When Jur announced the first Startup Society Founders Awards in March, the team was hoping for 20 to 30 proposals. For this first cohort, the team accepted 53 Startup Society proposals covering a wide variety of use cases including societies focused on providing education, affordable housing, longevity, alternative finance, and frameworks for cooperating to develop new knowledge. A committee of five Jur pioneer citizens elected by their peers ranked all 53 proposals to create a shortlist of ten for consideration by a panel of prestigious judges: Tim Draper of Draper Capital, Trent McConaghy of Ocean Protocol, and Ed Hesse of Energy Web.
The judges have made their selections. Jur is pleased to congratulate all ten shortlisted proposals for making it to the final round. The judges have selected five proposals: VitaDAO, Continuum, Umma Finance, Wezesha, and Fair Squares. The founders of these five innovative Startup Societies will each receive $2,000 USD and 1,000 $JUR along with ongoing support from the Jur team. Jur’s Head of Product Development will work closely with the founders to discover the tools they need and establish priorities.
Now let’s take a closer look at the five winners. In our next post, we’ll dig into the five runners-up and share more details about what makes their projects uniquely positioned for Web3.
VitaDAO is an active community that has united to pursue longevity science to improve people’s lives. VitaDAO uses DAO voting mechanisms to fund and advance research into healthy life extension and biotechnology. Rather than focus efforts on treating ill health, VitaDAO seeks to address the root causes of age-related disease, and not a moment too soon. The current situation, with an increasing ratio of older people to younger people in many countries and age-related diseases accounting for 80% of medical costs, is unsustainable. VitaDAO is not just about extending life – it is about extending healthy productive life so that people can enjoy contributing to society in their old age rather than becoming a burden.
VitaDAO started in 2021 and it has been moving fast; the DAO’s 9,000 community members have collectively funded 17 projects, dedicating around 4 million USD to longevity-enhancing research and resulting spinoffs. They have raised 5.1 million USD from their community and another 4.1 million from Pfizer, Balaji, and others. Their first spinoff is Matrix Bio based on the research of Vera Gorbunova on nake mole rats, which don’t seem to get cancer.
VitaDAO has shown a capacity for collective action as a Startup Society and is experimenting with in-person, research-friendly territories, potentially evolving into a Network State. Because as one of the Stewards observes, “Having a better jurisdiction is a matter of life or death for people.”
VitaDAO has already helped organise a pop-up city experiment – Zuzalu, initiated by Vitalik Buterin in Montenegro, from March 25 to May 25, 2023, and has been in discussions with various governments on establishing special jurisdictions for medical innovation.
Continuum is designed to connect people who are eager to learn job skills with course providers that will pay them to learn and “level up” their skills. How does that work? Companies with new tech products need users who understand their products, so they are willing to offer tokens and NFTs as rewards. The platform supports gamified learning with social features and short 5 to 10-minute lessons to make it easy and fun. And it seems like they are succeeding, with 32,000 users who have taken a total of 346,000 mini-courses already! Venture Capitalists, including Balaji!, have taken note, investing $1.5 M USD so far and the team aims to close a $5 M USD + seed round by the end of October.
The Founders of Umma are working to create an interest-free Network State and they have a pretty good idea about where to find a lot of citizens; 1.4 Billion Muslims don’t use banks because they charge interest, a practice that Islam prohibits. In the normal lending model, the agreement between the lender and borrower is designed to insulate the lender from risk. In the Islamic finance model, risks are shared. Some banks are trying to follow the rules of Islam as best they can, but Umma founders point out that fractional reserve banking is an inherent inescapable part of the fiat money system and hence any kind of fiat loan is ultimately incompatible with Islam. Consequently, Umma will build a system based on sound money, for instance, Bitcoin.
Umma plans to move forward in three phases, beginning with the creation of a value-aligned digital community, in other words, a Startup Society. They will provide an interest-free stablecoin and an interest-free lending protocol and eventually an interest-free Bitcoin-based charter city. The stablecoin will be over-collateralised with real-world assets and crypto assets and will offer Sharia-compliant profit sharing. The lending protocol will offer Sharia-compliant yields of 10-20% with short-term maturity. The founders have already recruited over 25,000 investors and 30,000 borrowers who have exchanged over $10 M USD to their previous Islamic banking startup, Iman.
Wezesha enables tech progress and Web3 adoption in the ascending world, areas that have a lot of potential for economic development. Wezesha does this by providing vocational education to students and young entrepreneurs in areas in Africa and other places where opportunities are generally scarce.
Wezesha was inspired by the founders’ success with one of the first rural startup hubs in the world in 2015. Now Wezesha is working to develop a user-friendly web-based and mobile application with features such as browsing courses, crypto tasking, tracking progress, and communicating with instructors and peers.
To incentivize and reward learners and startups, Wezesha will incorporate digital passports and tokens, including their own token called WEZ, representing membership in the community and granting access to exclusive features of the Wezesha DAO.
Wezesha will generate revenue with a fee-based system for users as well as through partnerships and collaborations with educational institutions, businesses, and other stakeholders in the web3 economy. Wezesha’s uniting principle is the belief that everyone should have access to high-quality vocational education and the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that can unlock their potential. And that is an excellent mission.
Fair Squares is committed to solving a significant problem that impacts a huge number of people, the lack of affordable rental housing. The founders of this nascent Startup Society are building a digital coordination framework to connect citizens who need housing, real estate sellers, social investors, builders, other real estate professionals, and public policymakers. The guiding principles of the Society are affordability, equitability, and transparency in the creation, sale, and renting of residential rental real estate.
Rental housing is often created by developers and owned by landlords. Their profits can be quite high, and the resulting rental rate housing is expensive. Fair Squares’ founders believe they can reduce rental costs by 14% by changing the capital structure. Instead of a normal landlord or developer putting up all the money, social impact investors within the Fair Squares community will fund projects in exchange for fractional ownership generating a low-risk return that is comparable with other risk-off assets like bonds. Initially, Fair Square will focus on crowdfunding the purchase of residential real estate and in later stages may progress to development.
The Founders are building bridges with government bodies including Housing Europe, Municipality of Groningen, and University of Erasmus & Utrecht, and working to develop a blockchain-based system with a grant from the Web 3 foundation.
Congratulations to everyone for being part of this important movement!
Congratulations to all five winners and the runners-up along with all the participating Startup Society Founders. Jur team is excited to be working with you all as we enter what may be a true watershed moment in human history, the launch of Startup Societies that foretells the dawn of the Network States.