Why I took on the tomi challenge and you should too: DAO expert opinion

Published in
12 min readAug 30, 2023


This is the first of (I hope) numerous posts that I hope to write for tomi, where I’ll share my journey as the Project Manager for the first phase of specification writing for the tomiDAO. Actually, I wrote a summary of my Metafest experience representing tomi, and I’ll have more to say about that later. But first, I want to start out with a quick introduction of why I’ve decided to devote my time to this project (other than that they’re paying me) and why you should join me (because they’ll pay you too, and I can’t do it alone).

For those of you who don’t know me, you might want to check out my work at www.daoleadership.com or my general everything website www.gracerachmany.com. For those of you who do know me, you probably think of me as a contrarian who has been in the DAO space for half a decade, but I’ve never strongly associated myself with one project. So why has tomi captured so much of my time and attention?

I first came into contact with tomi when they were writing their whitepaper in September 2022. I knew nobody’s names, but from the outset it was clear that the team is serious about creating an alternative to the censored World Wide Web. But it was also obvious that most of them had no experience with public goods or the commons. Fortunately, around that time, they brought on DAOwl who explained to them that it would be impossible to expect a traditional DAO to set and enforce content moderation policies. “Hoo would want to look at the world’s most obscene content every day?” asked DAOwl. But that was just the start of the rabbit hole.

Who are these tomi people? (Spoiler, I don’t know.)

Every now and again, DAOwl would ask me about some particular part of DAO tooling. What did I think about JokeDAO for ranked voting? What did I think about copyright violations? The conversations were always interesting and insightful. But let’s face it, the tomiDAO itself is a simple yes/no voting mechanism for distributing a pot of tokens. I wasn’t impressed at all until Dr. Nick said to me that this was one of the first DAOs he’d heard of with a working NFT voting implementation. “I’ve been talking about NFT voting for a while,” he said, “but this is the first time I’ve seen it working on a real project.” So it turns out the tomi team had pulled off something innovative after all.

Look, I’m a skeptic. I’ve been in the Web3 space for 5 years. Heck, I’ve been in tech for 35 years. It’s always a good bet that a project will fail, I say, because 98% of them do.

In January, the tomi team asked me to set up a panel for them to discuss the DAO. DAOwl says they refuses to show in person, so they asked me to moderate and bring in the panelists, and fortunately I got the wonderful Daniel Ospina from RnDAO, Esther Galfalvi from SingularityNET DAO, and Evin McMullen from Disco.xyz, and we had a fabulous time in Marrakesh, including an ATV tour and a hotel with a fabulous spa.

Most importantly, I finally got to meet the tomi team — and some of them even used real names! Apparently the video footage was great, but the videographer didn’t know it was illegal to fly a drone over the fancy hotel where the event was held, and now he and all the footage are in jail. You can’t make this stuff up!

Privacy is rapidly becoming illegal

Which brings us to Tornado Cash and the way in which privacy is under attack by governments worldwide. If you join the tomi Discord or the tomiArmy, it might seem a bit sketchy. Like another one of those “wen moon projects”, but…

Boy, am I sick of open-source revolutionaries with no funds and no marketing and great code that nobody can use. How are underfunded projects like Handshake ever going to take off? They even call themselves an “experiment”. How are we going to have censorship resistance when most of the Ethereum nodes are hosted in countries that have made privacy illegal? How are we going to have public goods when VCs own a big chunk of the project?

The tomi founders, apparently 8 of them, have put their money where their heart is. From what I could surmise from the amount of working code they’ve released, and from the first “Nakamoto Forum”, as they called their conference in Marrakesh, they are a bunch of successful crypto founders who have invested their own money (and a lot of it) to lift this project off the ground. When they launched the token, they simultaneously released the DAO, a testnet browser, an NFT collection, and hardware nodes. Since then, they’ve launched (and spun off) a privacy layer, a DNS NFT auction and marketplace, a marketing “army”, and a staking pool.

Another reason I was impressed with tomi is that they are committed to usability for everyone. The tomiNET is going to be accessible through a normal browser with normal URLs. It’s about time Web3 started to produce something that actually solves a problem for “normies”. So far, everything I’ve seen from tomi points to them making their interfaces intuitive and offering products that can be used without needing blockchain expertise. (Other than storing your private keys, and I expect MPC to solve that in the next year.)

The product team just seems to spew out product after product. Are these products ready for mainstream use? Not at all. Why are the founders putting in so much time and effort? Maybe they want to keep their money private. Or maybe they’ve made enough money that they figure it’s time to give back to the community. Maybe they are putting it in a DAO to avoid legal liability. Who knows?

Here’s what I do know. These guys are absolutely serious about building products and they are absolutely serious about empowering the community through the DAO. They just don’t know how. Neither do I, come to think of it.

Cold start

When tomi asked me to represent them at Metafest, I took up the challenge because, as I said, I think privacy is everyone’s right, and this is the first time I’ve seen such a comprehensive and well-funded project come together. I think that tomi is right that having a native cryptocurrency and governing DAO is necessary for the project’s success.

One of the main takeaways from Metafest was how hard it is to go from cold start (nobody) to a functioning DAO. The DAO is now made up of approximately 500 wallets of tomi Pioneers who purchased the initial NFTs granting them voting rights. In other words, they are the investors in the project, not the users. The tomi team is aware that this should change gradually over time — but they want experts and aligned people to join, which is why they invited me and why I’m inviting you, but it’s still hard. They probably need at least 5 different teams to run these DAOs, and theoretically, the teams should be made up of people all over the world who want an alternative WWW. But right now it’s you, me, and our friends. Meaning that a cold start DAO is not easy.

The tomi opportunity

When I accepted the challenge to approach the tomiDAO specifications documentation, there were two aspects that impressed me. First of all, they asked me to seek out multiple providers for the specifications. I’ll say more about that below, but in the end, they weren’t satisfied with any of the proposals, and they ended up writing their own, which combined elements from two existing proposals while also incorporating several of their own unique innovations. DAOwl said: no offense, I want to work with all the people who made proposals, but we will work on our terms until there is a solid and trusted team that can take over the project.

Even more promising, they recently approved the specification for a self-sovereign identity wallet integrated into their crypto wallet. The winner of the proposal, walt.id, also wrote a very impressive DAO proposal and they are highly respected in the SSI industry. I didn’t know them before tomi, but their credentials checked out and it’s all open source, which I think is important. This shows me that the team has really gone down to the fundamentals of what has caused the WWW to become centralized and exploitative, and they are interested in integrating the essential components that give the project potential to actually transform the internet back into a place where people can have freedom of expression, including freedom to dissent and freedom to develop connections and commerce with anyone, anywhere.

Challenges for the DAO industry as a whole

Another exciting aspect of tomi is that they are grappling with specific instances of generalized problems. Everyone from X (formerly twitter), through Lens Protocol and Handshake, to ENS is dealing with the problems of naming and/or the problem of content moderation. DAO tooling is completely inadequate to touch any of these processes. And frankly, I’m frustrated with DAO solutions looking for problems. I want to start designing a solution based on a specific challenge, and tomi has plenty of them.

What tomi is trying to do is going to put them up against tremendous challenges. Some of them are straightforward, like the fact that the default language of tomi is English, but that’s probably not the default language of the people who are being oppressed and need an alternative internet. Other problems are more complex, such as preventing spam and denial of service attacks from rendering the network useless. Some are legal, for example, if tomi succeeds and its domain name system becomes the one everyone wants to use, they may open themselves up to lawsuits from everyone, from celebrities to corporations and governments.

But even if tomi doesn’t manage to complete its entire vision, the DAO tooling we can create together will resonate throughout Web3. DAOs for content moderation, DAOs for name services, DAOs for strategy-building, Verifiable Credentials and DIDs for DAOs, reputation for DAOS, accountability for fulfilling DAO proposals… All of these are part of tomi’s agenda for the next year’s planning.

And tomi has the budget to pull this off. The DAO is currently funded with an initial amount equivalent to $20 Million. According to what DAOwl told me, a portion of all the tomi domain name sales will continue to feed into the DAO. And it will be up to the DAO itself to create the business models on top of tomi that will allow it to be self-sustaining. Any one of the tools that I mentioned above could be implemented in dozens of DAOs today. So the suite of DAO tools could represent a comprehensive starter kit for just about any project. And best of all for me, I get the chance to demonstrate how communities can develop tools that are more collaborative and complex than simple yes-no and ranked voting.

Get on board: tomi needs you

One of the conditions I set for tomi was that, given the fact that there is a budget, we should not expect people to work for free and/or campaign to join. DAOwl said this was fine, but that they expect accountability for producing the work that is needed for the DAOs. Sometimes I think this is an emergent phenomenon: DAOs with limited funds waste a lot of time on meetings and give out little bounties that get distributed in a “nice” way where everyone gets something regardless of talent. In other words, many DAOs have been prioritizing inclusion over execution, partially because they can’t really afford highly professional work.

The first step that we’re taking is to create the DAO specifications. Together we wrote this plan and DAOwl and tomi’s CTO, Camel, have approved it. My goal is to include as many people as possible in the discussions, with those contributing significant time being compensated reasonably. In other words, if you are qualified, apply, and you’ll be paid for your work. This isn’t short-term either. Once the specifications are done, we need to actually staff these DAOs. It looks like there will be a dozen different processes and committees needed for the initial launch in May 2024.

To get involved, join the tomi Discord server and introduce yourself on the DAO channels. DAOwl and myself will be monitoring and welcoming people. Announcements will be made of the times and places of the discussions, and you’ll be able to join and participate in various ways.

Those of you who know me are aware that for the last 3 years I’ve been blathering on about how we are going to need a parallel network of passports, network infrastructure, and commerce because the authorities are becoming increasingly authoritarian worldwide. Although I’m mostly vegetarian, I wouldn’t want a world authority telling me I must be vegan and enforcing it through their CBDCs and supply chains. What tomi is providing can be an essential set of tools for those of us who want our freedom and are willing to pay the price.

How (not) to impress the tomi free birds

I’ve teamed up with my buddy Moritz Bierling to put together this project and we want you to join if you care about internet freedom or about the development of DAO tooling.

It’s a well-known secret that I spent a lot of years in fairly corporate environments and that I believe in some of the more structured ways of getting things done. So when tomi asked me to do this work, I said we should at least get three proposals and not just hire me because they know me. They said: ok, go ahead. But I failed.

I failed because most of the DAO experts are either:

  • Super busy on multiple projects
  • More interested in promoting/integrating their technology than joining someone else’s projects
  • Inexperienced when it comes to presenting themselves to a client
  • More interested in having intellectual and cool conversations than getting stuff done

DAOwl told me several people ghosted them, joined the Discord but didn’t follow the comments even when they were mentioned, promised to submit proposals and then disappeared, failed to invoice for work done, and needed multiple reminders of things they agreed to. In other words, they seemed to Owl to be discourteous (as if they were doing tomi a favour).

I won’t lie. I was embarrassed. I gave the names of several people I respected and I felt it reflected poorly on me when tomi didn’t get responses. Some people told me explicitly that they were uncomfortable with the tomi project and wouldn’t join because it seemed to “scammy”. I respect that, just as I respect the whole Gitcoin-Shell conversation. But I don’t respect it when my client is ignored, has to chase people down, or receives empty promises.

So if you do want to impress myself and DAOwl, please take a few simple steps:

  • Do what you said you would do. If you say you’ll send a proposal or join the Discord channel, do it.
  • Be interested. If you write something on the Discord, check at least once to see what happened or answer DMs.
  • If you want to get paid for your work, take appropriate steps. Send a price proposal if appropriate. Make your payment terms known in advance. Send an invoice or at least an ETH address to the DAOwl or myself when you complete work.
  • Be proactive. For the DAO to function, we all need to take responsibility. If I have to remind people of what they promised and micromanage when people post to the Discord, it’s not a DAO. If you think we should be using Wonderverse or Jira or any of that, say so and be the one to initiate the project and ask to get paid for implementation.
  • Bring people in who need the work. Many of us are overwhelmed with work offers and sometimes we take it for granted. If this is not the project for you, or you don’t have the bandwidth, say so and find someone who does need the work.
  • Be courteous.

Oh, and one more thing. If you can bring an equal number of men and women (or more women than men), that will be greatly appreciated. The specifications for the DAO discussions stipulate that all discussions require a minimum 40% women.

Let’s get decentralization right

We’ve all seen successful DAOs with multiple functioning sub-DAOs. The tomi project has the potential to provide infrastructure both for Web3 and for end users. My hope is that within 6 months there will be multiple project managers and team leads, and that this Medium blog will be filled with articles from the best of us discussing the solutions we’ve developed and the tradeoffs we’ve made.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the plan, and the Governance specifications workflow, the next step is to introduce yourself on the tomi Discord channels, under the DAO channel for introductions, and join us by helping us build a better World Wide Web.

See you there!

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