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Launching the Girlfriend DAO Experiment

It’s 2024—why not launch a DAO?

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I wrote an article in October 2023 explaining my vision of the Girlfriend DAO: a framework for friends to truly bank together and invest in themselves.

Soon after, I received a number of inquiries about starting a Girlfriend DAO: What voting platform will you use? Why just women? Will you have a token? How will you manage your community?

I realized that, if I’m going to talk all this talk about DAOs, I should probably walk the walk. So here I am, launching an experiment to see if this Girlfriend DAO concept can actually work.

November: Laying My Groundwork

I spent some time on my own asking myself:

  • Do I want to put all of this onchain? What does that even entail?

  • Who do I want to launch this with?

  • What will be the purpose of this particular Girlfriend DAO?

The operations I had in mind were pretty much the same I had outlined in the October article. But everything else required a bit of consideration.

Do I want to put this onchain? What does that even entail?

In my research on voting, I learned that some DAOs conduct their governance and operations off-chain: they have discussions in forums, chat groups, or Discord channels. Many use Snapshot, which is an off-chain platform for DAOs to make decisions without gas fees. 

While it may be easier to work with familiar, existing web2 products, I want to see great products made for the crypto ecosystem. And that can’t happen unless people use them and test them.

So I scheduled calls with a couple DAO management platforms to learn how they work. One seemed more oriented around NFT ownership, and the other company…never showed up to our appointments. Not the meeting I initially scheduled through their website, and not the one we rescheduled via email.

Without finding a product I loved—or at least met our needs—I decided that the Girlfriend DAO will not be onchain at launch. It is, however, still important to me that we attempt to put our governance onchain.

It was a conversation I chose to save for my calls with the prospective members.

Who do I want to launch this with?

My end goal is to develop a fun solution for non-crypto enthusiasts (particularly women) seeking a collaborative way to spend and invest money together. Therefore, I wanted a mix of crypto and non-crypto folks in order to understand what might actually work.

However, the people most likely to get onboard with this experiment are people who are already familiar with the benefits of crypto. So to start, I decided to approach folks who would quickly understand the value prop and would experience less friction getting started.

I also decided to invite four women who are connected to CryptoCanal in order to establish a base layer of trust among invitees. Not only is there a foundation of commonality among us, but this information also communicates what kind of women might participate in this experiment: thoughtful, fun, not totally degen, and if not crypto native, at least crypto curious.

As a long-term goal, we will talk to non-crypto folks to understand whether something like this is even of interest.

What will be the purpose of this particular Girlfriend DAO?

Considering that this initial DAO experiment isn’t formed in the original vision—that we’re a group of girlfriends trying to plan things together—our goals probably won’t include organizing a girl’s trip. Instead, our varying familiarity with and interest in crypto brings us together.

I decided that the purpose of our Girlfriend DAO would be to fund progress, not maintenance. And that progress may take two forms:

  • to fund development of personal crypto knowledge, for example:

    • Attend a conference (ticket cost, transportation, lodging…)

    • Take a course (programming, web3 marketing, crypto taxes…)

    • Work with a mentor

    • Rule: these funds should be a secondary or last resort to approaching an employer to cover costs

  • to support personal or entrepreneurial goals, for example:

    • Hobby knowledge (pottery class, kickboxing instructor, ski lesson…)

    • Launch a small business (sell pottery, start a film club, make candles…)

    • Rule: funds cannot replace current subscriptions or existing costs (ex: existing gym membership does not qualify)

While some of us work in crypto to varying degrees, not everyone may have access to educational or networking opportunities to further that knowledge. Furthermore, their employers may not be interested in sponsoring their crypto education.

As for personal development, people are not always great at investing in what brings them joy. This is also a “fun” element that I wanted to bring into the DAO: it’s not just about all crypto, all the time. We are complex human beings, and I imagine that thriving humans are key to a successful DAO.

Interested in joining us? Want to contribute? Have thoughts? Let's talk.

December: Recruiting Willing and Able Participants

Once I created a minimally cute pitch deck, I sent the original proposal to four women, two of whom quickly responded yes. They also reached out to women in their own networks to see if anyone may be interested.

The third woman I invited declined after a week, saying that DAOs are not her thing and is not interested in the admin. The fourth had some questions, and we had a coversation about the purpose of it and whether it needs to be onchain. After a couple weeks, the fourth woman also passed, but only after a follow-up conversation to confirm.

With just two confirmed participants at the end of December, I reached out to a few more women and communities. No one had responded by the beginning of January, so the three of us proceeded with scheduling our kick-off call. However, at the time of writing (January 2024), I have a couple calls scheduled with women who may be interested in joining.

I do believe that, if I had started this entire process in September or October, I would’ve found four other members by the end of 2023.

Takeaways

After reflecting a bit on my experience just planning the experiment, I already have a couple learnings to share.

Fine balance between thoughtfulness and moving fast

I spent a lot of time figuring out the “what” and “how” of this experiment in anticipation of the types of questions that people would ask. My proposal needed to have enough information to make a yes/no decision, but not so much information that it was overwhelming.

I also felt the “Now what?” aspect was equally important to consider. This wasn’t just a proposal to agree to an idea—I also wanted to offer the initial first steps that members could expect from this experience. It needed to communicate thoughtfulness, and the fact that I wasn’t playing around.

But when it comes to getting things done, it’s also important to get a minimum viable XYZ off the ground. I eventually realized that I didn’t need to choose whether we’d be onchain, let alone finalize what chain we’d use. That was something we could (and should) decide as a group, in addition to other major choices regarding governance and goals.

It Should Be an Enthusiastic Yes

Along the lines of “moving fast”, a certain phrase came to mind when sending out my deck: if it’s not an enthusiastic yes, it’s a no. VCs often say this when giving advice to founders. If an investor doesn’t quickly express interest in taking the next steps, the VC likely isn’t interested in investing.

I’d say the same goes for most things in life, including a small DAO experiment like this. If the people know you, and you provide a good amount of information in the deck/proposal, they should have most everything they need to make a decision. 

Furthermore, many people struggle with being straightforward, particularly women from certain cultures or backgrounds (read: not a problem for Dutchies or Germans). And when it comes to friendships, it can be especially hard to say no. This fear of being rude or hurting someone’s feelings can be a fragile experience in a friend group. Plus, the idea of adding admin to friend dynamics can seem really bothersome.

Additional Thoughts

Between conversations about the deck and preparing the kick-off call, I’ve had time to think more about why I’m doing this. What do I want other people to take away from the experiment? What is my long-term vision of the experiment’s outcome?

But that’s for another article. For now, I’ll say: I want to make DAOs a fun thing for people (especially women) to form and do themselves. Stick around if you want to know more.

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