Thinking of getting into blockchain? 6 things to consider.
In 2017, during crypto’s last bull run and after years of pointedly ignoring blockchain hype, I jumped down the rabbit hole. I began to see crypto networks as the best coordination tool we’ve ever had. I met the most passionate, curious, interesting people I’ve ever worked with. And I loved that the challenges to overcome were organizational, economic, and political as much as technical.
In the past four years, I’ve collaborated with dozens of teams, helped found 3Box Labs (a company) and launch Ceramic Network, and worked with several DAOs. The potential, challenges, and excitement in the space are still similar to 2017. But the range of experiments, opportunities, and team types is now incredibly broad.
What to consider as you jump down the rabbit hole
1. Join a community, not just a team.
One of Plaid’s hiring criteria was “Did they read the docs?” In the crypto space, it’s “Did they join the community?”
Hop into the discord or slack, get a sense of the developers and users and how they are engaged. Picking a team without understanding the community would be like getting engaged before meeting your partner’s friends or family.
2. Be honest about what you’re in it for, and choose accordingly.
The pace of activity in the space is completely overwhelming. Make sure you land in a spot where that will drive your motivation not drain it.
If you enjoy constant, multi-disciplinary, frenetic learning and excitement, happy hours that veer back to interesting ‘work’ topics, and the feeling of a quasi-cult-like movement — you’ve found your tribe. Look for teams that were building through the last few years’ bear market. Protocol teams, DAOs, and the early DeFi builders. Join one working on something you really care about because you’ll need deep motivation to keep focus and energy.
If you want more balance or stability, the bull run has given rise to more traditional companies — exchanges (the new banks), infrastructure providers (picks and shovels), and creative studios — that build on this movement but in a more familiar setting. It’s a bit more sustainable and ‘normal.’
If you are in it for the money, there are plenty of DeFi projects with millions of dollars to spend. Or consider keeping your stable income and investing it in crypto.
3. How do you like to work?
While the world has been adjusting to remote work, many crypto teams are native to it and push organizational experiments far beyond that.
- Do you want an office with teammates? Select for this, as most are remote
- Real-time or asynchronous? Plenty of teams work purely off PRs and tickets, gaining massive flexibility but losing face time.
- Radically flat, traditional org structure, or experimental? Do you want the empowerment promised by new org designs or the clarity of clear structures?
Could you work for a protocol?
Many projects aim to (or already have) pass most power to a DAO or community. See how Yearn Finance describes itself. Does the idea of working with complete freedom and a loose association with other community members excite you and feel like the next era of organizations? Or does it seem like the death of coherence, agility, and coordination at scale? Understand a team’s long-term plan for the company and DAO, and if/when that is in the future.
4. How do you gauge progress?
Teams have different DNAs for how much to focus on technical advances, growth and sales, the long-term vision, or product adoption. This gap is wider than normal in the blockchain space because we’re so early — there’s so much green space, less obvious metrics, more delayed feedback, and some self-delusion about what’s working and what’s not.
Understand if teams are engineering, vision, or product-led and what the upsides and downsides to this are, and think about whether those will match your own instincts. If you are instinctively drawn towards growth but the team holds ideology more dear, you could be very frustrated with the roadmap and strategy.
5. Understand crypto compensation.
Startup employees are used to salary, bonus, and equity. In crypto, there are also tokens. They are more liquid, more volatile, often higher upside, and sometimes far less tax-efficient than stock options. Know your situation and what combination of income you care about, and make sure the team you join is keeping the incentives of the founders, team, and investors aligned for the long term. This article offers a good primer.
6. Principles and values matter more than ever.
Culture is what defines behavior in the absence of clear rules, and in projects with smaller teams and bigger communities, the early norms and values carry more burden than ever. Understand both what the team stands for and how they instantiate their values in their operations and their community.
As Vitalik said, “Even a billion dollars can’t compete with a project having a soul.” Make sure you believe fully in the culture being created and can see yourself as one of its core carriers.
3Box Labs is hiring
At 3Box Labs, we are on a mission to transform the web’s relationship with data. If you are impact-driven, curious and bold, and care deeply about improving the web, we’d love to hear from you — we’re hiring across our Engineering, Product, and Growth teams.
Our team is built around 1 purpose, 5 core beliefs, and 8 guiding principles as we work to build a community that can have as much impact as our tech. This means:
- Tangible impact on the future of the web from the center of the decentralized tech movement
- Ownership over novel challenges as we scale and tokenize Ceramic Network
- Collaboration with a world-class technical team (and partners) to create protocols and products
- Constant feedback and usage from a rapidly growing open source community
- Remote and flexible work, with frequent regional meetups and team retreats in amazing places
- Huge upside through equity and the network, globally competitive comp, great benefits