Aapplications are open to join the next round of Y Combinator Web3 version.
Seed Club, like the popular tech startup accelerator, runs a multi-week mentorship program to help fledgling organizations and communities find their footing. The difference is that Seed Club only “invests” in projects built around crypto tokens and, well, those aren’t really “investments” at all.
“We really want it to start in our own primordial vase rather than pegging to what was happening in the startup space,” Seed Club co-founder Jess Sloss said CoinDesk, downplaying the YC comparison. But they’re not “reinventing the wheel either,” he said.
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Seed Club is both a bootcamp and a “network” of successful, upstart founders and companies organized into a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). The mission is to foster the rapid growth of the crypto-native creator economy.
If that sounds vague, it’s only because of the nearly endless number of organizations, spanning an almost endless variety of industries, that can be built around crypto today. It is a platform for platforms, a network of networks, and a DAO made up of DAOs.
I spoke with Sloss to find out what makes an ideal candidate and learn more about what is quickly becoming one of the fastest ways to gain legitimacy in the Wild West of Web3. The DAO offers a 12 week crash course for the construction of a symbolic project, including legal training, fundraising and development advice.
Teams apply to the Seed Club and, if selected, promise to contribute 3% of their project’s tokens to the DAO. Once launched, these projects will receive a token grant from the Seed Club treasury, giving them membership and partial governance of the Seed Club DAO.
“We can be much broader in our upstream work [to support] people building something new that the world may not know what to do with yet but that we think there’s something worth exploring,” Sloss said.
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In this way, Seed Club is an ever-expanding source of knowledge – as people discover how and where to really apply tokens to businesses and communities. It has incubated 65 projects to date, including Russian art collective Pussy Riot’s DAO and former Bloomberg journalist Matt Leising’s publication DeCential Media.
“Since we don’t invest capital in these things, it’s less about finding lore 100x or 1,000x on an investment,” Sloss said. “We’re looking for projects that are pushing an interesting edge that hopefully have a viable model to sustain themselves.”
This is all the more important given the broader decline in funding and hiring freezes in tech, at a time of economic uncertainty. In fact, YC recently sent its portfolio companies a letter titled “Economic Downturn” advising founders to “plan for the worst.”
Sloss said the two-year-old DAO started out as “11 people in a Telegram chat,” and basically had to beg to get its first eight contestants. It is now preparing for its fifth cohort, with applications open until August 15. The last cycle saw 300 pitches, of which 20 were retained.
“If we get 1,000 applicants and there are only 10 projects that we think fit the bill, we’ll only work with 10,” Sloss said. He said about 250 people applied for SC05 (Seed Club 5 Accelerator).
Over time, Seed Club has also refined and expanded its mission. Originally geared more towards social tokens, a way for people to monetize their personal brands, the group is now open to a broader set of technology applications.
“More tools are now in the toolbox,” Joon Ian Wong, another Seed Club co-founder, told CoinDesk. This includes non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. The shift in focus may also speak to the regulatory risks that these particular tokens carry, as well as the collapsed enthusiasm following the hack of leading social token launcher Roll.
For this batch, Sloss said he was experimenting with the application process. It has rolled out a new “decision-making tool” (found on seedclub.xyz), through which club members can review and comment on pitches to help applicants “do their best”.
Once they’ve filtered through this long list, they’ll apply a standardized scoring rubric and begin interviewing each team and doing broader due diligence.
“We are not on volume. We really want to make sure that we put our full weight behind really great people and great products and… eliminate as much of the bias as possible,” Sloss said.
In terms of what they’re looking for, Sloss said the heart of any successful project is “the human beings behind it.” Seed Club is looking for people with real experience building products or leading communities. The legacy [rubric of] Founder market fit is always very important to us.
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They’re also looking for a “call to adventure” or people willing to go in entirely new directions, rather than copying and pasting existing code or creating widgets. Perhaps most important is a founder’s ability to “communicate” a vision, given Web3’s lack of clarity.
Sometimes there is a conflict between humanity and technology in Web3. Much of crypto aims to remove humans from decision-making and automation processes. Bitcoin wants to prevent the Federal Reserve from pulling leverage on the economy, while smart contracts aim to perform certain functions efficiently and systematically.
For his part, Sloss said Seed Club is made of and for people. “The valuable work we do with early-stage projects can only be done by human beings,” he said. While there are places – like tracking and rewarding development progress – that can be “formalized”, it’s a “mistake to jump right into smart contracts and software”.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.