2021 = 2020^10
Aragon 2021 Retrospective
After DeFi Summer last year, we knew that 2021 would be lit, but who would have guessed that dYdX would flippen Coinbase or that DAO treasuries would hit $15bn and the TVL on L2s would reach $7bn after beginning the year sub-$50m?
Since Bitcoin sparked the Web3 revolution, we've watched it carve out an infrastructure and create frontier communities now sophisticated enough to outsmart legacy finance...
... and a DAO that almost bought the US Constitution*:
*small print: or a copy of it..
These impressive numbers are supported by some heroic engineering lifts from teams around the world who are building towards Eth2, especially in the L2 space. Ethereum Mainnet has been threatening to max out for most of the year, but sidechains, bridges and rollups have all sprung up to take the strain, and, in the process, have brought transaction and smart contract fees down from triple digits to a few cents. In September, launching on Polygon made DAO creation on Aragon Client 5000x cheaper than Mainnet, with a similar result on Harmony in October. In industrial terms, this is like the transition from wood to coal, except it took 11 months, instead of 150 years...
"If DeFi is speedrunning the history of finance, then DAOs are speedrunning the history of organizational structures." - Jonah Erlich, ConstitutionDAO.
Web3’s face-melting growth has certainly been reflected in the number of visitors we've seen on aragon.org and the Aragon Blog. With now over 25k visitors per month, we’ve raced to onboard new users and curate the blog into a point of reference for DAO education and thought leadership. To give an idea of the demographic, ‘What is a DAO?’ has been, by far, our most popular article this year, followed by 15 Ways the World is being Transformed by DAOs, and How to DAO: Answers for Beginners.
In putting together these content pieces, we’re extremely fortunate to be able to learn from the best of Web3 writers and thought leaders. @BanklessHQ have consistently produced amazing articles and content throughout 2021; everything @FEhrsam publishes is worth reading several times; and @NichananK has written one of our favorite pieces on Organization Legos and the State of DAO Tooling.
We’re also very grateful to those organizing the organizers: DeepDAO’s Ecosystem Overview and related tools, Messari’s Proposal Tracker, Tally, Boardroom and many others are all putting in incredible shifts to improve the space’s signal-to-noise ratio, improve participation and generally help DAOs to live their best life.
With a view to the longer term, we launched the first version of a DAO education portal for every level of expertise, from noobs to degens. Next year this will be expanded and improved to support the product team as we roll out a next generation DAO platform to the mass market (stay tuned 😉).
Web3 = Collaborative Advantage
It's no accident that much of last year’s supercharged growth came through partnerships. Unlike Web2, Web3 has worked out that its superpower is composability and building together is far more productive than trying to defend monopolies.
In June, we were super happy to sponsor the new Decentralized Governance (dGov) category of Gitcoin Grants with $50k of match funding. This was distributed to 16 projects building in the dGov space, including DAOrayaki, The Commons Stack, CatalanDAO, Token Engineering and Moloch v3. In separate partnerships, we’ve also collaborated with API3, EPNS, Uno Re, UMA, Harmony, Polygon, Witnet, and Zebpay, with many more in the pipeline.
In short, 2021 has been the year that Aragon decided to put collaboration at the heart of everything we do. The DAO Global Hackathon has especially been our statement of intent for 2022 in this regard...
With over 1000 participants registered on Gitcoin, the DAO Global Hackathon was a compilation of talented people, ground-breaking ideas, and innovative projects.
In less than 2 months, we saw people from around the globe collaborate on how to keep communities engaged and rewarded, how to structure payments for contributors' work, how to build tooling that is multi-chain, and structure DAO tech that is aligned with the ecosystem's pain points.
And here are the top winners for each track:
Hackathon DAO Factory: a multi-chain DAO infrastructure service protocol to create and manage DAO organizations deployed within different chains.
Level 1 DAO: A fun and friendly learning and development platform designed for decentralized communities to tap into the full awesomeness of their membership.
Cofund: bridges the voting and funding processes for DAO grant programs, improving the funding rate and completion of projects by (1) automatically triggering payments upon approval of a project proposal in Aragon and (2) executing a new funding scheme consisting of an immediate fixed transfer plus a Superfluid stream with an adjustable rate.
Concord: DAO smart contracts controlled by a Discord bot and connected to a frontend to welcome donations. Members of the DAO can discuss project details, create and vote on proposals, claim retroactive expenses and tip each other for their contributions all through Discord.
In case you want to geek out a bit more, here's a full list of winning projects across all 4 tracks:
As well as growing our partnership network, we have also put a huge amount of effort into our community and ecosystem. Aragon's destination is to be completely decentralized and operated by $ANT holders. On a technical level, the frontier can't move fast enough, but while we wait for the future to arrive, we've been focusing on building out the four 'c's of Web3: Community, Culture, Collaboration and Coordination through the Ambassador Program, weekly community calls, and, most importantly, the Aragon Network DAO.
The Aragon Ambassadors Program launched in September as an incubator for the forthcoming Aragon Network DAO. It has been a huge community investment and is turning into one of our most productive avenues of growth. What began as a target of 250 Ambassadors in 2021 turned into ~500 applications from over 70 countries(!), so we are training the first cohort to onboard the next two cohorts as fast as we can! (Thank you for your patience! 🙏) It's a nice problem to have, and we have been overwhelmed by how talented, enthusiastic and proactive everyone is.
From the first cohort, Renee Maria Lee was appointed as a member of the Executive Sub-DAO Committee after coming second in the community vote. She and the rest of the Committee have secured ~$300,000 of funding from the Main DAO for operations and grants in Q1 2022. Michael Heuer has been taken on as a full-time employee and is now building out tooling for the AN DAO, and Shawn Cubbedge has published our first community content piece - What is it Like to Join a DAO? and is involved in almost every aspect of the DAO's community operations.
To keep everyone on the same page, the Ambassadors have a weekly Discord call and since May we have had monthly community calls with guests from API3, f8Guild, Greet and Witnet.
2021 was the year that the Aragon Network DAO went from zero to one in a series of community votes:
One of the working groups to emerge from within the DAO is the Tech Guild, now responsible for answering technical support tickets. Within two days of its inception, it had answered all of the outstanding tickets with a 100% satisfaction rate and reduced the resolution time down to 11 hours. Since then, they have been so successful at keeping pace with enquiries that they have relieved the entire Aragon team who were previously answering tickets and the Aragon Experts program has been mothballed.
This is the exactly the kind of experimentation and prototyping that Aragon was founded to support, and we're just getting started. The last quarter can be looked at as Season Zero and the various initiatives as training grounds for us to start organizing better around bolder initiatives and better incentive mechanisms in 2022.
Aragon = 60^2
As Aragon moves towards full decentralization, we have been laying the foundation and infrastructure for the future organization and being careful to document every decision we make. This began with the first biannual Transparency Report, released in July, to be followed by another in January.
In 12 months, the Aragon team has grown from a small team of 15 to having ~60 full time employees. We have added team members from over 10 countries with a combined experience of over 400 years(!), including gaming wizards, political science experts, entrepreneurs, PhDs, behavioral economists and AI product enthusiasts. This is giving us the depth of talent we need to navigate the Web3 revolution.
A significant cohort of the team came in January with the acquisition of Dvote Labs OÜ, the company behind Vocdoni: a technology that enables private, universally verifiable and scalable voting. This team is now known as Aragon Labs and is working on the technology behind Aragon Voice, as well as cutting edge research into zero-knowledge rollups that will power the next generation of Ethereum scaling and voting solutions.
Given that we've all been working remotely, we made time to build the ~60^2 relationships that Aragon consists of with two offsites in the Algarve and Lisbon:
Having so many galaxy-brains on the books has enabled us this year to build the Aragon OpenStack, which began with the launch of our gasless voting platform - Aragon Voice - in May, followed by Aragon Govern in July, and Aragon Court v2 in August. We were also able to announce the long-awaited 0.044 $ANJ → $ANT conversion rate.
As a sign of how busy we've been, it completely passed us by that October 30th marked three years on Ethereum Mainnet for Aragon! 🥳
Including Aragon Govern and the later deployments of Aragon Client on Polygon and Harmony, over 1,000 new DAOs were created on Aragon this year, with more created in the last 3 months than in all of 2020 combined. We are seeing the floodgates of Web3 opening, with millions of people being onboarded as new contributors; today's contributors becoming tomorrow's DAO creators; and today's creators becoming tomorrow's tooling builders.
2022 = 💥
What life looks like as a builder, creator and contributor is going to look very different in 2022 than it did in 2021. The genie is not going back in the bottle, so we are looking ahead with a long-term vision and new product steps towards it.
We are busy building more modular and easy to use Aragon products for the Web3 community to build the future on. Stay tuned for more news on this in early 2022.
(Psssst... It's probably nothing, but if you're curious to get involved in testing early and shaping the future of DAO products, please join the beta waitlist here 😉 ).
After another year when centralized governance hasn't failed to disappoint, we're more determined than ever to live up to the challenge of our Manifesto and build "organizational forms that defend self-sovereignty."
Web3 has a refreshing, hopeful spirit of collaboration and partnership, epitomized by the WAGMI meme. This, together with composable DAO technology and a kick-ass team, is helping us to iterate faster on governance models and systems than ever before. We have our mates and math on our side, which is pretty formidable.
The next 12 months are sure to be even more exciting than the last and we can't wait to collaborate with you to shape the DAO space.
We're all gonna make it. Thank you. Happy New Year. 🦅
Aragon is building the future of decentralized governance for Web3 communities & organizations. Deploy a DAO on Aragon Client or Aragon Govern, manage your community on Aragon Voice, resolve disputes in Aragon Court and run enterprise-level votes on Vocdoni, all within our open-source stack. See the latest at aragon.org, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, join the conversation on Discord, or follow us on Twitter.