Let’s see if I can explain DAOs — decentralized autonomous organizations — within Web3 like we’re all 10 years old. First off, Web3 is the next version of the internet — Web1 was text-only web pages with a few hyperlinks to other text-only web pages, and Web2 is what we know as the internet now. Web3 will be run by blockchain, permanent and encrypted information that gives users the ability to own and control their data across the internet.
Here’s where DAOs come in. DAOs are groups of users who have come together for a common purpose within Web3. Instead of a traditional structure of company owners and board members who control all the money, DAOs give that responsibility to the collective membership. In a general sense, DAOs’ goals are utopian: Each member has a say in the direction the DAO takes and what the DAO might purchase.
Web3 is currently very cerebral, a lot of planning and imagining for its possible emergence as a new normal. It’s the beginning of something, so of course, it’ll look a little chaotic. To get a clearer picture, we interviewed a few people in the DMV involved with DAOs.
Culture of Coffee with Meti Yoseph
“The whole world is drinking coffee, but we don’t really know much about it,” Meti Yoseph, author and creative director of Culture of Coffee says. “So, I wanted to put that at the core of the project.”
To start, Yoseph wrote a book in 2013, also titled “A Culture of Coffee,” that captures the origin of coffee, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and the rituals that accompany this common drink. Now, as Yoseph starts up the Culture of Coffee DAO, she is rebooting the book, selling it to prospective members as non-fungible tokens (NFT) and a subsequent buy-in into the DAO.
“We as the community should dictate how we want to purchase our coffee,” Yoseph says. “How much we pay, who we pay, how the people who grow coffee can benefit…anything we can think about and innovate.”
The DAO will make those decisions together. Each group member earns tokens within the group by participating, and those tokens count as votes in group decisions. Culture of Coffee is a newer DAO, but it’s already building ideas on how to make a more equitable coffee system — for instance, paying coffee farmers instead of middle-men suppliers.
“It’s more just about trying some experiments. What’s possible?” Yoseph says. “With blockchain you’re literally putting ideas out and freezing them. And then whoever gravitates to the idea would be welcome.”
Phlote with AJ Washington
AJ Washington, founder of Phlote, launched the DAO in February and already has international contributors due to its mission to make the music industry more transparent.
“Music is discovered right now by influencers and tastemakers, but those people are not getting paid,” Washington says. “We enable people to financially benefit from discovering independent artists.”
Members of Phlote can share independent artist’s music to the DAO, and if other members like the music, they can upvote it, which gives the original discoverer tokens. From there, the community would create an NFT of the music, and then sell that NFT to help get the artist’s name out. The more you share, the more tokens you can potentially get, which will benefit members down the line. Like shares in a company, tokens will also give them a piece of what the DAO earns.
“This is a way for us to meet a lot of people who are aligned with our interests,” Washington says. “We get to build community with them and do cool things together.”
Everyone gets a say, and no one person is fully in charge of any decision making.
“What’s super exciting is that the next generation of dominant internet startups that disrupt the current ecosystem will be built this way,” Washington says.
Friends with Benefits with Alex Purdy
An artist and music producer, Alex Purdy was looking for the next step in her career when she found the Friends with Benefits DAO. A global DAO, Friends with Benefits conducts virtual and in-person events for members to discuss music, fashion, social justice, 3D modeling…the list goes on.
“There’s something for everyone,” Purdy says. She was recently given a contributor role within the community, which means she helps facilitate conversations in different Discord channels.
Members earn tokens through participation, which allows them to access different tiers within the DAO.
“You gain access to tons of people and resources you may not otherwise have had,” Purdy says. “There’s a town hall where we all hear about all the different projects happening, because there’s so many different groups and people doing different things.”
Being a part of Friends with Benefits helped Purdy gain more exposure for her music, garnering the sales of a few NFTs. But she emphasized that she’s still learning within this world, and that everyone is still learning.
“What’s really helped me the most is having an open mind,” she says. “There’s a lot to learn. Don’t be discouraged by how much new information there is.”
Camp Social with Zvi Band
Walk into any unfamiliar space alone, and you might leave even lonelier. Zvi Band, a member of several DAOs, including Friends with Benefits, saw how that loneliness translates online and wanted to do something about it.
“Discord is like walking into a crowded bar of 2,000 people shouting at each other,” Band says. “People are joining these communities, excited about the mission and the goals, but then they’re just walking into a crowded room, and they make a couple laps and walk back out.”
Band created Camp Social to help members of these huge communities find smaller subsets within to build trust and feel like their voice is important to the mass, too. The DAO “plug-in” allows members to meet each other through small group social activities — like a coffee meetup or a simple conversation.
This helps DAOs build healthy incentives, as members can earn more tokens when they participate and build deeper relationships with other members.
“I believe that the two big problems we have to solve in our lifetime are climate change and loneliness,” Band says. “And both of those problems require completely new types of coordination. When it comes to loneliness, I very much believe that we need new ways to organize ourselves, to learn together, to share and make decisions together.”
What we’re seeing right now in the Web3/DAO space is mostly toys, according to Band. Experiments. It’s easy to look at this new world and only see the chaos and the questions. And we should question it. But there’s something to be said about a group of people hoping for a better, brighter and more equitable future. What’s out of our hands? And what’s in them?
To learn more about DAOs and different aspects of Web3 in D.C., follow the W3DC event series on Instagram @web3dc.