A brief history of Gitcoin from 2017 - 2022

hey all,

i’ve been giving an oral history of gitcoin to several new members of the DAO, and this post is meant to write it up once + for all - to share context at scale.
here goes:

an incomplete, subjective, and high level history of gitcoin

pre-history && genesis (2008 - 2017)

i went through techstars in 2008. since then, i had been a cto, vp engineering, or generally a lead engineer at several startups in the techstars portfolio from 2008 - 2017.

during that time, i hired about 40 software engineers, and from that experience i had observed two things

  1. everything i (or my colleagues) built was derived from open source software.
  2. recruiters add very little value, or are often negative value-add

during that time, i was an organizer of Boulder Startup Week - a one week celebration of entrepreneurship & technology every May in Boulder Colorado. i ran the dev track in 2014, data science track in 2015, and then the “future of tech” track thereafter - mostly a hodgepodge of personal interests in frontier tech AI, virtual reality, machine learning, blockchain.

during that time, i was also experimenting with creating side projects in the "future of tech space. some of those projects are

  1. a VR meditation app
  2. a VR hunting app
  3. an AI-driven crypto trading app
  4. the boulder blockchain meetup
  5. a tool called adblock-to-bitcoin
  6. a tool called youvegoteth
  7. a brief stint with a blockchain-hedge fund
  8. a smattering of other projects
  9. the MVP of Gitcoin

by meticulously trying things (and failing) i stumbled upon the genesis of gitcoin - which would go on to be the most meaningful project of my career.

2017 - the Gitcoin MVP

the MVP of Gitcoin was a bounties product that i self funded during this time of experimentation.

it was a tool that i (perhaps naively) felt could possibly solve these two problems i’d seen during my time as an engineering leader:

  1. removing recruiters as an intermediary
  2. funding Open Source Software.

i launched the MVP of gitcoin in the autumn of 2017, and i was able to convince consensys to fund the project.

i went to Devcon 3 in cancun, and started at Consensys in Autumn 2017.

2018 - experimentation & growth

joining Consensys was a point of stepwise growth for Gitcoin. we went from a project that me & my friends in Colorado barely used to a project that had access to the top projects in the Ethereum ecosystem, and we went from a1 part-time team member to several full time members.

the acceleration provided to gitcoin by joining consensys was essential in kickstarting the network effects of our marketplace & our community. i think, had i not joined consensys, gitcoin would have likely failed.

i’m extremely proud that our mission from the start [1] has remained consistent through the years to today. our mission is to grow & sustain open source.

in 2017, we realized that bounties were not going to fully accomplish our mission. bounties resembled gig work, they were too transactional and not recurring so they offered no stability. they didnt match the way that many open source contributors worked. it was too transactional. we started experimenting with several different product areas - ethical ads (codefund), gitcoin labs, kudos, and gitcoin grants.

the beginning of the bear (december 2018 - march 2019)

in december 2018, ETH had gone down 95% from $1.4k to $80.

consensys, which is rumoured to be funded by ETH holdings, began to tighten it’s belt. it was december 2018 that the reorganizations at consensys started.

through the following 2 years, this introduced several existential questions about focus, business models, & resources at consensys, gitcoin, and the broader ethereum ecosystem.

luckily - we were ahead of a lot of the other projects in the ethereum space. we had worked really hard looking for product market fit through the previous year, and luckily we were well positioned for the downmarket.

we are also really lucky that everyone in the ecosystem needed developers (even in a down market), and serving developers had been a core focus for Gitcoin for years.

we launched gitcoin hackathons which allowed us to show revenue & growth at a time in which both of those things were really important at Consensys.

gitcoin grants, which had hereunto been a subscriptoin service for funding public goods and had seen 0 traction, pivoted to make Quadratic Funding the centerpiece of gitcoin grants.

gitcoin grants round 1 launched with a $25k matching pool and was a resounding success.

from there, we began focusing on growing gitcoin hackathons + gitcoin grants.

the long bear market - (march 2019 - january 2021)

the next several years were a tooth & nail fight for growth & budget. we were like cockroaches, refusing to be exterminated by the long hard bear market.

these years were years of The Struggle.

we made several hard decisions, including saying goodbye to people who didnt have the risk appetite for the bear market. and shutting down projects that we didnt see a future for (labs, codefund).

we promoted scott moore to cofounder & partnerships lead. scott was an absolutely essential part of our success during this time + continues to be an essential part of our success today.

we focused relentlessly on growing gitcoin hackathons + gitcoin grants, and started to see a lot of success in doing so, with 30% growth Quarter over Quarter for much of this period.

during this time, my cofounder vivek singh conceived of and launched KERNEL - a web3 native accelerator & university - a very successful new venture that continues to create dividends today.

during this time, we saw massive growth. and we survived. but we made several short term decisions driven by just wanting to survive.

we exited this period with a lot of technical debt + org debt. i know that i personally still have PTSD from this period.

the new dawn (january 2021 - april 2021)

when the market turned from bearish to bullish, and our growth continued – things really turned around.

people in the know had called us “establishing itself as a significant pillar of the Ethereum ecosystem” for a while, but i had failed to raise money for gitcoin during the long bear.

when janaury 2021 rolled around, all of a sudden, it seemed investors were actually really interested. we were able to raise $11m from one of the top funds in the space and spin out of Consensys to become an independent company called gitcoin holdings. in particular, i felt that paradigm would be the most mission aligned funder that we could possibly work with - and that is why we chose them.

i will forever be thankful to the Mesh, especially Joe Lubin & Michael Kriak for keeping us alive through the long bear, but it was now time to become independent & pursue a new chapter for gitcoin.

it was now time to start making investments in paying down our debt from the long bear, and building towards realizing gitcoin’s ultimate potential.

  • we turned the team + exited a few people who were not a fit for this next chapter of our journey.
  • we hired a new leader to run gitcoin’s operations, to enable vivek to focus more on KERNEL.
  • we brought on several new contributors who could help us transition from a scrappy 0 to 1 startup, to one that was growing from 1 to 10
  • we quietly laid plans to turn Gitcoin into a DAO that was going to be governed by it’s community.

just DAO it (May 25 2021)

May 25 2021 was a day that would change Gitcoin forever. It was the day that we retroactively airdropped GTC to the community and launched GitcoinDAO.

We believe “a government’s legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised.” wikipedia

We didnt want to build another web2 startup. The big idea behind launching the DAO was to make Gitcoin governed by its community.

The dream was to build GitcoinDAO into the vessel that could take us to the Quadratic Lands: a better world for public goods and digital democracy. A world where we’ve rewritten the laws of economic gravity to align value creation & value capture, to solve coordination failures, and slay Moloch - the god of coordination failure.

More on the Quadratic Lands vision here:

double DAOwn on the DAO it (May 25 2021 - present)

In the wake of the GTC launch, there were many many things that happened. A few notable ones:

We launched https://gov.gitcoin.co/ and began the long path towards decentralizing Gitcoin.

During this time, several workstreams were proposed by the community & subsequently launched.

Workstreams are the way work is organized in the DAO. Workstreams have their own budget, leadership structure, tools, and processes on a per-workstream basis. Anyone can propose a workstream by following the proposal process. The current active workstreams are:

  1. Moonshot Collective is the DAO rapid prototyping workstream
  2. Public Goods is focused on our mission of funding public goods.
  3. Fraud Detection & Defense is in charge of preventing fraud on Gitcoin Grants.
  4. Decentralize-gitcoin is the mechanism through which Gitcoin is progressively decentralizing.
  5. Memes, Merch, & Marketing is the DAO marketing division.
  6. dCompass - building DAO native orientation tool.

I wrote a post entitled the The GitcoinDAO Egregore is emerging, all about the way thing were coming together.

New tools like decentralized Grants Alpha and the Steward Report Cards launched.

Through this time, the orbit of Gitcoin remained our mission, but the DAO began to be a primary place for contributors to contribute to the mission.

We began to really hit our stride in creating results towards our mission.

Stats as of 12/15/2021:

Since its launch in November 2017 , Gitcoin has helped 59,956 funders reach an audience of 262,688 earners. Gitcoin has facilitated 1,572,067 complete transactions to 9,700 unique earners.

To be continued (2022+)

GitcoinDAO is still evolving & emerging.

The future, in my opinion, should continue our path towards more scale & more decentralization.

We have gotten from 0 to 1, and are turning the corner to go from 1 to 10 – and are beginning to set our sites on going from 10 to 100.

If you want to follow along with the latest, I invite you to read the weekly GitcoinDAO Digests or read the What is Gitcoin post which I have been updating on a monthly basis.

Our the north star.

while you’re here, you should checkout our latest discussion about the Gitcoin Mission & Vision, especially this excellent proposed north star vision statement by @Pop & company.

Gitcoin DAO builds for human thriving.

Gitcoin’s vision is to establish an empowering, open and collaborative space where individuals and communities can access resources in proportion to their value creation independent of their geographic location, education, background or offline identity.

By creating collaborative, decentralized funding mechanisms, Gitcoin has become the natural choice for seeding and supporting digital public goods. The DAO enables building for the public, by the public by helping individuals and communities start, fund, and scale open source projects.

16 Likes

Thanks for recapping this @owocki.

I’d add that others can keep up with our progress by following us on Twitter, and join our Discord to get building!

Thanks a lot for the review history, I love stories.

I knew Gitcoin since 2018 and met @ceresstation in Singapore. I am inspired by the missions and values by Gitcoin. To fund and build public goods.

So I joined gitcoindao (http://gitcoindao.com/) this year, start to build GitcoinDAO with all the contributors.

For anyone you would like to work within GitcoinDAO, please come to http://gitcoindao.com/ and fill in your contributor application form.

This is a wonderful journey in my life, working with talent people together.

5 Likes

Great!DAO is the future!

Coming from a bear market is not easy. Keep going and open the great sea age.

1 Like

Nice refreshing.
Amazing achievements!

Congrats!!!

Love this! Reminds me of having you in my class:)

thanks for sharing the history of gitcoin and for pushing so hard for the betterment of our community!

1 Like