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Harnessing the talent of Y Combinator alumni to form a powerful Web3 community (Orange DAO)
A quick note on the markets - Crypto markets are continuing to fall, along with the rest of the financial markets. My prediction is all the products and companies that never quite made sense will soon be exposed as unsustainable. What the longer lasting impact on the evolution of Web3 is TBD. In the meanwhile, in this newsletter I’m going to continue to showcase people/companies/products in Web3.
This week, I interviewed Ricardo Garcia-Amaya, a founding governance member of Orange DAO. Orange DAO is collective of 1,200 Y Combinator alumni focused on building the future of Web3. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to Ricardo is deep experience building communities (before DAOs). He was president of his high school alumni association, worked in the NYU alumni community, started an American Latino and Latina tech leaders group and started the Y Combinator alumni group. In my interview this week, I got to learn more about how Orange DAO harnesses the YC talent base to create a powerful community around Web3
The following has been edited for clarity and length.
What’s your background, and how did you get involved with Orange DAO?
I was born in New York, but raised in Colombia — my dad is Colombian, and my mom is American. When I was 15, my dad became an ambassador to the United Nations, which brought us back to New York. I studied politics at NYU, where I started my first tech consulting firm. Over the years, I got my MBA at NYU Stern, worked for Michael Bloomberg during his third term as mayor of New York, helped a friend run a successful campaign for mayor of Providence, and moved to Silicon Valley, where I started a company building AI platforms. We went through Y Combinator and raised $7 million.
I’ve always been big in communities. I was president of my high school alumni association, was very involved with the NYU alumni community, and about 7 years ago, I started a group of the top American Latino and Latina tech leaders in the US. About 2 and a half years ago, I started the Y Combinator alumni group, and because of that work, someone reached out to me saying, “We’re a group of crypto founders, and we’re creating a DAO of Y Combinator alumni. We’d love to have you check it out.” So I became a founding governance member of Orange DAO.
If there was already a YC alumni group, what was the purpose behind Orange DAO?
There was a WhatsApp group for crypto founders and another for NFT founders, and they decided to merge into one big WhatsApp group. That became too big, so they decided to move to Discord. But then they were like, “Wait a second. We’re in crypto. Let’s make a DAO.”
In parallel to that group forming, a couple of alumni had started a fund, called the Orange Fund, that was investing in crypto. It started as a $1 million fund, then it became a $10 million fund, and now it’s a $50 million fund that has invested in 80 crypto companies. The team decided to tie Orange Fund to the DAO, so the carry of the fund goes directly into the treasury of the DAO. That’s one of the most groundbreaking aspects of Orange DAO.
Why would the people running Orange Fund not take the carry for themselves, and instead put it toward the DAO?
There’s a foundational belief that whatever this fund could accomplish, we can probably accomplish 100x if we tie it to a community. We have the flywheel effects of 1,200 of the most brilliant minds building the future of Web3.
We had a retreat where we came up with a 50-year vision for creating a digital nation of builders who are making the world more community owned. All of us have experience in raising capital, building products, and recruiting top engineering talent. We can do startups. But what can we do that’s bigger than that? What do we want to accomplish?
What’s the relationship between the DAO and YC, if any?
There’s no formal relationship with YC. We’re all huge fans of YC, but this is an effort championed by alumni, for alumni.
Do you ever see a situation where there may be pushback from YC?
Something that I learned when I was president of my high school alumni group is that anyone can build an alumni association for a school, without being linked to the organization. The success of that group depends on whether there’s a community to push it forward, which is usually highly correlated with: Does anyone care? If you’re building an affinity group and have no affinity, it’s probably not going to work.
Alumni organizations usually depend on a tiny percentage of people who actually find value and belonging in the group, even without ownership. I did. But what if you were to bring the element of shared ownership to this model? It could grow so much faster, be so much more efficient, and so many more people would raise their hands.
Tell me about how governance and voting works within Orange DAO.
To give you a base for what’s happening, we have 3 committees: governance, treasury, and development. We have over 50 live proposals right now, 5 engineering teams working on projects inside the DAO, and 50 channels for different specialties. There’s so much activity being executed by so many core contributors. We’re only about 7 months old.
In terms of elections, we have 100 million tokens minted. Those tokens allow you to vote, and they also add weight to your vote. We wanted to make sure that the number of tokens a person has is correlated to their contributions to the DAO. You get 5,000 tokens just for joining, and committee members are also compensated with tokens. Each committee member gets paid 56,000 tokens per season.
When there’s an election coming up, you can nominate yourself and share your platform and why you are a great candidate. Within two weeks, you’re added to voting, which takes place on Snapshot. A huge priority for us is trying to match members of the DAO to what they’re great at and what they want to work on.
Is there a max capacity for communities? As you get bigger, you can potentially lose those original bonds — the “crowded bar effect.”
I think you can safely get bigger and bigger. The larger the community, the more likely you’ll have people raising their hands to work on something they’re actually good at. When you’re building a startup, you hire people with experience for a specific role, but then they have to jump on things that they’re not necessarily great at, because somebody has to take care of them. They might not enjoy that work, but it kind of falls under their role. In a DAO, you have the luxury of matching people to what they’re great at and want to do.
What’s your advice to people who want to create something similar for the communities they are part of (e.g. their university or company alumni)?
The most successful DAOs are a self-selected group of people who, pre-DAO, identify as members of a certain tribe. In Orange DAO, many members are there because out of all their affinities and all their tribes, this is the most important one to them. If you have enough members that see your DAO as their number one tribe, then the odds are in your favor to become an extremely successful DAO.
Hi, I’m Andrew Chang - I created the Web3 Roundup to share what I’m learning in this space. I’ve spent my career at the forefront of the technology industry in areas such as crypto/blockchain (Former COO @ Paxos, co-founding partner of Liberty City Ventures), video and adtech. I learn by meeting with founders, investors and other thought leaders and approach Web3 with the same enthusiasm – and skepticism – I had about crypto/blockchain technologies 10 years ago.