MetaCartel DAO
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MetaCartel DAO

Meet Drew Harding: The Product Shaman

As we look for different ways to bring web 3 to the masses, the collective knowledge of talented individuals that helped make web 2 so compelling will serve as a vital foundation for innovation.

Here at MetaCartel, we’re focused on funding killer web 3 applications. By using the expertise of those who have done this many times over in the past, we hope to use their insights to build products and services that speak to a generalized audience.

In this week’s interview, we’ll be shining a spotlight on Drew Harding, an avid product strategist who has helped startups deploy hundreds of MVPs through a suite of development shops. As someone who had explored new organizational and governance structures before the term DAO even existed, it’s quite clear that his insights perfectly align with the concepts that make communities like MetaCartel so powerful.

Here’s a look at what we covered in our discussion:

  • The importance of privacy and data ownership
  • Transient DAOs
  • Blockchain fueling social coordination
  • The early days of MetaCartel
  • What dApps should focus on
  • SwagDAO — Shared income for merchandise

This talk built on a lot of crucial concepts web 3 prides itself on, so let’s get right into it!

How’d you first get started in tech?

I’ve been doing startup-based work for well over a decade, primarily through two sister agencies that I cofounded, Neon Roots and Rootstrap. We provide web and mobile application services to start-up and early-stage companies. We’ve worked with close to 500 clients and these experiments led to tons of discovery for early-stage MVPs based on the tools and tricks they needed to be competitive.

How did you first hear about web 3?

I had heard about Bitcoin and startled dabbling with it back in 2012. This was more passive and it wasn’t until 2016 that I started to consider how I could apply my product development experience to providing web 3 services.

What was it that caught your attention? How did that unfold?

I was fascinated by the types of incentives blockchain-based projects were incubating. Seeing how nascent the web 3 development industry was at that time, I turned my focus on bounties to identify where the opportunities were. This quickly led to me doing product strategy work on a project called Pillar.

At the time, the Pillar Project was offering a 50ETH prize for a wallet design competition. Some buddies and I got together one weekend and decided to work on an entry at a local coffee shop here in LA. Low and behold, we ended up winning and the team flew us out to London to meet them. Our relationship quickly evolved into a more serious role, where I currently work as the Chief Product Officer today.

What was it about Pillar that intrigued you?

I’ve always been very privacy-oriented and fascinated by identity. More specifically with web 3, I’ve primarily focused on data economies. As individuals, we have many personas and as it stands today, there’s no real good way to manage those shades. As such, I became very focused on the vein of sovereign identity.

A glimpse at the Pillar wallet.

When I first read Pillar’s Gray paper, the founder’s mission immediately resonated with me. For those unfamiliar with the project, Pillar is a Smart Wallet and Key Management Solution heavily focused on providing users complete ownership over their data with an emphasis on privacy and security.

In a world where legacy companies like Facebook and Google are making billions off of our data, products like Pillar are crucial in helping people understand how valuable their data really is and how they can take back control and directly benefit from the incentives and insights.

What have you been working on with Pillar in the past few months?

I’m personally quite interested in the emergence of smart contract-based accounts. Taking this a step further, it’s fascinating to think about how identity ties in with these powerful features. Web 3 turns the legacy read & write web into a semantic experience in which users can have better control over their information to give them direct benefits on things like commerce.

Pillar’s Roadmap

Here at Pillar, we are developing what we call an “offers engine”. Currently, we are focused on aggregating offers from various DEX, token swap services, etc. to provide users with the best offer based on their criteria. As we begin to layer in identity, we anticipate this will also consider individual data and habits to provide you with enhanced opportunities and benefits. The goal is to do this anonymously, while the advertiser, retailer or merchant can give you a more tailored experience at a cheaper price.

Can you expand on why consumer data is so important to those not as in-tune with the conversation?

It’s kind of crazy to think about how few people recognize all of the things our data is used for. The problem is they don’t recognize they are even a participant in the conversation. By giving users a choice and incentivizing their participation, we can establish a more honest shopping experience and increased brand loyalty.

There’s a project called OpenMined which offers users a way to sandbox all their private data to analyze and track their spending habits or trends. Once we can visualize how correlated our behaviors are, it becomes very easy to recognize how our digital fingerprints can inform opportunities as well as time and cost savings.

In the future, we want to provide transparency and value-added ways for users to participate in conversations surrounding ad targeting. For example, if you’re willing to share X data with us, we’ll give you Y benefit(s) (i.e. half off your subscription costs). Netflix is a great example of the potential possibilities.

A user’s personalized playlists are a simple aggregate of viewing habits and trends. No other information is needed. However, this experience can be further refined by sharing personal information and comparing that with other users. Netflix, as a business greatly benefits from this information particularly when it comes to producing and purchasing native content. Netflix can directly incentivize its user base with savings on their subscription in return for verified, privacy-preserved data on that user account.

Speaking of transparent values, let’s shift our focus to DAOs. What aspects of the DAO framework excites you?

The reputation aspect is incredibly powerful. The DAOs you’re associated with *hopefully* give you glowing reviews validating that you’re a responsible, talented individual. This “collective of talented individuals” offers a way to organize and manage funds without the need for a hierarchical layer. With no leaders, there’s a huge governance evolution.

We’ve seen how NGO’s, governments and nation-states are super bloated and slow to get things done. Individuals who are highly aligned and motivated can do just as good or a better job.

While I do think there will be a place for large DAOs to thrive, I’m actually more fascinated with the idea of smaller, transient DAOs — groups with hyper-local focused goals that solve one problem and immediately close down.

From an adoption standpoint, the DAO framework is a fantastic way to enable social coordination among quick pop-up groups (get together, pool funds, proposals, vote, process it, outline benefits, etc). In order to get this to the mainstream, we need to work on cutting out the technical jargon to make it more digestible.

How does blockchain play into this?

It’s the truth machine. Blockchain enables coordination in a way that wasn’t previously possible. It allows for a trustless, permissionless foundation to exist. Imagine applying these concepts to a political agenda — there’s no longer a head to cut off as influence is distributed across the community as a whole. Especially with anonymity, narratives can remain factual and much more difficult to censor since truth can always be found on-chain.

The DAO framework (which is powered by blockchain) provides the evolution of the social network into an action network. Instead of liking and commenting on topics, where you haven’t actually done anything, you’re now able to take tangible actions and put your money where your mouth is.

How did you first get involved with MetaCartel?

I first met the guys at ETHSF during the meta-transaction days. The more we dove into meta transactions, the more we started talking about “how do we make this stuff accessible?” We all had the idea to start a community group to focus on questions like “how can we better use meta transactions?” or “what are the best approaches for relayers?”. It was very informal.

Frany (left), Peter (middle) and Drew (right) at ETHSF

One day Peter messaged the group and said he was gonna fork Moloch and turn into a DAO. MetaCartel officially launched right before Ethereal but we had been “operating” for many months before that.

What does your role in MetaCartel look like today?

I’m very incubation focused. I see a lot of potential for ideas to be spread within the cartel. With this, I’d like to say I bring experience into the conversation. I try to push away from highly technical focuses to empower new perspectives. I don’t try and drive — I think listening is equally as important. Coming from a product background, when I do “drive”, it’s generally me helping to drive product strategy and theory. Whether that’s helping our projects with their business model, token economy or general messaging, I’m here to help them stand out.

The cool thing about MetaCartel is you get out what you put in. It’s refreshing to be part of a community that give people with unique talents and expertise a unified voice. With this, we can incubate new concepts, networks and frameworks and help our projects implement those strategies.

What are some of the biggest things new dApps should be focused on?

A lot of the people who were initially drawn into blockchain were (and still are) idealists. The concepts of decentralization and anonymity are very captivating, but it’s clear that those tenants alone are not enough to pull in the masses (unfortunately). Shoving decentralization down user’s throats just really doesn’t make that much sense. It’s much more important to prove and demonstrate value first.

Taking this a step further, it’s not a matter of compromising values, it’s a matter of finding a way to baby step into decentralization. To new projects, I ask “Can you completely remove blockchain/crypto from your product marketing and still attract users?”

Blockchain is not a selling point. You should account for and build in a way to become distributed that makes sense. At the end of the day, if you don’t have users, it’s all for nought. Focus on demonstrating consumer value and piece decentralization in over time.

Before we wrap this up, I wanted to chat about SwagDAO (now MetaFactory). Where did the inspiration come from?

At DevCon in Osaka, some of us MetaCartel guys (Drew Ven and Darren in particular) were chatting about the need for better crypto swag. Community and culture can be driven by fashion and we ultimately loved the concept of “wearing our memes”. Unisocks are a great example of what could be done, tying together a meme-based article of clothing with cryptoeconomics (bonding curve sales). All in all, we settled on this idea of “How can we allow an individual to participate in the upside/profit of a sale by investing into a design?”

What’s the vision with MetaFactory?

Generally speaking, MetaFactory provides a way for early adopters to get more of an upside on the future sale of gear that they like. The platform takes its cut and then the artist can dictate how much they want to take verses going towards the purchasers/participants. This introduces a lot of game theory which I find quite intriguing.

MetaFactory originally was a DAO but only at an operational level. In the future, the DAO may include the artists as well. We’re trying to find a way for people to participate at a product level versus having to buy into the DAO completely.

As of right now, there’s no real formal decision on the DAO structure and how that would work. Ultimately, we’re working with legal teams like Open Esquire to ensure that securities aren’t being offered. From a product standpoint, we want to offer people the chance to participate in one design at a time. With this in mind, the DAO conversation would be different from a case-by-case look at each individual article being sold. In summary, you not only get an item you want, you also have a chance to earn upside on the future sales of that item.

How can people stay connected with you?

The best place to find me on Twitter, @drewharding. My biggest focuses are data economies and privacy technology. I’m also very into gaming and the concept of NFT-based marketplaces.

I see a huge potential in cosmetic skins as business models. The interoperability of assets and composability across different games is very powerful. Imagine removing digital asset economies away from the control of publishers and back into the community.

We can allow players to go into their next game upgraded by selling off assets and previous experience or directly porting old assets into a new game. To summarize, the cross-over between games, DAOs and life will be pretty wild. If any of this interests you, let’s keep the conversation going!

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To those still here, we want to thank you for taking the time to learn more about yet another promising member of the MetaCartel community. If it isn’t clear yet, the amount of talented individuals discussing the industry’s most pressing issues is unparalleled. For more information on MetaCartel and what we’re up to next, follow us on Twitter! Until next time, this is MetaCartel’s scribe Cooper Turley signing off.

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Cooper Turley

Cooper Turley

Chance favors the connected mind. Focused on building communities by making crypto cool again.