those last two points. So, connecting with the communities and helping you launch something brand new. So, what’s missing today that would, like I guess, better connect one another, like individual people within a community together? Like what do you think is missing? Like what are some of the core problems because right now community live on Discord? Like being able to manage a community through Discord is very daunting, very overwhelming and quite frankly, I hate it. Like I love my family on a mint Discord, I love you guys to death. But it’s very hard to actually build a community, let alone empower other people in the community to do something and to kind of Co-contribute to something all you have is a bunch of servers, right? Again, this is not to shit on Discord more so to realize that there’s a set of users that have different needs and wants, that a new product may be better suited for them kind of thing. Are you thinking about it the same way? Obviously, I assume.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah. I mean, I think one thing like, just to say, I mean, a lot of people have kind of I think position backdrop as like an alternative or competitor discord, we actually don’t internally see it that way. Because I think communities always need like a place to just like, hang out, like you need a place that it’s like the coffee shop or something like you can always go there and you can hang it on, there’s gonna be people there. But I think what makes communities like really powerful is their ability to bring people together around like discrete information and moments. And so that’s the kind of stuff that and you know, Discord or conversational tools, like they’re just not built for that, and I think they’re not optimized for that. So, they’re optimized to be the coffee shop that where there’s always going to be chatter, there’s always going to be the sense of vibrancy. Whereas what we want to think about optimizing for is you know, how do you bring people together to create something magical. And so that’s, you know, what we the kind of information that we look at is different. So, we think about, you know, events and governance and announcements and all these kinds of key moments for our community, and how do we make sure that their people are able to come together over those? And I think that’s, you know, so again, I would expect that communities always have a, like a multiple of different tools and I think we just want to be one of them that’s really focused on information as opposed to conversation.

Yeah, a core component of these tokenized communities is the concept of ownership, which I think ownership is very much still a gray area in Web three, depending on what you tied into, for example, a lot of season four of mint was about music, NFTs, and music industry in general and the concept of what you actually owned when you purchase a music NFT whether it’s rights, royalties, whether it’s just purely the collectible itself that sits in your wallet is very much a gray area. Does some of that still exist with like ERC 20 base communities, for example, because I’m looking on the site here, because I see like doodles, I see all sorts of communities, but a lot of the ones that I aligned with that I initially joining the beginning, prior to NFT communities popping up or like ERC 20 based communities, right, is that concept of ownership, still a gray area as to in terms of what you own and the level of ownership that you have in these communities?

Joey DeBruin: I mean, I’m not sure if this is going to answer your question. But I think one of the things that’s most challenging, and frankly, most exciting about building backdrop is that we want to, like build at the absolute frontier of the data that is currently available, and we want to build products that are delightful and easy and fun at that frontier. And the reason for that is because we view our like role in the ecosystem as helping push that frontier forward. But the challenge is that right now the kind of information that we can get, that we can get, you know, on chain or an open place is almost, I mean, it’s predominantly ownership, right and so, lots of people have talked about this, but if you want to build like, a social product or a product, like we think a lot about, like engineering, serendipity. So, we want to find like, areas in which people are, you know, share interests or share excitement, or, you know, share community, right, and we want to actually spark new things there. So, in those serendipitous moments, but when you just look at ownership, it’s a very, like, blunt instrument in order to do that, right. So, there’s no difference between people that earn tokens versus buy them, there’s no difference between someone who, you know, like, is so obsessed with this one community token that they just versus like, someone who maybe bought it and doesn’t like it anymore, but doesn’t want to sell it, because they think it’s probably going to go back up, and then they’ll sell it right. So, like, we don’t have any of that kind of information right now. And it, you know, it’s just a challenge. So we’re always looking to like, add utility and add joy, and add delight around the data that we can have, and also work with the ecosystem and work with people to think about, like, what’s the next step? Like, what is the kind of information that we need, that will allow us to build like one step further is basically we just really believe in the value of like an open interoperable web three ecosystem, I think, like all of us, but and so we have to kind of like work with what we’ve got in order to take like, one step forward, I think that’s what makes building products in this area, like, just super challenging, and, but really fun.

So, working with all that data, it’s real time data, for the most part. Have you discovered, like, any interesting insights by analyzing and working alongside so much data and so much different diverse data?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, that’s a good question. I don’t know, if we have, like, you know, just game changing insights right now, I think we, there’s a couple of things that that we know, which are maybe obvious, like, we do know that people, like we’d look at a lot of how people want to, like, reflect them represent themselves and I think what we find is that generally speaking, people want to, like layer their contribution to multiple communities in order to, like present themselves, right. So, if you look at someone’s profile, and like, you know, for example, like simple data that we get is like allowing you, we have all this information in your wallet, and it’s kind of like, okay, what things do you want to highlight? What things do you want to hide? You know, what projects do you want to pin? What projects do you want to remove? So we give people that control and I think through that you really can learn like, okay, I think for us, between three to five probably projects that people tend to be like, okay, this is a decent representation of me right now, and that changes depending on like, whether someone is like a casual contributor to these communities who was the founder, the founder be much more likely to just say like, this is it, this is my project, that’s all you need to know. So, I think like we have learned a lot about that, again, it’s not as maybe not shocking, you know, these are things that are fairly intuitive, but it’s good to actually get the hard data on it.

Understanding the DAO Scale

You know, one thing that I’m seeing in the creator economy, as I guess, more traditional creators try to form these tokenized communities or DAOs, there’s a spectrum to DAOtification, there’s a completely decentralized, which I’d argue not everybody is just yet to just a token base community where the creator is at the center, I’d argue my communities token based on the creator, creating content for an audience and I reward them with non-transferable NFTs here and there every single season and there’s a spectrum to it. So, from your point of view, how do we get more creators, more of these creative entrepreneurs who want to use these primitives, these DAO primitives to kind of like move across the scale were from completely centralized to like just a token-based community like myself to decentralization? Like, how do we move from that scale?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I mean, first of all, I don’t think that our view is that like, the ideal is for every community to be fully, you know, I don’t want to say even decentralized, but like democratic like that. So, I actually, I mean, I think one of my, I don’t know, spicier takes, I guess, is like that. I think democracy is the ideal for physical, like nations, and maybe not the ideal for digital ones. Because I think it just democracy is like synonymous with bureaucracy, and a lot of ways, like, you need a lot of process in order to do that. And I think a lot of communities like don’t want necessarily to process, they just want to hang out and like use and like do stuff together and that’s actually very hard to do. So anyways, I think it’s like you said, it’s a spectrum and I think it’s more about where do people want to exist on that spectrum in terms of like, how we get more creators into the space? I think, right now, like the dominant way that a Creator would think about, like, do I want to do crypto is like, you know, do I want to sell some kind of like speculative asset, and I think that is probably not like a supernatural Mindspace for most creators to be in. And it’s also puts an extraordinary burden on the Creator to, like, continue maintaining the value of those things. And so, you know, I think we, what we need to do is to, yeah, just like simple, good, good, like product, like UX work, right? It should be like, okay, what are you trying to do? Like, what values are you trying to provide to your community? And then, like, how did these technologies and tools actually just help you do that in a way that you couldn’t before. So, you know, if you want to, you know, if you have, like, a 1% of your community is like, loves you a ton, and you want to offer them some, like unique, you know, benefits or special events or whatever. You know, like, yeah, you can do that. And you can do that with crypto in a way that’s going to be better maybe then like, without and I think that’s like, should be the first just like, do stuff that’s fun and light and simple. And, and that’s like should be the entry point, not like you okay, launch what is essentially feels like, you know, some large financial asset.

Yeah, that’s a lot of my hesitation. Personally, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from the community lately, like when you get to do an NFT, when you’re going to do a social token, when are you going to take this thing and make it more web three native and like, we’re moving slowly, here, we’re only issuing more like Soul boundish tokens where they’re nontransferable and solidify your participation in the podcast, and to really try to source my most active contributors and listeners, and then try to figure out a strategy down the line, how to tie in all that value together. And one thing we chatted about, because you bring up this, this concept of speculation, which could be a point of resistance for a lot of creators, because like, wow, there’s gonna be a publicly traded asset about me. Yeah, there’s ways to make money, but how do I actually maintain and manage this thing? This concept of a soul bound token, which you and I, we talked about behind the scenes? Do you have any, like, thoughts on that something that metallic recently pushed out as, like this new primitive that might be viral in a couple of years?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah. I mean, I think like, one of the things that, you know, we obviously have been thinking a lot about is that, you know, there’s a lot of signals that you want to give, you know, to a community that are not financial, that are really, I think, as a product, like building products, that’s one thing you’ll experience very acutely is like the wow, if only there was more data in the space that wasn’t so inherently financial, it’s like, it basically just blurs, like, all of the lines that you would want to draw. So, if you want to say like, hey, like, here’s a community that, you know, some people might really care about, alright, who are those people? And that would look at all the token holders. Well, it’s like, well, some of the people really care about that community. Some people just like think it’s going to make money. And so, I think like the, you know, the value of soul bound tokens, and these kinds of like nontransferable primitives is that we can build products and experiences and you know, that are not so inherently fine. Actually, like our lives as humans are so much less financial than our lives as crypto people, right, and that, I don’t think that’s how it needs to be.

And the other but like, the other aspect of this that I think about sometimes is, I think there is this paradox in a way, when you think about things that are really early, right, so a lot of people, like, you know, I was talking to Jeanie, at Coin buys, like they, you know, issue they, you know, tokens, NFTs to tons of people, and we were talking about, like, when is the right time for a creator to launch a token. And I think the general recommendation from people is like, not for a while. And the reason for that is because like you said, you want to have a vision, you want to have a clear purpose, you want to have a community, you want to like set up all these things. And if you launch a token before that all of this, like financial speculation and pressure or whatever, kind of like drowns out your ability to do all those things, it just adds a ton of noise. At the same time, like, if you have been in this space, you’ve experienced this like magic moment where like, there is something in your wall that you care about, like that is a just a truly magical moment. And so, what’s the balance between those two things, and I actually think soul bound tokens are the way forward for a lot of people, which is like, let’s say, I create a community. And I say, hey, I’m going to issue like, some soul bound tokens to you all, because you, you know, you’re in my early group, and you’re helping me out and so there’s no financial benefit to these, this is just symbolic, it’s just like you are part of this.

And, you know, there is real value to that. And it also allows you to build on chain data that you can, or you know, open data that you can then use down the line, if you do want to like launch something that has financial value, it’s also nothing wrong with financial value, right? Like when you get to the point where you want to launch NFT, and you want to distribute it to people that, you know, we’re supporting you along the way. Great. So, I feel like there is an opportunity to let because the right the alternative to that, by the way, is to just say like, hey, like, we’re not going to issue anything, you’re only going to help us build and then don’t worry, like, at some point, we’re gonna launch the NFT. And we’re gonna send it to you all right, and that promise is meaningful. But it’s not the same as if someone is like, cool, like, look at this, solidified you know. So, I think there’s a real opportunity to now build like, those kinds of experiences that allow people to delay or defer anything that is like financial, but also still, like, build that real connection with their community, with their audience.

Yeah, there’s a lot of questions that I still kind of like have around like Soul bound NFTs, like, the purpose of them. For those who don’t know, from what I understand, it’s like, they’re soul bound, like they’re bound to your wallet. And they’re nontransferable by nature, to kind of apply to all different types of use cases. Like there’s like collegiate used cases for like degrees, and whatnot. There are mint season pins, so you can prove your participation on the podcast. There’re all sorts of like, used cases, but I’m like, I’m always like, here’s okay, like how do you buy soul bound tokens? Like what does that entail? I guess it’s one initial transaction. But what does the value like how does value accrue to it from there on out beyond just solidifying participation? What happens if you die? Like what happens to your soul bound tokens if they have value, for example, and all these like interesting, like questions that have yet to sort of be discussed, I guess, on the concept of data, one of the most interesting things for me at the moment, is kind of learning more about who your collectors are on chain. For me as a podcaster. I know where my audience comes from on web two, I know that a lot of them come from Twitter, a lot of them come from organic search results on Google, etc. I know very little as to who they are on chain, which is like an interesting concept. Like we have like Nansen, we have dude analytics that provide very, like transactional data, right? What’s trending etc.? What are the recent spikes, wallet, etc. But I’m interested to know, who are my collectors, like, who are they, as addresses, as anonymous people or pseudo anonymous people on chain. And one thing that I’ve noticed about backdrop is it creates more context to the entire ecosystem and allows you to see who these community members are, which is incredibly interesting from what they participated into what they voted on, ensure you can find these things manually. But when it’s all aggregated and condensed into like one sort of funnel, it makes them more enjoyable, I’d argue.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think it’s so important, like, and I think the, you know, whether you call it like the unbundling of ether scan or something, yeah, you could take the same underlying data, and you could bring it into like so many different contexts. And it depends on what you want to do. So, like for us, like, what the context that we want is for you to understand someone so we don’t like necessarily, you know, want you to know how much money they have, or we don’t want you to know like it In our case, like how good of a trader they are like, it’s more like, do you want to work with them? You know, who might they have already worked with, like, those kinds of like questions. And so, we just take that data and we contextualize it in a very specific way. And I think every time, every time you try something more specifically, like it gets you closer to the actual, like, someone’s actual intent. And I think right now like, something like an ether scan, or whatever, it served for every intent, it’s just like, here’s the underlying data. And so yeah, I think there’s a huge opportunity for, and this is such, what’s so cool about this open ecosystem is you can take the same data, it can be open to a lot of people, and you can recontextualize it in so many different ways and build so many different products on top of it.

Traits of a Good Community Manager

Yeah. Speaking of tokenized communities, wherever every community, there needs to be great community managers. And some can call that like centralized leadership, depending on how they lead is incredibly like important for the sustainability, for management, for day-to-day operation, etc. in a DAO tokenize company, whatever you want to call it. But you’ve been a part of many dollars, you’ve seen the rise and fall for sure of DAOs. From your experience, Joey, what is a good community manager entail? Like, what is a good community manager profile look like?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I think there are, so it’s such a difficult role.

It is difficult.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah. And I think like.

By the way, also incredibly high in demand as well, because everybody needs a community manager.

Joey DeBruin: Yes, totally. And I think like, one thing is, you need to be able to, like think in systems because the community is really like a system. So, if you’re like, I think they’re really good community managers understand that what they are doing is like building the spaces for the community to exist, not necessarily like managing the community, like someone in a factory, like manages a factory. So, I think good community managers are often like, well have like a design background, or like some design, you know, tendencies. And then, you know, the other one is just being able to really like, be like, tolerate a high degree of uncertainty, because I think community managers are always like, working at the edges of, you know, what is currently working in, you know, in any given space. So, you know, and to me, I think that also is like, in some ways, a design skill. So, it’s like, can you understand all the different, you know, flows into and out of your community? And can you really empathize with people who are in very different moments than you’re currently in? So, I think like, you know, it’s funny, sometimes you talk to like a founder of a DAO, you say, like, what’s the experience, like for joining your DAO? And they’re like, oh, you know, you go through this onboarding thing, and then you join, and then you like, you know, vote on a proposal, and then you maybe submit one yourself, you’re like, oh, it sounds really nice and then if you talk to someone who like, you’re like, oh, you just joined that DAO? Yes. Like last week, they’re like, What? Like, you’re like, well, it’s like being thrown into a cocktail party with like, a million people that you don’t know. And like, everyone’s shouting at you. It’s like, okay, well, that sounds you know, different. I think it’s, that’s like partially a joke. I think it’s really about being able to like to step out, and almost like re-experience things over and over again, that makes people like really good at design, but also really good at community management. Because your vision for what you are and like, where you may be like, where when, like, when you join the community, it was like maybe what small, maybe it was like super nice. And maybe now it’s like really chaotic. And I think you just need to be able to, like remove, like step outside yourself in order to do that.

Current State of Social Tokens

Yeah, I think one of the primitives for tokenized communities and DAO are slowly transitioning to membership passes, versus like ERC. 20s, for example, which was the typical norm for a lot of these early phase are V1, V0 DAOs. That kind of came about in the last year and a half. How do you feel about social tokens? Like there’s conversations online, I’m still incredibly bullish on their specific purpose, I think the last year and a half kind of showed us where they fit in better in terms of the entire lifecycle of an on-chain community. But what are your thoughts like, are we still bullish on social tokens as being like the introductory asset to form a community? Should they come later down the line? Do you think they’ll still be a thing where creators are tokenizing themselves? All sorts of speculations?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah. I mean, you know, I think in general, I’m still bullish on social tokens and kind of, like fungible tokens in general for a lot of things. I do think that I mean, there’s a few things that I think we’re seeing that makes sense to me. One is that communities like if all you have as a social token, then you basically are incentivized to growth like forever. So, I mean, if that is the way that you essentially sustain yourselves, then, you know, it puts this huge pressure on the community to keep growing in a way that I think a lot of communities don’t need to. So, you know, I think pairing, you know, those kinds of like scarce, whatever assets, that maybe more like are symbolic for ownership and governance are these kinds of things with, you know, like, Season Passes view and NFT that you can actually use to build like, essentially revenue, like, communities. And I think like these are not brand-new concepts to communities or to clubs or whatever, like, if you join, I don’t know, like, Country Club, or you join a social club, like, it’s actually.

It’s monthly.

Joe DeBruin: Yeah, you pay monthly, but you might also like, so I think like the, like a timeshare or Country Club is like an interesting model where it’s like, maybe it cost you $10,000, to join, and then you have to pay monthly dues. But then if you if you leave, like two years later, and now you know, the price of joining is $20,000, you get to like you change your 10,000 to 20. So you’re both like, yeah, you have to pay for the upkeep of that community, every week, every month or whatever. But you’re still also like, incentivized to make it better, and to make it more attractive and to help it grow. So, it’s not one or the other. I think it’s like, it is the balance of those two things that feels sustainable to me long term. So, you don’t want I think, if it was just like, every season is a new NFT. And that’s it. Like, you know, there’s no, there’s no permanence. There’s no like, you know, like long term perpetual ownership, that’s also not as interesting. It’s just like, it’s just subscription. So, I think to me, it’s like actually pairing those two things that’s most powerful.

Yeah, I’m curious to see how social tokens kind of evolve. And in 2022, especially with the new concept of soul bound, Soul bound tokens, and what that really means. I think the best, of course, always widely used as board, APE Yacht Club, and how they’ve kept like strategically introduced every single collectible, which could be considered as a membership pass, in many cases, for this grandiose vision of building some type of like gaming, or Metaverse, and all the little like, cookie crumbs that kind of came with that. So first you buy the avatar, that’s going to be the metaverse, and then your avatar is going to mutate. And you can have the opportunity to buy that and you’re gonna have a little pet like a dog. And then from there, you got to live somewhere. So, you got to buy some land. And if you buy that land, you might get another friend this way. I forgot what it’s called. And this entire narrative is like unfolding and with that they’re generating revenue. But they also have this DAO formation that’s kind of carried out through the governance token, right. So that’s one model. Another model that I really love is Daniel Allen’s model, where he crowdfunds, I think, crowdfunded, 150k, 180k, in like 48 hours, we did a whole entire episode or series on that, but basically how you get your entrance into His club via the social token, and then you kind of earn by the consistent revenue that gets accumulated by the sales of his music NFTs. So, he does like a 50% rev share, and half of that goes back into the treasury. And with that the members get special perks and interesting access, etc. So yeah, yeah. What are some of your favorite models that you’ve kind of seen prevail being a part of so many groups online, let alone hosting and being a home to many groups now on backdrop?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, well, my favorite models, I mean, I’ve been thinking a lot about like, media organizations, and like, what is the nature of like a more decentralized media organization going forward, I think we’re lucky to work with and just like, have close connections to, you know, organizations like global coin research, or water and music, or dirt DAO or at least kind of like, you know, different models for building really valuable content communities. And I think what is interesting to me is that it’s not about decentralization or centralization. It’s about thinking about, like, the process of building a really great brand, and which elements of that need to be decentralized and which elements don’t. And so, it’s a much more systems level, like, so if you talk to Sherry from water and music, like, you know, actually editorial, her view is that it should be highly centralized forever. And I actually tend to agree with that. So, if you think about the consumer experience of a media company, you want to know, like, what are you going to get, like, what’s it going to feel like? What’s the vibe, what’s the voice? But there are elements of that, like, if it’s a research organization, for example, it’s like finding the coolest stuff to be talking about or finding all of the data or you know, even like soliciting contributions for different kinds of people, having a more flexible or fluid model of contribution, like all those things can be highly decentralized. So, I think when I think about, like, you know, what is the DAO that’s going to, you know, be the next New York Times like, and it’s going to be the biggest media? Or like, what’s the DAO it’s gonna be the biggest media organization in the world. It’s certainly not like a just democracy of people voting on what they think is the coolest article, you know, it’s like, it is much more sophisticated, much more nuanced than that. And that’s what I get really excited about is that I think it’s this like systems level thinking where you can, you know, put together these different building blocks from the old world and kind of like more decentralized approaches and recreate them into something that’s really interesting.

Best Practices in Reaching Anonymous Collectors

Yeah. Another thing that I noticed on backdrop, there’s a big problem in the space where it’s hard to get in touch and get context on your collectors in terms of their activity. And I think it is a big challenge for everybody. Because part of like, web two is having a CRM and being able to message people and being able to have cookies and see where what everyone’s doing, where they are, etc. I think it’s a really interesting insight and feature that makes backdrops so powerful, and on the concept of contextualizing a lot of things in the ecosystem. So, I guess my question to you is, what is the best way to get in touch with anonymous collectors?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, there is no great way right now, I think that, you know, we do kind of, like, enable that in the sense that, you know, people give us ways to contact them on backdrops, whether that’s their email, or whether they just want to use kind of like backdrop via wallet connect. But then, you know, there is this, like, benefit that accrues over time where like, if a new, if they were to select acquire, like an NFT, from a given community, right, they will just automatically start getting updates on backdrop or to their email or whatever. So, they only need to, like connect that thing, one time on backdrop, and then like, but that’s not the only way that this will be done. I think there’s a bunch of protocols that are being built, you know, to do kind of like, you know, messaging, you know, that is wallet connected or wallet aware. And, and so I think there will be a variety of different ways that people will connect with, like their collectors, eventually. The other thing that I’ll say is like, I think we, we’re excited right now, like when you think about understanding who you know, your collectors or your community is, the way that works on backdrop is like, you can see everyone that is holding the token, you can go to their profile, you can check out who they are like, you can see their Twitter connections and their whatever, like so they build their profile and I think that’s really cool. I think like, there is a level in between what we have now and like dune, you know, so dune is like, okay, it is like very just like data-oriented analytics, if you want to see, you know, who holds whatever, C club tokens, and also these other tokens, like, what are all of those wallets? I think, you know, we’re really thinking as, like some of the new features that we’re building of ways for people to kind of hit that middle ground. So, you might need to launch a poll that says like, hey, like, you know, not like a, you know, full on governance, you know, vote but like, hey, we’re thinking about building X, Y, or Z, like, which would you guys’ think is cooler? And you know, people vote on that. And then you’re able to, like, look at some analytics, like, okay, like, you know, what are the kinds of data from people that voted yes, versus voted no. And I think there’s just like, very interesting, again, like middle ground between what we have right now, just like individual people focused and then what like a dude would have, which is like full just like aggregate data focused, I think that that middle ground is where like, community can be really powerful.

Let’s take it to the next level. Because a lot of this data is just out there. It’s one thing to have the data and to find the data, it’s another thing to know what to do with the data. Something that I’m incredibly excited about is like when AI and machine learning kind of make sense of the picture and starts giving you actionable insight as to what you can do with that data. Okay, so I know that this community holds a board ape and this token, okay, so what like, what do I do with it? Or I know, XY and Z, they voted on wanting to do this. Okay, so like, what’s next kind of thing? That’s like, that’s like the missing piece that I think we have yet to tap into. And funny enough, we talked on this conversation on data. I’ve been working with various creators, one of the, I guess, use cases that I kind of worked with is with this independent artist, her name is Queen George, we did a concert at Eth Denver and sold tickets as NFTs, and we kind of realized like, okay, she’s already royally screwed by Spotify, because she doesn’t have access to her streaming data unnecessarily, let alone all the people that watch her TikTok videos or Instagram Stories, etc. But she has all these collectors now, oh gee Ethereum collectors not only that, they came to watch her perform in person, so she meant a lot of her collectors, right. But what can she do with that information then? So now she has 100 plus new collectors that bought that got something from her for free, enjoyed an experience. How can she tap into like aggregated wallet data and understand who these people are in line and use that data? To kind of like pursue new opportunities in the future, she might realize that a certain amount of them have like, point 01 Eth. So, or a point 5 Eth in their wallets, so maybe she should do a drop for like point 05 Eth kind of thing, you know, she might realize that a lot of them are in forefront, they spend their time voting and M Club, they do have all the interesting insights, this is what you should do kind of next leading up to that. So, this whole concept of like data analysis and data analytics, and what you do with that data, is really, really fascinating to me, and something that we’ve been talking a lot about on the podcast as well.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s like two, two elements of that I would say, one is that I think, you know, anyone who’s worked with like ML, or AI, or whatever knows that, like labeling is the scarce resource in so many ways. I think that’s very much true of where we are right now, in web three, which is like, the data you can get purely from people’s wallet activities, frankly, not that interesting. From if you want to build anything that’s like a richer experience or like a human centric experience. So, you know, we need ways for people to tell us like why, you know, did you get this token? Why did you go to that event? Like, what do you care about right now, and I think, you know, that’s, you know, so I think it’ll be backdrop, it’ll be a number of other products that are enriching or contextualizing information with the help of people? So, like, people actually using the product to help contextualize. The other thing is, like, you know, that specific use case of, you know, it could be that you had a concert that you use a token to, like, you know, for a ticket, and then you want to figure out, like, oh, what should I do with all these people? Like, I think also, that is how we think about emergent community in a lot of ways.

So, you know, maybe the thing that you should do is, you should say, hey, you know, I have three concerts over, like, the last year, and, you know, all those have NFTs and there’s ways that you could just plug that together, you know, into creating, like, just a little community full of those people and give them, you know, you like additional utility, you know, give them new things on top of that. And I think, like, that’s where, again, I think people’s conception of like creating tokenized communities is way too heavy. So, people think about okay, like, am I ready to launch a DAO, you know, capital D, capital A, capital O? And I think like, in that, in that case, like, yeah, you kind of already, like, maybe have one, maybe like a low. If we’re talking about the democratic to non-democratic spectrum, it’s like, pretty far away from the Democratic part, like, people are not voting on what you should do next. But you have to kind of community, you have a connection to them and what do you want to do with it? And I think like, that’s how we definitely want to build the product more is like really enabling these light emergent groups to form.

Yeah, I think that’s a solid point. And I want to ask you a couple more questions before we kind of wrap it up. So, the way you kind of explaining your thoughts and your analysis and how you critically think about things, it’s really interesting to see it from the origin of a neuroscientist, I guess. Because your concept of research is much different than my concept of research and analysis, I’d argue. So, I’ve learned a lot from this conversation. One thing I want to ask you, though, because I know you’re a puppet chef, or at least you were at some point. What’s up with that? Are you still in the kitchen? Like, what’s going on?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, I mean, like, I’m still in the kitchen all the time, for sure. I had like, this pop-up restaurant that I ran in San Francisco, and then very briefly, in Berlin as well. I don’t do that anymore. I think like, what I learned is that I don’t want to be a professional chef. What I like is, I mean, for so many, like as you may be conceived by the kind of products that I want to build, like I just like, bring people together. And you know, over some shared experience, and for me, like a meal is one of the very best ways to do that. So, you know, at this point, in my kind of cooking career, mostly what I do is just have 20 people over to the house and cook a big dinner. But I’m definitely interested in you know, having some hosting some pop up dinners for you know, crypto or web three people. So, if anyone wants to do that, let me know.

Let’s do it. I’m down. We’ll talk about it afterwards. what’s your favorite thing to cook? Is it baking or cooking?

Joey DeBruin: No, definitely cooking is far too chaotic to bake. And think like, you know, like I’m like a mad scientist, right? So, it’s about constant iterations during the actual cooking process. I think my my favorite stuff to cook is, I mean, the pop up that I have is called latitude 15. Because I don’t like cook anyone cuisine or I don’t cook anyone cuisine particularly well. And all the foods that I like happens to be sort of, you know, I guess, for whatever reasons, like on the same latitude of the Earth, so it’s like Mexico, Southeast Asia, India, basically all of the places where people cook like bold, spicy, you know, highly acidic, just like slap you in the face food, not like the refined sauce that you know takes On hours and so that’s kind of what I like to cook. I tend to just like, you know, merge those stuff together and do a lot of like fusion, you know, like the rice bowl with whatever Mexican, you know, stuff in it or tacos with, you know, so that kind of food is generally what I’ve always cooked.

Sorry, I only eat 10-hour liquids.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, we’re gonna have.


Thank you for being on. I hope to have you on again soon. Before I let you go. Where can we find you? Where can we find backdrops, show it way?

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, for sure. backdrop is at And you can find me probably easiest place is as on Twitter. I’m Joey­_DeBruin. Or I write a newsletter called Flying penguins.

Nice. So, what is that about?

Joey DeBruin: It’s basically like insights and experiments into the future of like public goods. So, a lot of science academic web three stuff.

Cool. Thank you, Joey. Till next time.

Joey DeBruin: Yeah, thanks for having me.

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