MAPPING OUT GRANTS IN ETHEREUM AND BEYOND
The ecosystem is one. We need to coexist in harmony, we need to find healthy synergies and collaborations — and in the last year alone, we have also been spectators of the meteoric rise of generous and ultimately altruistic development grant programs to help this space thrive. These initiatives are naturally non-competing, and part of our need to complement each other. The Ethereum Community Fund (ECF) has taken on the initiative to map some of them out, and give a wider audience a clearer understanding of what they entail. Most importantly, we would like this research to be a useful guide for developers in need of key financial support.
Here are some notable development grant initiatives for buidling the future of the decentralized web (in no particular order — as they are all important!):
ETHPrize is a community research and bounty project that identifies the most critical issues facing the ethereum ecosystem and organizes bounties to solve them.
They put together diverse bounties for tools which would greatly help the community at large, but no one team wants to do (the “tragedy of the commons” problem).
How is it run? The two current bounties are $250,000 each. They pick one team that has demonstrated value and then give them the resources (PM, advisors, a bit of structure, etc.) needed to cross the finish line. ETHPrize calls this “active” bountying, as opposed to a less targeted approach, and it looks to be delivering satisfactory results.
Future plans are now being determined, but it looks very likely the next bounty will deal with Documentation in the Ethereum ecosystem.
The Interchain Foundation (ICF), the non-profit foundation supporting the development of the Cosmos Network, funds ecosystem projects to support the R&D and implementation efforts of projects focused on infrastructure, wallets, visualizers, and any initiative that brings blockchain technology closer to the end user. ICF funds are disbursed based on the merits of an initiative, vetting useful projects and supporting the pool of talent which brings great ideas to life. Ecosystem grants tend to be funded half upfront, then half at the end upon completion of a defined deliverable. Currently, the ICF Ecosystem Grant initiative operates ad-hoc but will evolve into a fully-formed program towards the end of 2018, after the launch of the Cosmos Network.
Status recognizes that mass adoption of Ethereum and Web 3.0 is a collective effort by the people, projects, various community members, and enthusiast users. Status is dedicated and committed to supporting the advancement of the decentralized web, and this is why they’ve created Status Projects, to promote working to make ‘Web3’ a reality. Status Projects currently consists of 3 initiatives:
- Status Incubate — designed to support people looking to build the decentralized web.
- Status Open Bounty — a bounty platform created to promote open-source software. Here, Status pledged $1M in November 2017 to support the projects and developers in the space.
- Embark by Status — Status is also supporting Iuri Matias, creator of Embark framework, to grow their team and provide further assistance. The framework will support developers of all levels to create and deploy decentralized applications.
The Stable Fund is a collaboration between L4 and MakerDAO, helping startups using the Dai Stablecoin System. The investment fund offers equity free grants (up to $25k) to projects in alpha, as well as equity funding up to $200k for projects further along in development.
In addition to projects that leverage the benefits of Dai directly, they’re putting major emphasis on projects that use the underlying Maker infrastructure to create disruptive financial applications, with the goal of contributing to blockchain tech’s mainstream adoption.
The Ethereum Foundation is also involved in providing grants for research to “fuel the teams working hard at R&D” in support of the entire ecosystem. The initiatives are supporting projects doing great work across scalability, usefulness, and security, focusing on projects with no ICOs, no token sales, and who are focused simply on buidling useful products and experiences.
The grants from the Foundation would also like to fund more design studies, as well as hire and connect talented designers with exciting teams in the space, thereby engaging with the greater design community to help solve crucial product and UX design problems. Examples such as key management, the UX of Ethereum payments, and onboarding flows would all be important areas needing major improvement for mainstream adoption.
The Hackternship grant is also set aside for “community members who propose an Ethereum side project.”
Blockstack Public Benefit Corporation is leading a commitment of $1,000,000 ($100,000 each to 10 teams) to fund social network dapps which rewrite the fundamentals of how we connect in Web 3.0. With an eye keen to preserve digital rights, privacy, self-sovereign identity, and user choice, each developer or team accepted will receive the $100K grant to build a social network using the Blockstack infrastructure, with the opportunity to present at future Blockstack Summits and receive further capital and/or mentoring support.
Supporting the flourishing of the ecosystem, the Aragon team, together with Placeholder, a vc firm, has also launched a grant program called Aragon Nest. The goal of the program is to attract talent to research and build the necessary tooling for developing solutions around Aragon and Ethereum.
Some of the ideas for proposals could include: more apps for Aragon core, tools for a more sustainable ecosystem (ie. open source repositories run by governance tokens using Aragon), developer tools for building apps and UI tools for implementations in different frameworks on Aragon, better communication tools for effective governance, or complex governance mechanisms with off-chain components for greater scalability.
Protocol Labs launched a Request For Proposals (RFP) Program, with an initial commitment of $5,000,000 to fund multiple rounds of grants. The first round of RFPs and application instructions can be found on Github, and each RFP has an associated award ranging from $5,000 to $200,000. The RFPs will fund problems across the whole stack of protocols, from Multiformats to Filecoin.
The UNICEF Innovation Fund is pledging $50,000 — $90,000 equity-free investments to provide early stage (seed) finance to for-profit technology startups with the potential to benefit humanity. The grants are for startups registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries and with a working, open-source prototype (or willingness to make it open-source) showing promising results.
The Zcash Foundation’s Grant Program is pledging $250,000 total, with $125,000 funded directly by the Foundation and $125,000 funded by the Blockchain Institute, to fund projects proposed and carried out by Zcash community members, especially proposals considered public goods and not obviously monetizable. These funds apply to a broad scope of activities, including: software development (e.g., wallet software, libraries, etc.), infrastructure development and maintenance (e.g., hosting forums and block explorer services, etc.), education and outreach, science and research, and more. It is expected that projects will maintain an open process and — if applicable — will release code as open source.
The Stellar Development Foundation has allocated 25 billion total lumens to the Stellar Partnership Grant program to incentivize institutions who make an exceptional impact, and to encourage the development of robust activity in the Stellar ecosystem. Exceptional organizations who develop and operate products and services crucially important to the Stellar Network may receive up to $2,000,000 USD worth of lumens per grant (based on current token price).
The Request Protocol “aims to formalize financial flows on the blockchain by setting the standard for payments, invoicing, accounting, and auditing in cryptocurrencies, so that crypto-enthusiasts can invoice, get paid, and get their salary in crypto”, and plans to allocate $30 million (in REQ & ETH) over the next 5 years to the Request Fund for projects that will flesh out the Request Network. Grants are $20k to $100k per project, paid out when pre-defined milestones are reached, and might increase for highly successful projects. These grants are intended to cover some of the costs involved so that anyone can build on top of Request.”
Where does ECF fit in the Grants Program map, and how do we complement the diverse initiatives?
As a pool of funds from notable teams in the Ethereum community, the ECF provides financial endowment and complements other various initiatives for grants, by giving crucial support to buidlers of open-source infrastructure and applications who help create the Ethereum ecosystem with their contributions to development.
These are Grants that focus on shared infrastructure, such as ECF and EF, complemented by platform-specific ones like Aragon Nest and Request Foundation. Both are important, and we should always be looking for more ways like this to collaborate and synergize.
One of the first five ECF grantees is ETHPRIZE, that at the same time will allocate this investment to their upcoming “bounties” or grants. ETHPrize is formed by several entities, among them the Web3 Foundation (founding member of ECF) and L4 Ventures, who also created The Stable Fund, together with Maker (another ECF founding member).
The ECF and Ethereum Foundation are aligned in vision, but operate separately — both are always evaluating their synergies, and sharing advice in collaboration to fund initiatives. Aya Miyaguchi and Vitalik Buterin are advising the ECF, while some of the researchers also assist in giving their expert opinions to grantees about what could be needed to help the platform grow and improve.
Status also just set up a bounty in their Open Bounties program to build the new and improved ECF website. They continue to help diverse initiatives (like ETHPrize), via their bounties, which also led to their website being built thanks to a Status bounty.
“All of our Status Projects non-profit initiatives are designed to advance the ecosystem — because a thriving web3 ecosystem means more people using decentralized products and services like Status and the continued drive to a more open and equitable world.
This is why we are happy to support great initiatives like the Ethereum Community Fund. Our knowledge, experience, and funds can be used to help grow the larger ecosystem. We look forward to supporting both the ECF and the recipients of grants through our Status Projects initiatives.” — mentioned Jarrad Hope, Co-Founder of Status
When all these bits and pieces are mapped out together, it’s easy to notice an interconnected, decentralized network of goodwill and hope for the present and coming future.
Coming together to make open-source, decentralized infrastructure solutions possible is what boosts the value of the whole ecosystem. Hence, we’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Status as another founding member to the Ethereum Community Fund. We pleased to announce that after several months of dialogue and open collaboration, this prominent project has joined us as of one month ago, and we can’t wait to see the impact we can all make together.
One more thing! Check the video of our ECF + FRIENDS meetup in Toronto:
Note: This article is understood as research solely for informational purposes. The authors make no representation regarding the accuracy, timeliness, validity, or completeness of any material contained in this writing. All information is subject to change, and the authors are not liable for any changes or modifications to any funds, initiatives, or programs.
“Blockchain Call.” UNICEF Innovation Builds and Scales Innovations That Improve Children’s Lives around the World., unicefstories.org/blockchaincall/.
Blockstack. “A Million Dollar Request for Social Networks.” A Million Dollar Request for Social Networks, Blockstack Public Benefit Corporation, 10 May 2018, www.requestforsocialnetworks.com/.
Cincinnati, Josh, and Dimitris Apostolou. “ZcashFoundation/GrantProposals-2018Q2.” GitHub, 27 Apr. 2018, github.com/ZcashFoundation/GrantProposals-2018Q2.
Ethereum Foundation Team. “Announcing Beneficiaries of the Ethereum Foundation Grants.” Ethereum Blog, 7 Mar. 2018, blog.ethereum.org/2018/03/07/announcing-beneficiaries-ethereum-foundation-grants/.
Girod, Laura. “Request Network Project Update (January 19th, 2018)-Announcing a $30 Million Request Fund.” Request Network Medium, 19 Jan. 2018, blog.request.network/request-network-project-update-january-19th-2018-announcing-a-30-million-request-fund-6a6f87d27d43.
Kärki, Tatu. “Introducing Aragon Nest — Aragon.” Aragon Medium, Aragon, 6 Dec. 2017, blog.aragon.one/introducing-aragon-nest-1aa8c91c0566.
Roux, Yannick. “The Rise of Native Protocol Funds — Token Economy.” Token Economy Medium, 18 Aug. 2017, tokeneconomy.co/the-rise-of-native-protocol-funds-848df98f020d.
The Stable Fund. “Introducing The Stable Fund, $45 Million for the MakerDAO Ecosystem.” The Stable Fund Medium, Augmenting Humanity, 17 Feb. 2018, medium.com/@stablefund/introducing-the-stable-fund-45-million-for-the-makerdao-ecosystem-def79afc4b2a.
“The Stellar Partnership Grant Program — Stellar.” Administration — Stellar Core | Stellar Developers, stellar.org/lumens/stellar-partnership-grant-program/.