How BrightID grows and governs a public good using Aragon

The BrightID Main DAO (BMAIN) is a Membership DAO that encompasses several specialized sub-DAOs that develop a social identity network called BrightID. BrightID is poised to revolutionize democracy, UBI, and other systems by ensuring participants are only using one account, the holy grail of digital identity. They use Aragon to enfranchise their community, embody their principles, and grow their project by pushing the boundaries of what's possible with digital organizations.
Date Published
May 8th, 2020
Aragon DAO

Why a DAO?

BrightID is an open-source project with a global community of remote contributors who must collectively allocate work and payments to accomplish their goals.

Without cryptocurrencies, pooling, and managing shared resources on a global scale is challenging. But even with crypto, collectively managing resources securely and transparently requires features multi-sig wallets cannot provide.

In 2018, BrightID received their first grant, in Ether, and wanted to make the most of their new treasury's transparent and global properties.

Back then, DAO frameworks like Aragon weren't on mainnet yet. Despite this, they've always tried to use the latest tools for managing their treasury as a community. Even still, the best tooling at the time required an individual manager to execute transactions.

Adam Stallard, the founder of BrightID, took on that managerial role, but he felt like a bottleneck since everything had to go through him. They wanted a one person, one vote structure, but the tooling needed time to catch up.

I wanted funding for BrightID’s open-source base layer to move away from a single person making financial decisions. I didn’t want to be a bottleneck.

What they needed:

  • Membership (1 member, 1 vote): Each member gets one token that gives them one vote, and the token is nontransferable.
  • Minimal friction for votes: Votes trigger actions, such as payments, that must happen within expected timeframes.
  • No central manager - No particular individual should be required to execute votes or payments.
  • Borderless payments - Payments must be made in cryptocurrencies.
  • Automated reporting - Activities, such as votes and payments, must be transparent and easily accessible by anyone.

Pioneering Membership DAOs

In January of 2019, Adam came across a post written by Luke Duncan describing how one could create a Membership DAO using a custom Aragon deployment, meaning it assigned one voting token per member and tokens were nontransferable.

It sounded perfect, but at the time, no one had ever created a Membership DAO on Aragon, and its developer tooling was still in its infancy.

After months of debugging, complicated CLI commands, and assistance from Luke, BrightID created the very first Membership DAO in July of 2019. It remained the only one until Aragon 0.8 Camino was released in September, which included a template for Membership DAOs, partially inspired by BrightID's experience.

Not only did Aragon enable the governance structure they'd been longing for, but they also put themselves in a great position to continue innovating on their organization.

Multi-DAO structure

As BMAIN grew, so too did the number of activities members were performing and, therefore, the number of votes required to get anything done. Having a single DAO was too slow, but they didn't want to compromise their one person, one vote structure, or obfuscate decision making with stake weighted voting.

Their solution was to turn the BrightID Main DAO into a managerial DAO, governed primarily by individuals interested in using the BrightID platform for their projects, and created several so-called "Fast DAOs" focused on different initiatives like R&D or communications.

Fast DAOs are sent payments via the Finance app on a scheduled basis from BMAIN. Fast DAO members can use these payments to compensate contributors or cover expenses without the need for explicit approval from BMAIN.

Constitutional LAO

BMAIN has a constitution ratified by its members (called Managers) that outlines the requirements and responsibilities of its members. These range from directing funds to sub-DAOs, adding and removing managers to stewarding the evolution of BMAIN itself.

In February of 2020, BMAIN's members formed a legal entity and operating agreement.

BMAIN continues to operate almost exclusively on-chain with power explicitly vested by the operating agreement. The operating agreement couples the DAO with a legal entity that can serve as an interface between the BMAIN DAO and traditional entities, giving the members a baseline of legal certainty in an uncertain world.  

BMAIN operates as a non-profit LLC, and any income beyond what is needed to support BrightID for legitimate purposes is redistributed equally to all BrightID sponsored users.

DeFi’s first unsecured DAO loan

In March of 2020, a BMAIN DAO member proposed a vote to borrow 15,000 DAI from, which after being unanimously approved, was deposited into BMAIN's Agent app. Those funds were then used to purchase BrightID subscriptions. These subscriptions are designed to fund BrightID sustainably.

BMAIN was able to accelerate the growth of BrightID by tapping into a debt market without any individual taking control or custody of the borrowed funds.

Sustainable funding

BrightID kicked-off their Sponsorship and Subscription initiatives to ensure the project could fund itself sustainably while remaining a public good. The DAO manages funds from the sale of sponsorships or subscriptions. BMAIN also adjusts the price peg (currently 1 DAI) of sponsorships to compensate for scalability issues or inflation.

Hit-by-a-bus factor

For BrightID, their decision making needs to be decentralized, and Aragon lets them do that. In fact, Adam is on course to remove himself from BMAIN and become an employee of a sub-DAO without the need to find a replacement. There probably aren't too many founders of traditional companies who could say they're doing the same.


We hope you have enjoyed learning about how BrightID uses Aragon as much as we did. If you want to get involved with BrightID, visit their community Telegram or download the BrightID mobile app from Google Play or the App Store to get verified on BrightID.

If you would like to support BrightID consider purchasing subscriptions or sponsorships, which you can learn more about here.

Thanks to Adam Stallard, Philip Silva, David Wisner, Ross Campbell, and Maria Gomez for contributing to this case study.


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