What Kind of Research Should I Be Doing for a Labs Relay?

Zach Herring
3 min readSep 24, 2019

We’re running a Decentralized Research Hackathon for our newest Relay and answering multiple questions daily. I’m reposting the answers to questions that might be useful for the general Relay-ing public.

“What kind of research should I be doing for a Labs Relay? Can it be around an existing problem where other companies attempt to address the problem? Or should the issue or market be completely new and unheard of?”

Appreciate the question! It’s tricky to answer, to be honest.

On one hand, the automobile literally solved the same problem as the horse and buggy. The big differentiator was it was a better solution for a wider segment of the industrialized economies.

It’s tough to identify a space where there are not pre-existing solutions, workarounds etc. We can both list off 10's of great products that were built and successfully got product market fit by narrowing the scope and addressing a specific sub-niche’s needs better than the generic solution.

On the other hand, research for a generic crypto market or problem probably won’t get you very far.

There are a pretty standard set of problem statements often cited that crypto is meant to solve. These tend to be applied to XYZ markets, verticals, or problem spaces, and have become kind of cliched. “Uber but for Dog Walking” in the crypto space is more like “Disintermediated Markets, but for Used Car Loans.”

Very little work is done to first verifying that a large enough segment of the population actually, y’know, needs the service that you’re building.

If I could give you some rules of thumb to go by when constructing your study:

1. I’d strongly encourage you to look for non-obvious directions with your research. Spend some time googling to see if the subject you’re considering has been studied in this context before.

2. If there are already products being built with the same insights, try to deconstruct the orthodoxy and understand what’s the incorrect belief holding them back?

3. Go deep and narrow over broad. I consider Affogato’s (Relays 2 winner, Open Finance) singular focus on coffee markets in Honduras as an excellent example of that.

4. Remember you don’t necessarily have to suggest the specific crypto solution, just deeply research the niche and then make a compelling case for how Crypto can offer a 10x advantage in value delivery over current solutions, work around etc.

Hope this helps clarify and if y’all have any further questions, hit me up on on the Discord or on Twitter!