Splitting the Foundation from the core devs, and kickstarting funding for other teams to work on Aragon
In the tech world, startups usually capitalize by amassing Intellectual Property, data, and governance. They attempt to centralize all this to their own benefit. Most crypto projects that are pursuing decentralization can't be categorized as startups.
Crypto projects usually capitalize by creating a network/protocol/DApp that has a token which should become more valuable as the utility of its network/protocol/DApp grows.
Let's see how this differs from a startup:
Proprietary solutions require a lot more trust as the end-user has no way of knowing what's included in the code. Therefore proprietary solutions are not viable in the crypto world. Being open source is a must for crypto projects. This eliminates the competitive edge that having IP gives to a startup.
Blockchains are transparent by nature. With the software being open source for anyone to dissect, the trust can be mutually established between developers and users. And by utilizing a blockchain, the user owns the data that gets generated in the process. This makes it impossible for a decentralized platform to retain your data and build a walled garden around it.
As crypto networks are open for anyone to use, it only makes sense for them to be governed by their users. This way they won't suffer from having a single centralized party, like a startup, that could arbitrarily take advantage of the user base. With a token model, you can create incentives for those governing the project to create mutual value.
A defensible token model was well-argued by Luke in his recent Thoughts On Governance and Network Effects post. In the post he explores the reason as to why the key difference is not whether the product is a protocol or an application, but whether the network effect driven by tokenization is defensible or not.
Does it makes sense for development teams to be centralized?
Knowing all of the above, we can see a huge difference in how startups and crypto projects need to be run.
Startups own and control the development resources they have and need for their products to exist. The core developers are employed by the startup. It wouldn't make much sense for a community participant to work on the startup's product if the IP, data and governance are all centralized. The contributor wouldn't see much return in exchange for their efforts.
In a crypto project, these lines blur. You can be the consumer of the product. You can be producing content or code for the project. You can participate in maintaining the project. You can be part of governing the development of the project, and so on. There are plenty of ways a community member can benefit in this communal kind of project:
You can fork the software, enhance it and adapt it to your needs. This adds value to both yourself and the larger community
You can do the above and be directly rewarded by the network for your contribution
You can exercise governance power over the network, making it stronger by favoring Voice instead of Exit and making decisions that benefit the project and your stake in it
Incentives can be set in a way that a crypto network resembles a living organism that employs humans to achieve its goals. And it evolves and adapts to better define those goals, and the road to achieving them by using governance.
If this living organism survives only as a result of a centralized team developing it, what if that team disappears for whatever reason? That would be a significant drawback for the project, even if the code is open source and the governance decentralized.
That's why we will start to decentralize the development of Aragon during 2018.
Splitting the Aragon Foundation and the Core Developer Company
Funds were raised in the token sale in order to best serve the interests of the Aragon project.
For the project to be as resilient as possible, the development of the project should not be controlled by a single central entity. It should be in the hands of the community and multiple different development teams.
Right now the team developing Aragon is directly employed by the Aragon Foundation, which is an unfair advantage over other teams that have interest in contributing to the project.
If you go to the About page at the Aragon website, you'll see the faces of all our core team members. We have a very strict hiring process, so not a lot of people end up being in that page. However, there will be other community members that do deserve to be showcased on the project's website.
To encourage other teams to work on Aragon, we will be splitting off the Foundation to form a company of core developers. Everyone currently employed by the Foundation will become employees of a new company funded by the Foundation. That way, we level the playing field for other teams to join the core development of the project.
We have always upheld the notion that Aragon will be Community Governed. We plan to maintain the Foundation, and reduce its authority as the governance of the project is fully transferred to the ANT holders, along with a significant portion of the funds from the token sale. The full transition will happen gradually over time as we make sure the platform and network are working securely and as intended. This split is an early step in that journey.
Funding other teams to work on Aragon
With Aragon Nest we are already supporting projects that are not necessarily sustainable by themselves yet, but are crucial to the Aragon and Ethereum ecosystems.
In the coming months, we will expand the scope of Nest to start funding alternative teams that have a desire to work on the Aragon Coreclient, aragonOS and on Aragon Apps.
In the medium term, as a part of the Aragon Network, we will begin experimenting with sustainable methods of funding contributions to the project.
Okay, but how will this impact the development of Aragon?
Right now, practically speaking, it won't. We will keep working on Aragon just as we have been consistently doing since November 2016.
In the medium term, it will hopefully produce a wave of new contributors and teams working on some of the core Aragon infrastructure, accelerating the development of the project.
In the long term, it will make Aragon's development efforts decentralized. Which will increase the probability of the project to survive whatever threats it might face in the future.
This is a firm commitment. We will be transparent about this and keep the community updated as we always do.
I personally had the immense privilege to have been able to work on Aragon and see it grow from the first day on. I cannot wait to see other teams working on Aragon with the same level of passion and care that we do.