128 Things to Know When Applying for the Ethereum Community Fund

A Tipset for Current and Future Ecosystem #Buidlers

Awa Sun Yin (Cøsmos), María Paula Fernández (Golem) & Cassandra Shi (ECF)

The Ethereum Community Fund, despite being active for only a few months, has received hundreds of applications and a lot of community interest. Needless to say, the ECF team has been amazed by the enthusiasm, as well as the sheer amount and diversity of applications submitted so far.

The mission of the ECF is to fund research and development that will contribute to the Ethereum ecosystem, in helping it to grow in a healthy and sustainable way. To achieve this, we are committed to fulfilling a key support role, so that individual or groups of either researchers and/or developers have an equal chance to receive funding.

During these first few months, we have designed and iterated on our processes. We came to the realization that we needed to internally #buidl certain tools, helping to ensure that not only great teams and projects receive funding, but also to help communicate about the key areas in which our ecosystem is lacking. Thanks to both our own learning experiences as well as the tooling we’ve been working on, we compiled the following tipset dedicated to future grant applicants.

The Current State of the Ethereum Ecosystem + Projects/Initiatives for ECF Prioritized Funding

“The aim of the Ethereum Community Fund (ECF) is to provide both funding and connectivity, while shaping the strategic direction of the space towards mainstream adoption through the development of infrastructure and compelling end-user applications.”

Allow us to break this down for you —

Infrastructure/Tooling and Development:

We started to buidl our own ecosystem map and taxonomy, aiming to list and track projects, categorize them, and visualize them concisely and comprehensively..

To assure that the Ethereum ecosystem can overcome its limitations in the shortest time possible while growing sustainably, we need to pay special attention to the research and development efforts dedicated to the protocol, consensus, development infrastructure, development tooling, and usability. Other layers that we consider essential are application-specific protocols and off-chain utilities.

The following figure illustrates our interpretation of the Ethereum stack, going from lowest to highest level, and including a layer of utility applications that are off-chain but necessary. Even if you are a newcomer to the community, you must have noticed a large imbalance of projects: the amount of effort and capital flowing into end-user applications is disproportionally high in comparison to the amount of projects in all other layers, especially in infrastructure and development toolsets.

Specifically, we are seeking and will happily provide funding for:

  • Projects that focus on solving technical limitations facing Ethereum, such as scalability, privacy, security, either at the protocol level or layer 2
  • Projects that are focused on improving developer experience, such as various dev tooling and infrastructures, plus documentation improvements
  • Projects building end-user infrastructures, such as user friendly, secure wallets (both hardware and software) & web 3.0 clients
  • Projects building and promoting layer 2 protocol standards in a non-rent-seeking way

Research Initiatives:

This category is very diverse. ECF firmly supports and encourages all research initiatives in the blockchain space, by default. We believe that research is core to continue building this nascent technology. We are dealing with experimental technologies, so we need the researchers, individuals, or groups, whether affiliated with existing institutions or working independently, to keep paving the way.

Some example topics — although we consider this category to be ever-expanding, so don’t be shy to think outside the box:

  • Research targeting the key challenges of decentralized technology, like privacy, scalability, and security
  • Cryptoeconomics
  • Data and analysis-driven reports that facilitate a better understanding of the ecosystem as a whole — some ideas might include protocol benchmarking, or the current states of community, adoption, education, or developer experience

Community Building/ Education Initiatives:

The blockchain ecosystem would not have evolved at the pace which it did had it not been for the strong building efforts of different communities. We acknowledge this, and are thankful for the incredibly diverse and tightly-knit Ethereum community, hence our commitment to sponsor initiatives such as:

  • Educational events
  • Hackathons
  • Meetups
  • Conferences directed toward developers and community growth
  • Diversity and inclusion programs

The Fine Print

That sounds very promising — but are there any hard requirements?

ECF is committed to helping like-minded groups and individuals who share our belief in open-source infrastructure and decentralization. We will follow these premises which brought us together, and that keep us focused on building according to our principles:

  • Projects must be a shared public good and useful for others in the ecosystem, i.e. not only benefiting one single entity.
  • Projects that ship software must eventually be open-sourced.
  • Projects shouldn’t have an immediate plan to seek funding through equity or token sale models. However, we will not limit their options to do so in the future, if and when they need larger financial back-up.
  • We are open to fund projects built by individuals and teams coming from a for-profit or post-ICO entity, as long as they are able to satisfy all other criteria. For projects falling within this category, we would also emphasize the opportunity cost: if the applicant project is a core competency of the “host” entity, or is a tool that the “host” entity needs and will likely fund whether or not they receive a grant, then ECF will not likely move forward.

Things You Cannot Waive

In the crazy, eventful world that is the blockchain industry, we realize we are all ‘crazy-busy’. There will come many times when we are swamped with applications, and as all of you require the most careful consideration, we need to ask you to be patient.

However, here are some tips that will make your and our jobs easier, and can increase your application’s chance of success:

  • Avoid product or marketing-oriented writing; be objective and concise with regard to what you are working on and have achieved so far.
  • Your work speaks for itself, so make sure to include the link to your project repository. Open-source projects are a hard requirement; however, in exceptional cases (e.g. for temporal intellectual property protection), we will assess other materials as a proof of your work — and the same goes for research and theoretical developments. Just make sure you explain why your code or paper is not yet open-source and facilitate access to whatever you can show. Note that eventual open-sourcing will be set as a condition.
  • If you’re applying for educational (not software) or community growth initiatives, include evidence for work you’ve already done.
  • Make sure you have answered all of the questions — the more information you give, the more data points we can use to minimize false negatives.
  • Check that all links to public or private material are fully accessible. To us, there’s nothing more frustrating than a `404` GitHub page or a website loading in infinite loops.
  • Do not overestimate giving us information about yourself and your team, as this is a crucial assessment point, too.

Good! I’ve checked all boxes — how do I apply?

Right now, the process is really simple and straightforward:

  1. First, submit an application on our website.
  2. After this, the application will be reviewed by our team.
  3. If the application passes the initial screening, it is submitted to domain experts for further due diligence.
  4. Phone interviews: the applicants may be asked for one or two of such rounds with the grant manager and the subject domain expert.
  5. Feedback: throughout the process, the grant managers will give feedback to applicants and allow them to make modifications to their applications along the way.
  6. In case we cannot fund a project, but we believe it’s a quality one, we may match the applicant with some other grant programs or existing projects, should there be mutual interest.

Of course, as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will the grants be awarded so fast. It usually takes around a month or two to get the final answer, depending on the size of the grant.

via Sergey Zolkin

The Aftergrant

Well, you’ve received your grant, and we’ve announced it… now what? Well, the answer is obvious, keep #buidling!

Do make sure to keep the community updated. We encourage our grantees to publish regular updates — and have a look at XLNT or Prysmatic Labs for some awesome examples. We will likewise promote them via our social media and other associated projects, so this will help to also boost your visibility!

But wait! There’s more —

We would like you to know that we are here for you. Whether you would like to ask us more about the application process, need advice on how to position your project, would like to connect with one of our Founding Projects, or just want to talk about the challenges that you’re facing — please reach out. Our team will be happy to help out, chat, and simply make sure you’re feeling confident and eager to continue building the decentralized future together.

Like what you read? Apply for an ECF grant here.

Join the ECF community + follow us on Twitter