What is a DAO?

DAO is short for decentralised autonomous organization. A DAO has a community of members. Members are typically required to deposit cryptocurrency into a shared asset pool that they manage using governance tokens. A member’s voting power is usually proportional to the value of the assets they contribute to the pool. The organization is decentralised and autonomous in that there is no central or external authority controlling the DAO and its asset pool; all actions are determined by member proposals and votes. The processes of publishing proposals, voting, and transferring assets are all managed using smart contracts on the blockchain. DAOs are crypto-native communities focused on delivering economic benefits. Uniswap, the decentralised exchange, is managed by a very big DAO. 

What is a Startup Society? 

The phrase “Startup Society” describes a social model inspired by software startups. According to Balaji Srinivasan, “a startup society is a new community built internet-first, usually for the purpose of solving a specific social problem in an opt-in way.” Members of startup societies choose to join because they are united by shared values or a sense of moral purpose. Startup societies are likely to be founder-led initially, so they are not necessarily decentralised, but they may likely use blockchains.

What is the difference between a DAO and a Startup Society?

All DAOs are decentralised, but many Startup Societies may have some degree of centralised leadership. DAOs are typically narrowly focused on providing economic benefits for members. Startup Societies may be united by goals and values that transcend simple economic benefit. 

DAOs are about blockchains and economic benefits, while Startup Societies use blockchains and may offer economic benefits, but are about a shared value in the sense that members are motivated by what Balaji proposes to call “One Commandment” – a clear value. 

An Edge Case Example – Startup Society or DAO?

Let’s consider a group of “sneakerheads” – people obsessed with shoe fashion – that has no centralised leader and is based on a blockchain. The group initially provides economic benefits to members by having the group allocate its shared asset pool to stock in sneaker companies. They have more social cohesion than your typical DAO because they all enjoy talking about shoes and have what you might call a subculture. 

Then, horrified by working conditions at big brand shoe factories, they decide as a group to adopt a new model of providing economic benefits. They will create socially responsible profit by funding fair trade with artisan cobblers that generates a modest profit for members who stake to support the platform operation and growth. Members get shoes and/or money, cobblers get membership in the group and a voting token, a new market and buyers willing to pay a fair price. Each member gets one “membership vote” and up to four extra votes depending on the size of their stake. 

Is this group a DAO, or a Startup Society? The answer is…yes. You could call it either one or both. As you can see, the line can become blurry. But at Jur, we would definitely call it a DAO that has evolved into a Startup Society. Perhaps there is no need to get caught up on the label. But if a DAO wants to evolve in the direction of a Startup Society, it may be helpful to start using the term to evoke greater possibilities, open minds, and broaden horizons. 

Learn more about Startup Societies, Network States, and DAOs in our Discord Community.