Kris on the Evolution of Gitcoin DAO
Gitcoin DAO Ops Lead and early contributor shares details on their evolution and operating a team of 150+ contributors
I interviewed Kris, Operations Co-lead of Gitcoin DAO to understand the scale of the organization and the processes. I was also interested in learning from Kris about the transition phase of Gitcoin, moving the company founded in 2017 into a DAO in 2021.
We also dig into cool facts about how Gitcoin sustains its giant operations and how it manages a team of 150+ contributors.
Interviewed and edited by me. Transcribed and written by my DAO mate Ashish
I'd love to know about your DAO journey. How did you get into the DAO world and which year?
I started on this journey in 2017 when a friend of mine just invited me into a project called swarm city. So that was like a decentralized, commerce platform. And that's where I learned about Ethereum and blockchain and all the things.
That was my first non-traditionally organized company. And then from this, I went to Giveth and then to Commons Stack.
Gitcoin is my first official DAO, but all the others were also non-traditional organizations. This is the summary of how I got into this.
Which year was this, when you first started with the DAO?
That was in 2017.
Wow! You've been here for a long time. You must have seen a lot. I think we can do a whole episode on that.
The whole, yeah. A lot has evolved.
So moving back to Gitcoin, were you there when they transitioned into a DAO?
I was in talks with them, like in March or April last year to join Gitcoin. And then, on May 25th, they announced the DAO. I joined them in July. So it was a little bit after the launch of Gitcoin DAO.
Got it. Who did you meet? What got you to join Gitcoin? If you can share a bit more about it.
Totally. So, before this, I worked at Giveth and at Commons Stack, and they are very value-aligned web3 projects.
Giveth is like a decentralized donation platform. Commons Stack is all about public goods and is about building communities around currency. Both of these organizations are deeply aligned with Gitcoin.
It all started when I decided to take a break from the Commons Stack, to do a bit of a mental health pause. It was at that time that Scott reached out to me to have a chat.
And that was when I told him I'm actually slowly starting to look for a new opportunity and he was like, “we are looking for someone like you at Gitcoin.” That's how I joined.
Nice. And what was your first task?
My original role was to be responsible for community experience, which is a very large and wide topic.
It was primarily to make sure that whoever joins our DAO, through Notion or Discord or other means, could find their way around and not get overwhelmed with the massive amount of information that is available.
My role was to help structure that, organize things, welcome people and set up processes to make sure that we could easily onboard people into our DAO.
And also for people once they are contributors, they can be as efficient as possible.
Were you bringing people from different places onto a common platform, say Discord where you were then onboarding them? What was the common meeting place?
Discord was mostly the meeting place. That's where most come in. People find us because of a talk or something, and then they join us in Discord. Sometimes they go to gitcoin.co and then they're like, I want to contribute, but I don't know how. That's the first step.
And then from there, what I set up for example was biweekly onboarding calls where people could actually talk to us.
At that time, did Kevin and Scott share any thought processes around how they plan to transition?
When I joined, there was not a lot of DAO-wide structure just yet. We had a Discord and we had workstreams and every workstream was doing its own thing.
I like structures and designing organizations is my favorite thing. So, I had a lot of thoughts and opinions on this.
I had a lot of conversations with the team to see how we can improve and have the project thrive. I was deeply involved in all of the changes.
How many people are in the core team? Did all of the company join the DAO or did you build the DAO team from scratch?
Initially, we didn't have a good overview on how many people we were paying in the DAO, nor did we have a good view on how many were still in the company.
Within the DAO, it was anywhere between like 50 and 200 people who were contributing to the different workstreams.
We were organized in workstreams. And different workstreams had different definitions like, what is a contributor? Some groups just had contributors who were not getting paid at all.
What was the first aspect of the company that was decentralized?
To my knowledge, I would say the first thing that really started to kick off and did well was FDD, which is Fraud Detection and Defense.
That's like everything that has to do with anti-Sybil defense, for people really attacking the system.
I think we started with several workstreams simultaneously, but FDD was super quickly organized.
Another one that started was, MMM, which stands for Memes, Merch, and Marketing. That's like more of a communication side of things. This was also very much a bottom-up workstream.
Another workstream was dGrants, a decentralized version of the grants. That was an experiment that actually failed. They had a team and they did not deliver. These are the three big ones that come to mind.
Did you’ll get any external help? Any consultants or any other DAOs that you looked at for inspiration or was it just figuring out everything yourself?
It depends. There were a lot of people coming in with advice and best practices from other DAOs. But I think we mostly just figured it out ourselves.
In the workstream structure for example everyone did it a little bit independently by themselves, and then slowly after a while more processes across the workstreams emerged.
My role was then evolving. Initially, it was a community experience, and then I was to operate the DAO as a whole.
Then we started to organize a little bit more, like how we can work across the workstreams and what are some of the things that we can manage together.
Some of these things were like, we need some accounting, best practices, people operations, support, tooling for example. So these are the things that came under DAO operations.
Got it. Is Gitcoin 100% DAO now?
Yes. We still have the company, but the only thing that is still in the company is something that we call hackathons, bounties, and events.
Gitcoin’s core activities are entirely in the DAO.
The latest and final workstream that came into the DAO three months ago is the entire product team. They now officially received their first budget from the DAO.
They, on one hand, continue to maintain the current version of the grants and they're also building grant 2.0, a decentralized protocol.
What were the tools used then, a year ago? Also what made Gitcoin on-chain.
Tally has no practical use. It actually just moves the funds from our treasury to specific multisig for the workstreams.
Mostly we make decisions on the forum and snapshot.
So, the tools have remained the same over the past one year.
I am a minimalist in all forms of my life including digital. I don't like adding too many tools - minimize, minimize, minimize is my philosophy.
And it's really nice to see that a big organization like yours is a minimalist as well.
Yes. We are trying to be.
So yeah, moving on. What's your current role?
Right now, I'm responsible for the DAO Operations together with my colleague Jodi.
That's having an oversight of all the things like customer support and community experience. Community experience consists of everything that has to do with tooling, and also community management.
We also call it CSDO. It is everything that has to do with cross-stream DAO operations. My role is also to facilitate meetings to bring all workstreams together.
The last ones are accounting and people operations.
So People Ops is under DAO operations? Is it like a pod under the workstream? Do you have a term for it?
We call them initiatives. Also there, I believe in minimalism and I try to keep it as simple as possible.
We have the DAO, we have workstreams and we have initiatives and that's it.
How does Gitcoin sustain its operations? Are there any revenue streams? I've interacted with Gitcoin grants, so I completely understand how that works. Gitcoin is like a philanthropic platform-based company. Right?
How do you sustain your operations? As you give out 100% of the funds raised on Gitcoin?
So, we don't get it from outside at all.
We take zero percentage or nothing on any transaction. We fund ourselves through our treasury, which is basically GTC tokens.
People attribute value to the GTC token and we give governance rights to our contributors.
There is a free market where some people just exchange tokens for USD or others. So we sustain ourselves through that treasury of GTC tokens that has value because the market gives value.
That's amazing. It's so amazing because you own your fundraising. Like it never existed, but it exists now and you don't have to go begging, asking people to support your operations.
In the nonprofit space I come from people are always begging to get their operations funded, or they take a 15% cut from funds raised for projects. But I love that you transfer 100% of the funds to the projects. And then you have this tokenomics that sustains your operations!
How did you design tokenomics? And how did you kickstart your economy? If you can share some details it will be great.
Yeah. That's exactly how it happened.
We created the GTC token, then through an airdrop, we delegated the tokens to stewards. So that’s how it started. People got an airdrop and people started buying the token and the token has value. It was pretty simple in that sense.
And how many tokens were issued, like who did the designing? Because it feels like that's a skill? Whose idea was it basically?
I think it was for a big part Kevin Owocki himself.
He's great at these things, but we also learned from the already designed smart contracts from previous airdrops. Honestly, I don't know exactly which one, but I could find that information for you.
We took what already existed. We forked it and made it better. I wouldn't claim that Gitcoin built everything from scratch because I'm not 100% sure that is the case.
Who is considered a contributor at Gitcoin? And then if I just want to take part in governance, can I buy a GTC token and participate?
Yeah. So that last one you can always do. If you buy or get GTC tokens, you get a say in any future decisions that we make at Gitcoin.
How do we define contributors in general? If we narrow it down, we have different levels.
We have this one new term called DAO citizens. So, anyone who joins our discord and just gives a brief introduction of themselves gets a label and that's a DAO citizen.
With DAO citizens, you get access to some of the workstreams and chats where you can just lurk and ask questions. This is the first level.
Once you're a DAO citizen, you can become a DAO contributor. A DAO contributor can be a steward in the sense that you represent other people and that you have other people delegated to you. So that's one level of contributing. And it's a very important one.
Another one is that you find bounties that we put out or you join part-time any of the initiatives that we have and you start getting rewarded for your work. And once that happens, you become a part-time contributor.
If from discord logic you get several tags assigned, you get access to more granular levels of the organization. Now you're in a workstream. Now you're in a specific initiative in that workstream and you join the chat and conversation in the meetings.
So, it goes from, being a citizen, you go to trusted, you go to a part-time contributor to a full-time contributor. That's it actually.
How many of the contributors are paid - full-time or part-time in your organization? Would you have any number?
That's a great question.
I can actually tell you the exact number because we have a role and that makes it easy.
That is, everyone who works more than 30 hours has this role. 84 people work more than 30 hours in the DAO. That’s the core and the role is also called DAOcore.
And then, if you count everyone who's like about half time, that's probably closer to 120 or 140 maybe.
Got it. I have interacted with a couple of customer support folks during my grant round. I was the most active ticket opener. For any questions, I would go and open a ticket. And it has been great interacting with them.
I was just telling somebody the other day about traditional organizations and DAOs. I was like, “listen I've never come across such good customer service anywhere else."
The customer support people that I've interacted with at Gitcoin have been super amazing. They respond like within five minutes and then very quickly they'll send me a survey to complete as well.
I want to actually break a lot of these perceptions that people have about DAOs, like those who think that DAOs are messy, slow and work doesn’t get done. For me, this customer service part in Gitcoin was super-efficient.
So, moving on, in terms of best practices, what do you think are the best practices of Gitcoin DAO that you’d like to share?
I would say, first of all, Keep it Simple.
A lot of my role is just cutting down on complexity and always asking, “What does this solve?” Is it really solving a need that we have. If not, let's put it on pause.
The second one is to have a clear Mission and Act towards that mission. If you have not agreed upon what you actually wanna achieve, you probably won’t achieve anything.
For this, we use this structure called A Purpose and Essential Intents. We have received it from this consultancy firm, The Ready.
It's a process that you go through to say, this is a purpose that we all align around and there are several key essential intents of what we then want to do.
Having that written out was so helpful because, before that, it was very difficult to actually assess if a workstream needed to be funded because it was like, yeah, it's great that you're doing this, I don't want to stop you, but is it what we want to fund?
Another best practice that comes up for me is Good and Efficient Organizational Structures, which are combined with ease of internal communication.
The thing that helped us a lot was the CSDO, the cross-stream DAO operations meetings and chat. It was quite the struggle to limit access to these meetings, but it helps a lot with the focus. Only two people per workstream can access it.
It rubs some people the wrong way because they think this is very exclusionary. Yes, it is, and that's because we need to make decisions.
If you have 100 people in a meeting, you cannot make decisions. You just have to be realistic.
For decision-making among our contributors, we use the Holocratic decision-making process, where you make integrative decision making together and people can object to a decision and you have reaction rounds.
For another decision-making method, we have a format where we try to work async as much as possible, and then when we have calls together, they are always outcome-focused.
We then have outcomes, next steps, action items, etc. In a way, it looks very corporate to some people, but it is very efficient. It is again provided to us by The Ready.
Got it. What about training, just so that everybody can fit into the mindset that you're describing? People have different work styles.
Totally. So we have multiple levels of training for embedding them in the way that we work.
We have a weekly meeting called, Gitcoin gathering. This is a meeting for all the contributors including core contributors, where we share how we do certain things within different workstreams of the DAO. So that other workstreams can also learn.
We have someone responsible for DAO tooling. He gives training to new joiners, like how to use Notion and so on. We have different people giving different levels of coaching.
For people who are newly onboarded, we have an onboarding template. They get a checklist to make sure they have the right roles, access to their email addresses, and the document on the mission or purpose and intent.
Yeah. I remember when I was with a company, a tech company based out of SF, I went for the new hire orientation, just like every other new employee. I was living in Singapore then, and they flew me from Singapore to SF for that. I was like WOW this New Hire Orientation must be a very imp thing for them to spend so much money.
And also when I joined the company they gave me all these books to read that the founder had written on his thoughts on philanthropy and cloud technology.
Do you give your contributors any books, so they can absorb the philosophy of your way of doing things? Do you have a recommended book list?
Yeah, so we have several things that we send to them. I can send those to you as well.
We send an onboarding checklist that has links to certain articles. It's not like books or anything. It's more like posts on our governance forum.
For example, one is TLDR- What is Gitcoin? It’s like a big overview. Another one is, how are we organized? What is our structure? And then there's a piece on web3.
Another one is on Grants 2.0, for example, that's our roadmap, where are we going?
So yeah, there's like several articles. Depending on your level, if you like to read things, then you know, all you need to know.
Got it. So you don't have a virtual new hire orientation? You said you initially used to do the biweekly onboarding calls and stuff. Do you still do that?
We still have them. But we have rebranded them a little bit to our DAO citizens call because we're not super actively hiring right now, unfortunately, because of a bit of a bear market.
We also have to be very careful and mindful of how we spend our funds. But, yeah, we still do those onboarding calls.
It seems like you’re doing a lot at Gitcoin DAO, looking after everyone, thinking, planning, making sure everybody is happy, and working efficiently! It’s a big role. How many contributors do you have in total?
That is a very good question. If I look at DAO citizens right now, we have 475 people in that role. So, that’s a big group. It's one of the many things I wanna figure out better. The DAO citizens are just like Gitcoin enthusiasts who have taken some time to really dive in, while some have really applied for roles.
If I look at DAO contributors right now, 370 people have that role, but it's not the right number, to be honest.
Active contributors are somewhere between 100-150.
If you look at it traditionally, I guess we're 150 people who are on our payroll.
That's a big organization. As a DAO, I feel like you must be the largest.
We're one of the biggest.
It's fascinating. I'm very conscious of the time. I know I've taken a lot of your time, but I feel there's so much to learn from you. Thanks for the great chat. ♦️
🎙 Kris was interviewed on July 25th, 2022 as part of the Impact DAOs research project.
This post is part of a series on the Impact DAOs Research + Book project. This project is by a collective of folks in web3 + impact + media. The team members on Twitter are @tranimal, @katerinabohlec, @Abeers123, @Poplinecreation, @crystaldstreet, @0xSardius, @karanth_harsha, @actThreeCC, @0xSiddhearta, @Value_Strat, @zaldarren, @astrocruz_s, @ashisharora27, @pop_timism + Kim on LI
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