My DAO Experiment: Part 2

Eric Arsenault
May 27, 2019 · 7 min read

This is part 2 of a series outlining my continued experience participating in Genesis DAO, the first decentralized organization built on DAOstack (see article 1 below). Note that every DAO operates differently, and that the information presented below offers a glimpse of my experience in Genesis DAO, in its current state.

Also note that this article is geared towards people who are interested in participating in Genesis DAO, or existing members of Genesis DAO. Hopefully it can provide you with some insights on my experience and ideas on how to make your experience a better one.

The Genesis Cult (?)

I Googled “cult”, just to make sure.

Cult /kəlt/ noun; a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

As far as I know, this DAO has nothing to do with religion, but most of the other parts of the definition fit. A small group of people, with weird coordination rules, paid in magical internet money. Sounds like a perfect match. But on the other hand, surely every early movement was regarded by many to have cultish behavior. Many of these early pioneers were dead wrong.

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Example of dead wrong early pioneer

But the DAO space is different. There is energy. There is the feeling that indeed, we are building something very different. It makes me think of the quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Below are some tidbits of my experience thus far which I hope might be helpful. Enjoy.

“Joining” Genesis DAO

It’s also important to note that “joining a DAO” often means different things to different people. For some this might mean staying informed, for others, it might mean dedicating a substantial amount of time to the community. For me, joining meant spending 3 months exploring this world in whatever capacity I was able to, learning as much as I can, and assessing at the end of this period whether or not it was something I was interested in pursuing further.

If you are interested in joining a DAO, it’s important to recognize what this means for you. The nice thing is — it can be whatever you want it to be!

My first two weeks

Thankfully, the community was accepting and helpful. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time just listening to the rhythm of conversations, and trying as best I could to understand our past, and where we were heading. Personally, I found it helpful to connect 1:1 with a few individuals to bring some color and context to the experience. I would recommend to anyone joining a new DAO to take a bit of time to absorb the rhythm of things before jumping in with too much excitement.

My first proposal

The first thing that came to mind was suggesting changes to the front-end designs of Alchemy (this is where core activities of Genesis DAO takes place). There were various small improvements I thought would make the experience a lot smoother, so I started putting together my thoughts, and outlining in detail what I would like to change. I hesitantly shared the proposal to a member of the community.

Unfortunately, it was dead on arrival as a large Alchemy update was imminent.

Setbacks are common in the DAO space; perseverance is key! Most proposal attempts are public, and a great deal of them either experience a slow and painful death, or a quick one. Don’t let this discourage you, it’s part of the learning process.

With a failure under my belt, I went back to the drawing board. After some brainstorming, I came up with a simple idea: I wanted to write a few articles outlining my DAO experience to help future members navigate these unchartered waters. Unlike the last idea, this one had support! Within a week, a proposal was written, and the community approved it. Things were moving. That wasn’t so bad :)

Team Dynamics

In corporations, there are hierarchies and titles. You might have a boss or an employee working for you, and there are silos of information which are hard to cross, unless it is part of your job. Within a DAO, none of this exists — there are just agents, with social and earned reputation.

In many ways, a DAO feels more like a startup team. A group of individuals, all working on different things, and for the most part all working closely to support each other towards achieving a common goal. But there are also stark differences:

  1. DAOs are more open. This poses challenges from an attrition and attention point of view.
  2. There seems to be less urgency around achieving our goals than a traditional organization or startup (although this will surely vary for each DAO).
  3. Nobody is really full time, yet.
  4. DAO funds will (at some point) be used on proposals you don’t agree with. Heck, you may even lose money in the process. It is best to openly communicate your opinions about proposals, which can be an intimidating and sometimes challenging process.

In many ways, Genesis DAO is a perfect place for a certain kind of entrepreneur. The independence and freedom is nice. On the other hand, there seems to be less potential upside than a typical startup (at least for now).

What I’ve been up to since I joined

These proposals have revolved around my interests and skills, ranging from doing research on Budgeting for DAOs, to compiling and categorizing proposal ideas to help us keep track of the various needs within the DAO.

One proposal in particular was worked on for about three weeks before finally passing. After the first draft was shared for feedback, I could tell there wasn’t much excitement for it, so I didn’t submit and started reworking it. To help make my case around the proposal, I decided to collect data to validate the problem I was aiming to solve. After a week of collecting data, it was clear the problem I was addressing was indeed a problem, and the proposal passed shortly after.

Some of my learning points have been around the importance of building a need for scopes of work. Everyone’s plate is full and our attention is limited. Clarifying or validating the problem or need (with data or otherwise) should help your proposal pass.

How to be successful within Genesis DAO?

Below are some perspective from Genesis DAO veterans:

Pat Rawson: “I think there are two things: (1) Proactiveness — to jump on the opportunity to improve the DAO; to take a proactive approach in learning the DAO’s needs and nature. (2) Communication — the ability to work and play nice with others.”

Pedro Parrachia: “I think there is only on key thing here: deep alignment of vision, values, goals. If you’re deeply aligned with what this DAO aims to do and be (or any DAO) that’s the key to unlock all sorts of possibilities, to overcome setbacks, to make shit happen.”

Other important traits that I think are important include empathy, perseverance, a small ego, and a deep interest in the decentralized future we are looking to create.

My next steps

Overall, this experience has been an enjoyable one, but lingering questions remain: How can participating in a DAO be sustainable without large scopes of work or consistent funding? What are the use cases that are going to bring DAOs mainstream? Is this a viable career change or will this remain a fun side experiment?

In Part 3 of this series I will explore some of these concerns while also diving into new challenges and lessons learned.

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