(This is becoming too easy, we're almost longing for a week where nothing happens, so we can see if we can actually come up with interesting ideas ourselves..)
The problem of crypto governance has been paramount lately, and will be for a long time.
We witness it every day. With BTC's Segwit and 2x drama. With ETH's hard fork and ETC. And so on.
With projects now raising absurd amount of monies in ICOs, there is now an additional friction point that can skew incentives for different parties in governance decisions.
All of this, mixed with regulatory and tax implications of raising for, and then running cryptocurrency networks.
With perfect timing, just this week we started chatting with a team about governance structures and how to best setup the whole ordeal. This also led to us thinking a bit more critically about current implementations.
One semi-default solution that has been adopted lately is to have an independent not-for-profit Foundation receive the "donations", and then fund or acquire a for-profit company that actually develops the protocol.
At this point, I'd like to introduce the biggest problem here: the inherent conflict of wanting to develop an open source project in a decentralized fashion while also becoming stupidly rich.
This is a hard one to solve for.
If you really care about the future of the project and network, then in the above structure you really only want to be heading the Foundation. You want to control the cash, make decisions about what gets developed, and so on.
But people want to become stupidly rich, and that's harder to do when you're in a not-for-profit foundation that can't distribute its "earnings" to owners/employees.
So the founders of Tezos, like many others, decided that they were going to continue working inside a corporate structure and then get acquired by the foundation at a later point for a pre-agreed amount of money.
Aside from it being most likely illegal (pre-determining things like these effectively doesn't really render the foundation autonomous and independent), that seems like an awful amount of risk to be introducing in the system.
Tezos is at this very moment dangerously testing the risks of the model.
This is super sad, but announced, as anytime there is half a billion dollars sitting in an account somewhere, people will disagree about it.
This is why we always suggest not raising this crazy amounts: the money isn't yours, and it will probably cause you more headaches than benefits.
The story is still unclear as we've don't know much.
The three main pieces to read are: the first WSJ report
(link is to Archive, so we can read it for free), the more detailed piece on Reuters
with the background on the founders (and some chilling quotes) and the post written by Arthur Breitman
The story got some attention and many others have written about it including Bloomberg
To make it short:
- the founders are saying that the Foundation's manager was trying to give himself an undue bonus; and that the Foundation wants to micromanage every single decision causing huge delays
- the manager is saying that the Foundation isn't really independent and that the founders want to control the stash as if it's their own
- there was a request for the manager to step down, but apparently it's not happening
- there are proposals for a subsidiary of the Foundation to hire the Breitmans
I don't want to draw early conclusions here, even thought I've always been critical of a project that wanted to raise infinite amounts of money (and every subsequent one after them).
Ouryel from ISAI VC, who backed the Tezos ICO, has a better view of it all and wrote his thoughts on "Is the Tezos ICO dead?
We don't really know what should or is going to happen.
Personally, we feel sitting on half a billion dollars worth of cash + the tokens is a bit silly and would urge for a refund of at least the USD value of the donations. This would still leave an absurd amount of money for development as well as a very reasonable worst-case scenario outcome for the "donors". But we know that's probably not going to happen.
Some law firms
also don't think it's gonna happen on their own and will try to make some money by bringing some kind of suit
For us, the big takeway here, which is really nothing new, is that governance is paramount.
We have passed on deals where we didn't like how the structure was setup, and I'm sure we will continue to do so.
We will now continue to spend more time in figuring out the best structures to allow for flexibility, speed, potential financial return but also transparency, accountability, fairness and decentralization and will help the projects we invest in with these type of decisions.
Ideally I think, should the project only aim to create value at the token level, we would prefer to see the team heading a non-profit entity, with a solid and diverse board, and well defined boundaries for operations of different types (eg. hiring, treasury management, code development, hard forks, etc.) as well as a sounds policy for team compensation + long term incentivization, which is another tricky but interesting matter.
I think we will start to see big "donors"/investors want to have some control oversight borrowing from the old-word of VC board seats - and if the power dynamics start to change might also start to see smaller investors pool together.
This is another great use case for something like Aragon, where everyone could have a say.Bonus
, probably what will be one of the most infamous quotes the crypto space will be remembered for were the party to end:"Kathleen Breitman told Reuters that participating in the Tezos fundraiser was like contributing to a public television station and receiving "a tote bag" in return. "That's kind of the same thing here," she said."