Breaking Down the DAO and Why FTX is the Best Thing that Happened to Crypto
I recently wrote a crypto blog post about Polymarket where I shared my first experiences with blockchain tech and how the various protocols can be used to create new and unique business models.
That article was written for the everyday entrepreneur and general tech professional. I attempted to break down some of the complex crypto concepts into easy-to-understand language. I received some positive feedback about that from “non-degens”.
What is a degen?
First off, WTF is a degen? A degen person in crypto has a deep understanding of the underlying technology and protocol options as well as the various use cases for blockchain technology. They have also likely been involved in one or more blockchain projects, whether as a developer, investor, or advisor. The term degen also stands for “degenerate” because many people within this community are gamblers, risk-takers, pioneers, and visionaries. These are the type of people that just don’t give a fuck and those are also the type of people that lead us to new and exciting breakthroughs.
Coingecko has a decent definition:
Shorthand for Degenerate. Degen trading or Degen mode is when a trader does trading without due diligence and research, aping into signals and FOMO into pumps. A Degen Trader does not know about metrics like FDV or TVL nor do they care. They will buy because the asset logo looks cute, or because the slogan is memeable, or because some twit-famous anime girl on the internet says she’s looking into crypto and the first two shill comments gets more likes than others. Essentially, a degen trader buys into an asset not because they see value, rather they do so with the belief that others will join in after them and speculate on the price swings.
I’ve actually come to love the term “degen”. Honestly, I don’t know if they prefer “Degen”, “dgen”, “Dgen”, “dGen” or some other form of writing the term. But I think the name has a greater meaning than what Coingecko states.
Being a degen means you are part of a movement, a community, a self-admitted elitist group of people who are “in the know” on all things crypto. Degen's rise and fall with the ever-ebbing crypto tide. They win when they see trends early. And they hit it out of the park when they start trends. And of course, they lose when they’re late to the game.
Being a true degen is a secret badge of courage and enlightenment showing your commitment to the crypto future. It’s expressed in your PFP. It’s obvious (or not) in your shitposts on crypto-twitter. It’s how you carry your digital self.
To be clear, I’m not a degen by any stretch of the imagination, but I can relate. I remember when the term entrepreneur had negative connotations. In the 80’s, and 90’s to some extent, being an entrepreneur meant you were lazy or not smart enough to work in banking or on Wall Street. I was that geeky, uncomfortable, forward-thinking, kid back then. I was connecting to BBS’s, building computer rigs, and hijacking shit-porn from blurred Cinemax streams while my buddies were tweaking the coax. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was an entrepreneur, and it wasn’t cool.
The reason I bring up degens in this post is that I’m attempting to write about “degen-centric” topics in a “non-degen-centric” way. If that makes any sense. Basically, I want to write about crypto topics in a way that most entrepreneurs and tech professionals can understand.
Specifically, this article attempts to demystify the DAO. In the crypto world, there are many different types of organizations, but one of the most interesting is the DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization. A DAO is a self-governing organization that operates under a set of rules encoded into blockchain code. These rules can be as simple or complex as you want them to be, and they can change over time.
What is a Dao?
I have had the incredible privilege of working as COO for Super Studios for the past 4 months. Super Studios is the company behind the new P2E game Impostors, the Superverse protocol, and the new NFT marketplace Gigamart. One project I led early on was facilitating the launch of the Superverse protocol DAO for the community of $SUPER token holders.
Crypto DAOs offer a number of benefits over traditional organizations:
- Decentralized Control and Governance — By removing the need for a central authority, DAOs provide a more democratic way for organizations to be run. This also reduces the risk of corruption or misuse of power.
- Reduced risk for Members — Because DAOs are powered by smart contracts, they are much less prone to human error or fraud. This makes them a safer choice for organizations looking to store or exchange value.
- Increased Transparency and Accountability — All actions taken by a DAO are publicly visible on the blockchain, allowing anyone to audit its operations. Additionally, all members of a DAO have an equal say in its decisions, ensuring that everyone is held accountable.
- Enhanced Security — The use of smart contracts makes it difficult for hackers to steal funds or data from DAOs, as any such attempt would be immediately detectable and prevented by the contract itself.
- Sense of Ownership and Control Over the Organization — Members of a Dao are in fact the ones that define the activities of the Dao. This could include how and why they use funds, outlining projects or proposals, and the allocation of profits.
- Financial Automation and Controls — Because digital currency is largely controlled by smart contracts, no single person or centralized entity is responsible for deciding what and where to spend money.
DAOs are powered by smart contracts, which allow them to operate autonomously and transparently while providing enhanced security and reduced risk.
A smart contract is a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies, or enforces the negotiation or performance of a contract. Smart contracts allow for the secure and transparent exchange of money, property, shares, or anything of value.
They are executed by a network of computers rather than by a single party, and they are irreversible, meaning that once they are executed, they cannot be changed or reversed. This makes them an attractive choice for businesses and organizations looking to automate their transactions.
Dao’s… Good, Bad, and Ugly
In concept, the Dao is a pretty amazing financial instrument. Most forward-thinking tech professionals and entrepreneurs are pretty fed up with large corporations making decisions on our behalf. In many ways, this is the cornerstone of the degen movement. The idea is that decentralization is the mechanism by which the people take over what has become a corporate-controlled society.
The rise of the internet and the subsequent decentralization of information has had a profound impact on society as a whole. For the first time in history, people could communicate and share information with each other on a global scale, without having to go through a centralized authority. This newfound level of freedom and democracy was a major catalyst for social and technological progress.
Decentralization is important today because it helps to ensure that power is distributed evenly among all members of a community, rather than being concentrated in the hands of a few. This is particularly important in cases where the central authority is not trustworthy or lacks the ability to effectively govern the community. Decentralization also makes it possible for communities to operate without relying on a single entity for support or governance, which can lead to more resilient and robust systems.
A16z partner, Arianna Simpson is one of many in the venture community that sees decentralization as a way to take back control of our lives from large corporations. She believes that it can help ensure that power is distributed evenly among all community members and can make it possible for communities to operate without relying on a single entity.
This makes a lot of sense to me, in principle but not necessarily in practice. Some Dao’s have failed miserably to deliver on the vision.
An example of a DAO that failed is theDAO that was launched in May 2016. The DAO was designed to act as a venture capital fund for new blockchain-based projects. Within 28 days of its launch, it had raised over $150 million in ETH.
However, on June 17th, 2016, someone exploited a vulnerability in the DAO’s code and stole 3.6 million ether. This caused the value of ether to plummet and resulted in a loss of over $50 million for investors. As a result, the DAO was forced to shut down and refund its investors.
This example highlights some of the risks associated with investing in DAOs. Due to the fact that they are powered by smart contracts, DAOs are much less prone to human error or fraud. However, this also makes them more susceptible to hacking attacks.
Like many things in tech, simpler is better and often more secure. The Super Verse Dao is quite straightforward.
The Super Verse
On Tuesday, we facilitated the launch of Super Verse, the DAO that supports the $SUPER token and is host to a future of valuable Web3 products and services. Every decision surrounding this launch was driven and voted on by the community.
When I started at Super Studios a few months ago several pieces of a Dao were in place, but nothing had been officially launched. Our token $SUPER launched back in early 2021 and peaked in value at more than $4.00. At present, like most cryptocurrencies, $super is down and trades around $0.12. This decline is actually not all that bad considering everything that’s happened in the past 18 months.
In addition to the token, many of the projects and products Super Studios has worked on are community-driven, and decentralized and are ultimately planned to be “owned” by the Super Verse Dao. I say owned but really that means the products are operated by the Dao community — in other words, they vote on what happens. From features to finances, the Dao decides.
My company, Super Studios, Inc., a Delaware corp, is purely a service provider of these products and we operate and make money based on decisions by the Dao community. Money generated from such products goes directly into the Dao treasury for distribution or use as the community sees fit. We make money from service fees on development, hosting, and maintenance.
Truthfully, coming from a SaaS background and building companies that owned the tech we worked on, I wasn’t too keen on the concept initially. I was not comfortable with the idea that the community could force us to build a feature we didn’t think made sense. Particularly given that we built these products at our expense. I solved this by developing a licensing model whereby we maintain ownership of the technology powering these products while the consumer-facing solution is Dao owned.
This created both a consistent revenue stream for as long as the products were alive and also reduced roadmap control by the community. Ultimately the Dao runs and owns the product, so they could vote to cancel the licensing agreement, which would cause the tech to stop working. Or they could request a new feature we hadn’t already planned, in which case we would provide a bid in a cost-plus model.
Gigamart and Impostors
The two main products we’ve been building on behalf of the Super Verse community are Gigamart and Impostors. The tech behind Gigamart is our vision of where NFTs are going. The product, which launches in early December, will compete with popular NFT marketplaces like Opensea, Blur, and X2Y2. It’s no secret that NFT sales are seriously depressed and the future of NFTs are wildly uncertain.
It’s my belief however that rise and fall of NFT hype has created a smoke screen for the genius technology powering the movement. Moreover, the noisy crypto landscape has blocked innovation and we’re yet to see many of the real business and consumer use cases for NFTs.
Gigamart is the marketplace for what NFTs will be, not simply what they started out as.
Impostors on the other hand is a game. Many people believe that games will be the path to onboard non-degens into crypto, NFT, and Web3. I’m in this camp. There are several seemingly obvious use cases for games and NFTs and frankly, decentralization in general. There have been a slew of Web3 and crypto-driven games in the past several years. But none have really cracked the code.
There have been some huge winners like Axie Infinity which lead the P2E (Play to Earn) movement. But many of these have crashed hard as their financial models were not sustainable. When crypto crashed at the beginning of 2022, there just wasn’t enough token value to maintain momentum. You can only rob Peter to pay Paul for so long. Hypes, scams, and schemes aren’t business models, and I’m not interested in crypto for those reasons.
None of that means that crypto or NFT games won’t work. They will.
Ultimately the Super Verse Dao is intended to facilitate consistent, sustainable, and meaningful value for $super token holders. In our case, the key term is sustainable. The vision is simple:
To onboard web2 users through immersive gaming
To better serve web3 users with native products
In a nutshell, here’s how it works:
- Community votes on products and services they believe will be beneficial to large user bases (i.e. Gigamart and Impostors)
- Revenue is generated from these products and deposited into the Dao treasury
- $super token holders share in funds or vote on the use of funds for new projects or products
Like any viable business, the products need to work. This isn’t a pyramid scheme. If the products succeed, profit goes to the community. If they fail, the community gets nothing.
Crypto is Dead, Long Live Crypto
The fundamental insight, and opportunity, is that exciting and emerging markets like crypto will only support sustainable business models once the noise settles. If there is money to be made on hype, legally or not, those models will win over real business. In other words, nothing lasting will be created until the bullshit is called.
Enter FTX, Luna, Celcius, thousands of others, and more to come. We’re calling bullshit and unfortunately, people are getting hurt. But if you believe crypto is a long game then you should be happy we’re seeing catastrophic fails like FTX now because it means the end is near. Not the end of crypto, but the end of the bullshit.
Over the next 5 years, it’s going to be about the companies that can last, experiment, iterate, and maneuver toward real business models that address real customer pain points. Cash is king and time is the resource.
So when I say FTX is the best thing that could happen to crypto I don’t mean that literally. In reality, it’s a disaster. But it is a necessary, and utterly evil step, in a long journey to lasting and ubiquitous value.