Explorer Grants Trial - 2nd Draft

updated from Original Post after feedback from seneca & krel; added more details about our team, added suggested funding for team members, and extended trial period.

Explorer Grants - Trial

Core Issue: A lot of talented builders have Nouns on their radar, but are not sure how to contribute. The only place we actively incentivize them with ideas and funding is Prop House mandated rounds, which are retroactive, leaving builders who lose the round. Otherwise, they must figure out problems themselves and then ask for money, a difficult process if someone has no connections to the ecosystem.

Solution: Create a program to actively recruit new talented builders and pro-actively fund them to explore the Nouns ecosystem.

TL;DR

  • 1 grant = 10 ETH for 2 months of exploration, goal for each builder is to have on-chain prop by end
  • 5 builders (50 ETH total) in fist trial run, paid via Sablier stream
  • 3 members on operations multi-sig (mrtn, jihad, dot), lightly compensated
  • Transparency is key

Eligibility

  • Must NOT be actively or recently funded by Nouns, or clearly an existing participant in the Nouns ecosystem.
  • Must be new to the broader Nouns ecosystem.
  • Must be working / actively exploring something while on grant, or it will be revoked.
  • Preference for people who can proactively create independently - engineers, content creators, designers, writers…

Operation Details

The entire process will be transparent via a public Discord and run by the 3-person team, who will be lightly compensated to do this work, creating further accountability and commitment.

Public Application:

  • Explorer Grants will be publicized via Twitter, 1:1 outreach from the team and its network, Twitter Spaces with Nouns community organizations, Discords, etc…
  • Candidates will submit public applications, showing past work and motivations for exploring the Nouns ecosystem, as well as a couple problem spaces that interest them
    • These applications will also benefit the community at large who can recruit builders from this group
  • Candidates will largely be assessed on talent, potential, and excitement about Nouns. Reasoning for accepted candidates will be made public. The 3-person team will decide on 4 final candidates to accept.
  • 1 slot in the program will be allocated to a Nouns community vote

Program:

  • 10 ETH for 2 months of part-time exploration for each builder
    • detail: overpaying slightly is critical to attracting talent that may not otherwise come to us. we are targeting people who make more than $150,000 a year in their full-time job
  • Weekly check-in call with builders. Members of the Explorer Grants team will help them explore ideas, connect them to Nouners and builders, and lead workshops.
  • End of Program Objective: each builder submits an on-chain or Prop House prop for continued funding

Team

  • mrtn, lead organizer:
    • previously a PM at Google and NBA Top Shot, he has now contributed to a variety of Nounish projects - Nouns Builder, AI Pod, Agora, as well as doing a 24 Hour Nounish live stream, and receiving a Governance Historian grant. At USC, he ran an organization that guided students towards entrepreneurship, whose members include several YC startups. He’s a big believer in diversifying funding sources for Nouns builders, and experimenting with the patronage model. Comp: 3 ETH / month
  • jihad, community & product expert:
    • Core contributor at Forefront, creating media and building infrastructure for tokenized communities. He is also a delegate and “Lil Nouncilor” at Lil Nouns DAO, a contributor to Public Nouns, one of the winners of the recent Nouns Agora delegate race, and is part of the team building Adjectives, an analytics and proposal evaluation platform for Nouns DAO. Jihad believes that Nouns must be a center of excellence for tokenized communities, and the Explorer Grants program would be a step in the right direction in attracting the brightest minds to do focused yet unstructured work in the Nouns ecosystem. Comp 2 ETH / month
  • dot, technical expert:
    • Dot is an iOS dev turned nounish builder - a founding member of Nouncil and most recently Lil Nounder at Lil Nouns DAO; the first full fork of Nouns DAO. Dot started Lil Nouns as a way to expose nouns to as many people as possible. Lil Nouns DAO leverages its 8 nouns alongside its own treasury to fund and support public goods built by lil nouners. In doing so, Lil Nouns has become a builder onramp to Nouns DAO itself. Comp: 2 ETH / month

Questions

How will you actually find these builders? Our team has fairly deep networks within the crypto and broader tech space; we’ll leverage our personal connections as well as our social media presence to find more builders. Additionally, a large appeal of programs like these (Thiel Fellowship, Prop House, MacArthur Grants) is the benefit of continued funding + prestige, which we intend to lean into.

But what if the builders don’t do anything? This is similar to everything in Nouns already - there’s a social contract to uphold, someone could always dissapear after receiving 200 ETH on-chain. We can setup the grant via Sablier to revoke if a builder goes MIA, however.

What will they actually build? The first round will not have a particular mandate but future ones could be structured closer to Prop House mandated rounds, where there is a theme. We believe that time and freedom is key to allowing talented builders to find something meaningful to build long-term.

Why not just run this on Prop House? Decisions are not always best made by large committees. Prop House rounds do not allow for deep conversation and analysis of candidates. A transparent, small committee allows for depth and betting on candidates who might not otherwise get a shot (i.e. people who aren’t good at writing a description on prop house but would be amazing builders). Additionally, we’d like to create a long-term relationship with these builders via an organized cohort.

What if no good work comes out of this? That’s a possibility, as is the case with prop house rounds. However, we believe that Nouns already has a great enough brand to attract solid builders. However, if nothing goods comes out of this trial, then we will have learned that pro-active grants for attracting builders is not a valid technique for our DAO. If there are takeaways, they can’t be adapted into other funding sources, like Prop House or NSFW in the future.

Why are you being paid? Our initial proposal did not include payment for the team, but it was suggested by Nouners that we should be getting paid to create accountability, as well as allow us to dedicate more time in making this more of a full-fledged program than one-off grants with no support from us.

Total Funding

5 Builders x 10 ETH = 50 ETH
Team Comp: 14 ETH
Total: 64 ETH

5 Likes

I hope this can be a reality soon. Me and few others I’ve met via various discord think that the current grant process is centralized, very hard for new comers to get grant or exposures and those who have already got funded before are preferred more. This creates a barrier for those who have been wanting to explore Nouns as well as want to create something around it.
Sub levels for grants would be really amazing. I feel like their team do give time and attention to grants but only if it’s recommended by other people and in this way lots of other people get lost in the dust.

2 Likes

This is a great idea from a proven team that I trust to execute well. If any builders part of this cohort are interested in working on Federation I’d be more than happy to onboard and give them ideas to work on. I’m looking for collaborators and can use all the help I can get

1 Like

I agree. Even posting exploratory posts in the discord I didn’t receive any input or feedback from more experienced nouners (not to mention people don’t respond to direct dms in discord), leaves me wondering if I put the work into throwing a prop together if anyone would even read it. Even here in the discourse I see little response to new participants in the ecosystem. With such a drive to onboard and proliferate but then little follow through on encouraging participation of newcomers, I feel like incentives should be evaluated.

If the core group of nouners are funding props from people they know in the ecosystem, but not weighing new entrants (at all), it doesn’t provide many opportunities for new comers to have their ideas heard. Shouldn’t we all have the opportunity to be heard? And to iterate on our ideas? Not just the select few early entrants/incumbents.

1 Like

Add to that, many people don’t have the capital to begin doing work to ask for retroactive funds later.

By only supporting props submitted by those who can afford to put this capital up, we’re losing out on the sweat equity and social capital of builders who have something to offer.

1 Like

I disagree at some part, I got lots of support from from a couple of people, I guess not just pitching ideas help but involving with the community helps too. Sure some people got feedback and some dont, main reason is the already existing team who are a part of 4-5 more different project with nouns so they being deep into different projects maybe not give them enough time to look things clearly. Hence the reason why often prefer the people who had already shown results. This isnt how its supposed to be and kinda nice to see that some people who already have good results with their previous proposal taking such steps.

We’re doing an idea similar to this in the Yuga ecosystem. Apecoin recently passed a proposal to do a prop house for Meebits, which is a great way to cut down on red tape for new builders. It doesn’t cost the DAO a lot because the grants are smaller, and so people can be more exploratory. Everyone is excited about the initiative there, and I fully expect if Nouns does something similar, it will

  1. increase activity,
  2. increase morale,
  3. bring astounding new ideas, and
  4. help the DAO become a leader in the next bull market.

Love to hear ideas and see this one move forward.

@mrtn been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of weeks, it feels like this could be combined really well with other programs at the DAO, something like Grants Program + Mandate Round or Grants Program + Challenges, where this program can serve as targeted outreach to the community while also providing some guidance & direction as to what the DAO desires to see built.

Basically a combination of “tell people what we want them to build on” and “go find people to build on it”.

Let’s keep chatting in the Builder’s discord with the group to refine a bit more and try to build momentum for this initiative. Thanks!

3 Likes