Learning to Let Go of Web2 Mindsets
Out with the old, in with the new.
With the SuperteamDAO, we're building the talent layer for Solana. The goal is to accelerate adoption for the next billion crypto users by creating a talent pool that Solana projects can tap to launch and grow their dApps.
Building a Service DAO is hard enough, but explaining it to other people is even harder. When I talk about the value of the DAO structure to friends and families, I get a lot of blank stares.
I talk about the exploitation of labor, worker's co-ops, and Teal organizations, and how DAOs solve these problems. They shake their head, understanding but not "getting" how the DAO would actually work in practice.
Until I say the magic words: "A Service DAO is a proven business model with a radically new operating model," I say. "The DAO treasury will charge a fee for services, like an agency would. But it'll be much smaller than a normal agency/talent platform like Upwork, so it's better for talent and for clients both."
Then they'd smile and nod vigorously and delight in what a fun experiment it was going to be. And I'd walk away feeling confident that what we were building was going to work.
But I was wrong.
In hindsight, the fact that I could explain the concept and get people to buy in so quickly was itself a red flag. As the writer Arthur Clarke put it:
“If by some miracle a prophet could describe the future exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd that everyone would laugh him to scorn...So, if what I say now seems to be you to be very reasonable, then I will have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen”
Here's the basic insight: if we try to transpose Web2 business models into Web3, we will fail. New technological paradigms require entirely new business models. Web2 was built on platform fees and rent-seeking. But a Web3 organization cannot recreate the same "middleman takes a fee for providing a platform" model.
Ultimately, if SuperteamDAO charged a 10% take rate (a 2-4x improvement over Upwork/Toptal/etc), we'd be better for creative talent than existing Web2 options. But the next DAO that emerges that charges 9% becomes incrementally better, and 8% becomes better still, and so on and so on.
Competition aside, the whole point of Web3 is to create new business models that don't rely on rent-seeking and instead give ownership to users.
Not charging fees feels crazy to Web2 people. In the same way a fish doesn't know what water is, most people (including me) having been swimming in a Web2 world for so long they don't even consciously recognize it. Charging a service fee feels intuitively effective, is socially acceptable, and is proven to work. But it is also the wrong approach in a new paradigm.
So if the SuperteamDAO is not an intermediary that charges a fee, what is it? The answer: it's the community of talent and founders who work together. The community is itself the product that the DAO is creating.
The web2 way of monetizing a valuable community is rent-seeking through service fees. The web3 of monetizing a valuable community is by creating a token that gives special privileges within the community. At this stage, the SuperteamDAO is more concerned with creating the community itself, rather than monetizing it, so the tokenomics of how this plays out are not a pressing concern.
To be clear, I feel embarrassed saying all of this in public.
I've read all the think pieces, I follow the right people on Twitter, I've been breathing Web3 for a while now. And yet, despite what I "knew", I still couldn't stop myself from going down the Web2 path.
The hardest part of jumping into a new world is letting go of old "obvious" beliefs. My hope is that writing this helps wake others out of the same sleep-walking pattern that I found myself in. Together, we will build DAOs that have radically new business models and operating models. The future is bright.
Special thanks to Akshay BD and Sanah Dhanda for editing drafts of this essay.