Dissolving the Flock grants program

February 21, 2020

We announced Aragon Flock in late 2018. The idea was to decentralize the development of the project by offering sizable grants to teams who would build the Aragon Network and its core infrastructure.

We wanted to find founders willing to assemble teams to build core infrastructure. The Aragon Association would give them funding and vested ANT, so that they are aligned with the network long-term.

Unfortunately, we found out that the grants program had significant issues and wrong incentives. Mainly these were:

  • Checklist-based approach: When projects are early, it’s important to be lean and iterate. With this approach, teams came up with checklists of items for a whole year that they would be judged upon for fund disbursement. But you don’t build something people want based on checklists made a year in advance — you need to talk to users and iterate.
  • Public feedback didn’t work: Feedback was kept private, creating information silos that kept the community in the dark. Being able to assess the quality of the work requires a huge amount of context, so only other grantee teams could provide such feedback. That’s the reason that when that feedback became public, it was perceived as harsh and created inter-personal issues.
  • Upfront funding: Big chunks of money don’t incentivize teams to be lean — quite the opposite. We have seen much better outcomes with smaller and leaner grants, like the ones given to 1Hive or Aragon Mesh.
  • No-strings-attached funding: Flock could have been one of the best deals you could have gotten as a founder in the crypto space. It was almost strings-free capital — no equity was taken in the companies. Unfortunately, that created a strong lack of accountability.
  • High coordination costs: There is a reason why teams are kept small in the beginning. In order to move fast, you need high-bandwidth communication. Having more and more artificial walls increases coordination costs.

On top of these root issues, Flock was too early for the the stage of the project. Even though usage metrics are growing considerably, Aragon hasn’t reached strong product-market fit yet.

In September 2019 there were several discussions in the community with regards to Flock. It became clear to me that it was important to focus on them. I decided to stop leading Aragon One to become the Executive Director of the Aragon Association. I focused all my energy in evaluating the situation, always with the intention of maximizing the odds of Aragon being massively successful.

This required tough decisions that were needed for the project to be leaner and be able focus on what’s most important.

After running the experiment for more than a year, and with careful consideration, the Aragon Association has decided to shut down the Flock program.

We thank everyone that participated in this journey. It’s been really exciting to see what works and what not, and we have learned so much. We have been working with teams to ensure a smooth offboarding from the program and wish them the best.

We will keep funding proven teams and doing lean grants and small-scale fund allocation experiments. And once the Aragon Network DAO reaches Phase 3 later this year, it will be sovereign to make its own capital allocations.

You can read more about the Aragon Association’s plans for 2020 and how we are evolving Aragon Network governance.