Maybe someday millions of people will be working for DAOs instead of traditional corporations. Decentralized autonomous organizations, established through blockchain protocols, sound revolutionary in theory — they unite people around a common goal, operate without centralized leadership, and provide all members a stake in the group’s success.
So far, however, this utopian ideal seems a bit far off at best. Broadly publicized DAOs have mostly focused on buzzy crowdfunding efforts (like trying to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution) instead of long-term economic ventures. In a recent tweet, Bloomberg journalist Joe Weisenthal said DAOs seemed more like “poorly-coordinated bidding clubs” than successors to the corporation.
But that is not true of every DAO. Some of those entities, especially those focusing on decentralized finance, media and gaming projects, or operating as investment syndicates, have stronger use cases. Some also appear to have the potential for lasting staying power based on the strength of their communities (which we analyzed previously by calculating a “net community score” for DAOs).
BanklessDAO, for instance, is essentially an interest group which promotes the “bankless” movement. Through its media team, it spreads information encouraging the adoption of crypto over traditional financial markets. Its corporate affiliate Bankless LLC “is now a fully operational media studio with revenue, expenses and employees,” the group said in a Medium post.
We talked to Samantha Marin, a writer, editor, and talent scout for BanklessDAO, about what it’s like to work for that kind of organization. She also told us what she thinks about the future of DAOs and whether she believes they will democratize the business world. Here is what she had to say.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Business of Business: What is BanklessDAO? What is its mission? What is its business model? How does it generate revenue?
Samantha Marin: BanklessDAO is a media and social DAO that produces crypto educational content, builds DAO-tooling and Discord integrations, provides consulting services to other DAOs and Web3-native organizations, and provides a social homebase for creatives, innovators, and thought-leaders in crypto. Our mission is to onboard 1 billion people to crypto, so we’re taking multiple angles to do that: from building tools that make working in DAOs easier to writing articles that help people understand the nuances of crypto to producing podcasts that open up important conversations in the space. We generate revenue through sponsorships, NFT drops, consulting work, custom creative work such as articles and designs, our investment indices, and DAO-tooling sales.
What does it mean to be a “permissionless” DAO? What are the advantages of that structure?
We’re permissionless in that we allow anyone from anywhere to join the Discord server and get a free guest pass. That means you don’t need to worry about work visas or old-school barriers to entry when starting your DAO journey. The advantages of this structure are that we get talent from all over the world, which brings lots of diverse perspectives and makes our DAO more innovative and productive. We can also work around the clock, since everyone is in different time zones and takes different days off work. We truly never stop moving, which means we can go at lightning speeds. It’s incredibly exciting.
How does the DAO compensate members who perform work on behalf of the DAO?
Contributors earn our governance token, $BANK, to compensate for their work. BANK is an ERC20 token on Ethereum and Polygon. Members are also rewarded through our peer-rewarding system called Coordinape. Basically, at the end of the month or season (seasons are DAO versions of corporate quarters) you give points to contributors based on what you saw their work output to be. Those points translate directly into BANK tokens, so you get rewarded by your peers acknowledging the work you’ve been doing. Lastly, we have a tipping mechanism called Collab.land that allows us to tip each other BANK directly through Discord. It’s a really unique environment where contributors reward each other and share wealth.
“The advantages of this structure are that we get talent from all over the world, which brings lots of diverse perspectives and makes our DAO more innovative and productive.”
Let’s talk about DAO tooling…which has come up in this space. What do you think of that concept and how is it relevant to your DAO?
DAO tooling is the next big unlock for DAO growth. We need better ways to work asynchronously. That’s why we have a thriving Developers Guild that incubates DAO-tooling products, which are currently deployed in nearly 100 DAO Discord servers already. We also need tools that help anons stay anon—Google suite is not good for that. A Web3-native Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Drive, and Slides where you sign in with your public address is absolutely necessary.
Why did you join? Can you share when in your life journey you decided to get involved full-time and what appealed to you in this space?
I started learning about crypto about one year ago during the early 2021 run. My boyfriend and his roommate were starting to buy and trade blue-chip crypto like BTC and ETH. I was interested, so I set up a Binance and Coinbase account to figure everything out. I started listening to Bankless to learn about what I was buying, but I quickly realized there was so much more to crypto than pure speculation. The Bankless podcast was truly my gateway into Web3, so it’s only fitting that I joined the DAO that spun out of Ryan and David’s media company. I’m really energized by our mission of onboarding 1 billion people to crypto. This space is “all ships rise” and positive-sum, which I love.
“As a writer, the open, grassroots aspect of DAOs really appealed to me, because I’ve had a very hard time 'breaking into' the traditional publishing world."
As a writer, the open, grassroots aspect of DAOs really appealed to me, because I’ve had a very hard time “breaking into” the traditional publishing world. Creatives such as writers and designers often work for free just to get exposure, but there’s no free work in the DAO—you get rewarded for your efforts. Traditional publishing is also based on old-school, “who you know” tactics, and I can’t tell you how many rejection letters are in my inbox! The DAO is agnostic to age, experience, and background—all you need to do is produce good work. So, as a young writer, this environment was a natural fit for me.
Blockchains have been said to be potentially transformative in media in terms of decentralizing the input, having better source quality, and transforming monetization models for content creation with NFTs? Does Bankless leverage blockchains in any of these areas?
Some media arms within BanklessDAO use NFTs to generate revenue, like our satire publication The Rug. But, since we’re trying to reach many non-crypto-natives with our work, we typically publish places they’ll be able to find us, like Medium and Substack. Mirror is tricky because you need to sign in with a wallet to explore content and follow publications, so it’s not a good avenue to reach non-crypto-natives. However, we do use it for pieces aimed at crypto natives. We don’t want to gate our content, so using NFTs for gating and revenue-generation hasn’t been a major discussion point for us.
There are network effects to working in a traditional job that are not as of yet present in DAOs. For example, employment can help with taking loans or getting approved for housing or visas. Also, credentials can become restrictive and make for a lot of red tape but they provide signal for companies to locate and attract the best talent. How do DAOs plan to bridge this gap in the long term?
We’re exploring ways to build on-chain resumes for our writers through POAPs (Proof of Attendance Protocol), which are non-fungible badges you store in your wallet. Every time you attend a meeting in bDAO, you receive a POAP, so it’s a good way to track engagement. And, we’re beginning to issue POAPs to individuals who’ve written articles for us, so they can use them as a resume. The problem with on-chain resumes is that if you change wallets or get compromised, the whole thing goes away. So using resumes that have a human aspect is really important, too. We’re not looking to have resumes purely on-chain.
Are DAOs the future of work? If so, what does that look like to you?
Owning a piece of the company or organization you work for, working async and remotely, and working on what you love is the future of work. However, most people in the world want to have a stable 9-5 job where they know they’re getting paid a set amount each week. So, the way DAOs are set up now only work for people willing to take on risk, people who have a day job or a stable savings cushion, or people who leverage their investments to make money. It’s also very hard if you have dependents, large expenses like a mortgage, or are in debt in any way. So, DAOs will be the future of work once we can accommodate more than just the risk-takers and the people who are financially secure enough to get paid in a volatile asset.
Are DAOs where you want to spend your future in the next 5 years (given that the crypto ecosystem at least keeps its current size)?
Yes! I’m obsessed with DAOs and can’t imagine working any other way. I work best when I can make my own schedule and choose what I want to work on. I’m definitely one of those people who doesn’t like having a boss or being in some big, slow bureaucratic company. Most traditional companies bore me to death! I’m also more of a risk-taker than I give myself credit for—I can tolerate a pretty high amount of risk and instability. The “edge” that comes with risk taking makes my work better, I think. I’ve never been bored a single day in the DAO, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I don’t think DAOs will replace every single corporation out there, because humans naturally have a hard time giving up power and distributing wealth.”
Why don’t DAOs issue equity in the form of shares within the U.S. legal context? Can you provide some insight into this? Or are they just an alternative to a corporation that exists outside the U.S. legal system?
We don’t want to limit ourselves to only U.S. contributors. Many DAO workers are also skeptical of the back-room-dealings of the U.S. stock market, the limitations around it (only accredited investors can invest in pre-IPO projects), and the way strings are pulled to make the rich richer. That may sound very liberal, but let me tell you, DAOs are full of revolutionaries! We’re trying to invent a new system that serves more than just accredited investors, aka U.S. millionaires. All of the DAOs you see today are basically “pre-IPO” startups that want to distribute equity to workers from all over the world, not to angel investors on Wall Street or VCs in Silicon Valley.
How does a DAO compare with traditional corporations? Do you think they will replace corporations?
In a DAO, you own a piece of it. In most traditional companies, you have no ownership over anything. I don’t think DAOs will replace every single corporation out there, because humans naturally have a hard time giving up power and distributing wealth. This is why we have a term limit on the presidency and mandatory taxation in the United States: if we didn’t have those things, the president would overstay and no one would share wealth to build public schools and fund everyone from road workers to firefighters. Because a DAO is all-ships-rise and brings a collectivist rather than an individualist lens to working, the wealth sharing I’ve seen is incredible. But it’s in human nature to not want to give up your power and wealth, so I don’t think CEOs and boards of directors will vanish overnight.
Many people say that there is a sense of community that is proper to DAOs and that makes them very special. Can you elaborate? How/why does that happen in your view?
The sense of community comes from the shared ownership. We all own this thing, and we all want to make it better, so we work even harder to do so. We’re blazing new territory, so sometimes it feels like a band of weary travelers all supporting each other and picking each other up when we’re down. Everyone is a go-getter and a risk-taker, but Web3 is all about community, so no one is trying to step on anyone else. It’s an “all ships rise” mentality.
How do you know if your DAO is a failure or a success? How do you define those things?
We’re still defining what actually makes a DAO a DAO, so it will be a while before we can define failure and success. In my opinion, a community that lasts longer than one year is a success—community building is the hardest, yet the most important, part of the equation.