Solana DAO tooling: Ecosystem, Challenges & Opportunities
In 2021, DAOs started picking up rapidly with a common narrative, that DAOs would be huge and every web3 organization or even Web2 company would eventually be DAOs. We saw every kind of DAOs from Social DAOs to DeFi DAOs to Investment DAOs to Service DAOs, getting built. This led to the “Pick and Shovels” thesis, which was inspired by the famous gold rush of the mid-1800s, where Hundreds of thousands of hopeful gold miners headed west in the hope of making fortunes. This was a risky bet, as not all of them would be successful, but the best way to profit from this gold was to sell these prospective miners the tools with which they will mine gold — “Pick and Shovels”. Similarly, crypto is the new gold rush, and DAOs being the hottest, everyone started building “Pick and Shovels” for DAOs by the end of 2021.
The result? In just a span of a few months, we came down to saying: “There are more DAO tools than DAOs!”. Fair enough, indeed there were many “DAO tooling landscapes” flowing around on Twitter, and yet DAOs are still struggling to manage even basic operations!
In this deep dive, we will discuss and see an overview of the tooling landscape in the Solana ecosystem (with top 36+ tools), the missing gaps in them, and what are the challenges that need to be solved for DAOs.
This essay is structured into the following parts:
- Introduction- DAOs and DAO tooling where are they now?
- An In-depth list of tools (What are they, features, How to get started, etc.)
- The challenges and opportunities in the ecosystem (The fun part)
We will keep this direct, easy, and actionable. Let's dive into it 🚀
Solana & DAOs
We are seeing a lot of DAO tools getting traction in Solana. To understand them better, we can categorize various DAOs tooling as:
- Discovering DAOs: Product Hunt for DAOs
- Infrastructure for DAOs: AWS for DAOs
- Talent Liquidity: Linkedin for DAOs
- Productivity and Collaboration: G-Suite for DAOs
- Payments-focus: Stripe for DAOs
- Fund Management: Banks for DAOs
Note: The Categories are just here to put some structure and for better discoverability. There are many tools that might overlap with multiple categories but here, we tried to list them exclusively to their core functionality.
Discovering DAOs: The DAO Marketplaces
While these necessarily don’t categorize as DAO tooling, but these serve as excellent DAO discovery platforms, where contributors can explore different DAOs, just like you check out different products in Product Hunt based on different categories, reviews, etc.
Here are a few of them:
It lets you discover 1000+ DAO — a one-stop-shop to find, invest and vote in DAOs.
- DAO DAO
(DAO, DAO) is a Web3 social platform that allows you to start, fund, and trade DAOs. Imagine Reddit + Kickstarter + Coinbase, but for DAOs.
Onboarding flow for contributors, data drive automation to reward active contributors, community spirits, events, analytics, and API to reward members inside their apps.
Truts makes it easy to discover top DAOs in their space by reviewing them. It’s 100% on-chain: 600+ verified communities listed with 350+ reviews.
- Discover DAOs
Find anything there is to learn about DAOs and discover among the numerous DAOs listed on the site.
Infrastructure for DAOs
These are the tools. which gives the infrastructure for DAOs to launch their Tokens which are essentials to their DAO and to help them build their native organization.
- Grape lets you create, reward, and secure any online community by using Solana.
- Users gain access based on their wallet balance and the tokens they hold. Grape can be integrated with your Discord ID, so now can get access to some DAOs’ discord and get the roles based on the tokens you hold. The data is stored on Solana, so it is very easy to restart the community again with the existing people’s wallets.
- They have also won second place in the Solana Hackathon that happened in May 2021.
- Empowers community-led DAOs with the tools and resources they need to take over and decentralized abandoned or rugged projects.
- Upside helps to securely launch and manage tokens for the building blocks of web3 native organizations.
- Upside has helped companies like Cere Network, Republic, DappRadar, Chingari, Freshcut, and many more to create, launch and manage over 1 Billion tokens, distributed to over 700K blockchain accounts.
More than just tools, these are the best ways to learn, earn and build in the ecosystem.
Here you can find full-time or part-time opportunities, Grants to build any projects or bring value to any idea, and Bounties. Do check them out.
- Questbook provides a decentralized solution to grant management. In Guestbook, you can run grant and bounty programs for DAOs and foundations.
- But questbook has another track called Openquest where you can learn to code and build in web3 using Solana, Ethereum, and Polygon.
- Superteam is a cooperative of creatives, developers, and operators who are experienced in launching and growing technology businesses. SupeteamDAO helps the most promising projects in the Solana ecosystem in the ascending world (India, South East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa) launch and grow.
- To get membership into SuperteamDAO you either win a Bounty or a mission (A freelance gig ranging a certain duration) or win an Instagrant (Grant given by some sponsors).
- Superteam is known for the talent and the amazing projects coming out of it and understandably so. In fact, this deep dive submission is for a Superteam bounty.
- Building on Solana or want to go full time into Web3, do check out superteam.fun and earn.superteam.fun for earning opportunities.
- Layer3 is a platform that enables anyone to contribute to a DAO. It provides a marketplace of bounties where you can earn in tokens and by completing/doing things regardless of your skill.
- There are multiple communities and various tasks listed on their site as bounty, which people can complete to learn crypto and earn in crypto.
- They have partnered with multiple projects. They started in June ’21 and till now, users on LAYER3 have made more than 2million+ on-chain transactions and many have started their Web3 journey.
- Backed by world-class builders and loved by the community. Do check them out if you want to earn while you learn.
Productivity and Collaboration
Most DAOs have difficulties doing tasks efficiently. Effectively coordinating work when decentralized is challenging and does not come easy. There must be procedures, agreements, and collaboration. These tools help in doing that.
- A web3-native Trello with token payments, credentialing, and bounties.
- Has raised $5 million from paradigm, pace, and many investors. Multiple DAOs and bounties get created frequently on the platform.
- SourceCred is a tokenized protocol that allows communities to track, admire and reward project and community members, according to flexible, self-set parameters. Tl;dr- Contribution measurement and community governance
- It is an open-source tool for communities to measure and reward value creation and organize communities
- Makes it easy to onboard new contributors into the DAO seamlessly and makes it easy to manage them
- It is easy to integrate with other tools and platforms of your choice and get started with your DAO operations.
- Dialect is an open-source smart messaging protocol for dynamic, composable dapp notifications and wallet-to-wallet chat.
- It provides an alternative way to communicate with DAO members outside of tools like Slack and Discord in a more personalized manner, which may increase the communications across DAO members.
- Some of the features include Wallet-to-wallet chat, in-dapp notifications, Email, and SMS.
- And now it is powering the messaging and notification for Solana’s biggest projects
- Dilect is Backed by leading investors, Multicoin Capital, Tiger Global, Jump Crypto, and many more.
- It is entirely Open Source, developers can get up and running with tools quickly with few lines of code. Check out their GitHub.
While building a community, having a value-measuring system is important. Especially in DAOs contributors can be rewarded both monetarily (through tokens) and abstractly (reputation in the DAO). These tools help you get rewarded based on your on-chain reputation.
- It helps people to build their on-chain network to reward & recognize their biggest supporters by launching their tokens on Solana. Think of it like Linkedin Kudos.
- Backed by Forge, One Block, Techstars, and more.
- xHashtag works with Web3 projects by helping them build and grow a reliable community, and uses the large user base towards the project, by rewarding them with non-transferable achievement credentials called #SoulSwags for their contribution to the project in terms of task and campaign completion.
- Backed by Titan Ventures, SOLRAZR, KuCoin Labs, ZBS Capital, and many more investors and advisors.
Decision-making and Governance
In the context of DAOs, governance proposals refer to the mechanism to carry out any type of modification to the protocol held by the DAO. Members of the DAO normally need to have a specific amount of the token before making any proposals, and changes are often suggested through modifications to the smart contracts that govern the protocol. Depending on the aggregate vote cast by DAO members, these modifications are passed or refused.
- Tribeca is a protocol for creating, managing, and interacting with DAOs on Solana. It is an open-source governance primitive built and maintained by members of Solana’s leading protocols.
- Integrations and DAOs getting launched for many protocols, including Saber, Friktion, Port finance, Arrow protocol, Acumen, and more
- It is heavily inspired by the designs of Compound and Curve governance.
- Their code is unaudited. Tribeca is pluggable with other Anchor-based projects and tools, allowing for greater composability. Check out their docs to know more.
Realms is another governance tool, you can find it in the All in one tools section of this essay.
These are generally used for token distribution & vesting and payroll.
- Streamflow is a token distribution platform that provides teams with the necessary tools to manage their treasury and distribute value (Streaming payments and on-chain salaries) with ease.
- The TVL is 130+ Million with 30,000+ Streams and 170+ Tokens. It is backed by prominent investors including Jump crypto, Solana Ventures, etc, and is used by projects like Port Finance, Hubble protocol, Jungle finance, Nosena, and more.
- You can build Integrations on top of Streamflow too. Check out their SDK and docs to know more.
- Zebec is a continuous settlement protocol on Solana. It is enabling the composable transfer of value starting with Zebec Payroll and Zebec Safe is fully customizable multi-sig on Solana. Think of this as “Gnosis safe”, but for Solana.
- Zebec allows employees to seamlessly convert their real-time liquidity to fiat currency via custom metal debit cards. Audited by CERTIK, it becomes the go-to platform for organizations or DAOs trying to do Multisig Treasury Management and Streaming Payments
- It is backed by investors like Solana Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, Alameda research, and many more. Till now, they have partnered with Katana and Tribeca and has their own native token.
- Developers can build with Zebec Protocol by using their SDKs to easily implement Zebec Pay features directly into your projects.
- Making it easier to manage token distributions, compliance, and track vesting schedules.
- Audited by trusted firms like Macro, Quantstamp, and Sherlock, and used by Companies like balancer, Indexcoop, Superare, and Snackclub.
- Liquify is backed by investors like Dragonfly, Nascent, OrangeDAO, Robot ventures and angels like Balaji(Former CTO, Coinbase, and GP at a16z), Packy McCormick (Not Boring Capital), Anthony Pompliano (Pomp Investments), and many more such individuals.
Managing the fun(d)s
These are typically used for Treasury management i.e managing the treasuries of DAOs, either in storing the assets or giving yields from these treasuries. Treasury management is an important component of the DAO since it ensures organizational transparency. Every member may then see and contribute to the direction and diversification of funds inside the treasury as they move hand in hand with governance ideas.
Let’s take a look at a few of them:
- With Squads, you can securely manage your treasury, program upgrades, and tokens with your DAO members.
- 3000+ Multi-sigs deployed till now
- Audited by OTTERSEC and BRAMAH SYSTEMS.
- Loved by the Ecosystem and recently they launched their V3 which is more secure.
- Their SDK provides classes and utilities to make it easier to interact with Squads programs. || Their docs
- Live Yes || Open source — Yes
- Goki provides an interface to create, manage, and audit multisig wallets on Solana. Keywords: ‘Secure’ and ‘Easy’
- Recently partnered with Cashmere Wallet, Query protocol, Atrix protocol, and TribecaDAO Governance. (more info on their Twitter)
- It’s not public yet, but you can join their waitlist on their site.
- Live NO || Open source — NO
- Castle Finance provides a safer way to earn yield for DAOs and their communities with their DAO native custom vaults.
- The USDC vault gives out a ~2.8% and has over $301k+ in TVL.
- Apart from that, Castle Finance has also Integrated with Cashmere Wallet to give seamless yields to users and teams.
- Backed by Solana Ventures, Nascent, Shima Capital, and many more partners.
- Live yes || Open source NO
- The Katana protocol enables users to passively access the best risk-adjusted yields in the ecosystem by offering a suite of packaged yield products across the risk spectrum. This makes Katana THE yield generation layer for Solana.
- Friktion offers DeFi-powered, risk-adjusted return generation strategies for DAOs, individuals, and traditional institutions through institutional-grade structured products and risk management.
- It introduces cool concepts like Volts and Circuits into the DeFi ecosystem, which offers both active and passive portfolio management strategies.
- Unique Venture Clubs is a no-code platform that allows people to pool resources, establish custom on-chain governance structures, and collectively own assets. Lets you create or join web3 investment clubs to purchase and manage assets on-chain.
- They are building the infrastructure and the tools that allow people to pool resources together, eliminating financial, technical, social, and trust hurdles.
- Supported Assets currently are NFTs and Fungible tokens and many more coming soon.
- Audited by ZOKYO, they are backed by investors like Solana ventures WW ventures, MEXC, SVC, and more. Other projects like Grape, Bonfida, Streamflow, Magic Eden, etc., have partnered with Unique.vc.
- Live yes || open source NO
- Cashmere wallet lets teams or DAOs manage treasuries through multisig actions, you directly send, receive, and grow your digital assets in the Team vaults.
- The platform has also integrated scheduled payments, many integrations across the Solana Ecosystem, and Slack notifications. They have also promised a fully functional SDK which might come soon.
- It is Audited by Ottersec and trusted by managing treasuries for Opensea, Million on Mars, Fast Break Labs, etc.
- To explore IDL methods, Check out their docs
- Teams and organizations can create crypto corporate treasuries, issue vesting contracts to investors, and operate payroll operations using real-time money streams. Mean Fi enables this with its no-code Token vesting, Crypto payroll, and Safe Multisig solutions, as well as its DEX with HLA providing DDCA.
- Backed by 16+ institutions and 100+ treasuries, MeanFi becomes another solution for treasury management, Payroll operations and token vesting.
- Another example of multi-sig is Ownbit.
Data, Data, and Data
These are tools that let your gather data from on chain sources. You can analyze them to get better insights and test your instincts about a certain topic.
- Dune Analytics is a data platform that analysts and investors use to research specific projects such as NFTs, DeFi platforms, DAOs, or any blockchain ecosystem.
- Anyone can query the data and create visualizations using Dune.
- DeepDAO collects and organizes a variety of quantitative and qualitative data about DAOs governance, their structure, people, and decision-making. It currently serves interactive data dashboards, project descriptions, a DAO Tools go-to, and a governerds’ discord channel. (source: Deep DAO)
- There are learning materials and many bounties listed through which you can earn and learn various things and data analytics and SQL.
API key to the most comprehensive blockchain data in crypto. Query on-chain data from most of the blockchains available
The all-in-one tools
Crypto is built upon the promise of data that is open to anyone to use. Which not only makes it very open but also makes it very composable to build on top of them. Apart from the previous categories, there are some tools that give the one-stop solution (mostly) to create, manage and operate a DAO. On Solana, this is one of the few that exist.
- DAO creation, voting, and treasury management, all in one fully on-chain product. Realms has all the tools for that.
- You can invite members(Cardinal Twitter integration), and vote on proposals, apart from these, it has tools for treasury management, identity management, and analytics of those actions, all under one platform.
- Realms is also managing some of the biggest projects of the ecosystem.
Few more exciting tools to look out
Tools that didn’t make it to the list but are worth giving some attention.
- Community-governed IDO platform built on Solana serving both the Investors and the projects.
- DAO onboarding and context management. For Causes & DAOs it helps in creating social impact by donating tokens and you receive Impact NFTs that certify your donations on-chain.
- Available on other chains like ETH, Polygon, etc. yet it is not on Solana, but something like this is good to have in the ecosystem.
Challenges and Opportunities 🛠
We saw the tools across all the categories, what they are solving for and how many are there.
But one thing that is still visible is that not all of them solve all the needs of a DAO, especially in a Solana landscape. That takes us to the Challenges (opportunities!)
Challenge 1: Technical challenges
- Cross Platform Collaboration
If you are using multi-sig tools like Realms or Squads then you should be able to the ability to collaborate on documents with platforms like Wordcel.
For example, same idea can be applied to DeWork <> Squads <> Wordcel, DAOlens <> Realms and the list can go on.
- Cross-chain Collaboration and On-chain collaboration
For example, if there are multiple contributors in your DAO yet you want to publish articles on Wordcel, how would you do that? Definitely, you don’t want to share the wallet (A big NO)
Then what strikes is, to have integrations for the Workplaces from the governance or treasury management sites to work with wordcel. If you are added as a member there you should be able to publish on the DAO’s publication
Another thing is collaborative publishing which lets more than one people collaborate on any media and it is on chain.
These types of purely speculative imagination and data interoperability can open up possibilities that we have never calculated and change the way we use applications in Web3.
Challenge 2: Payments — a critical missing piece in the puzzle
While crypto by default solves for the payment rails, DAOs face a lot of hurdles in managing & automating payments, often resulting in late payments & multiple follow-ups. Sometimes, DAOs give out payments in their native tokens, which are very volatile. We have also heard often contributors find it hard to off-ramp and prove their crypto income as a reliable source of income. Further, many active contributors find it hard to get their expenses made for DAO projects like SaaS spending, Travel expenses reimbursed seamlessly. All this leads to poor DAO-contributor payments experience.
Potential Solutions: To solve automation issues, achieving operational efficiency via payment request links, scheduling payments, and expense management tools are critical. Corporate Cards are another solution, where all active contributors of DAO can be issued a card, and they can spend for all their business needs like SaaS expenses or Conference tickets, via the card itself. Web3 counterparts of Web2 tools like Expensify, Gusto, Brex are yet to be built and when these tools will be built, it will attract much higher interest for companies to operate as DAOs.
Challenge 3: Building a grant ecosystem and platform like Gitcoin on Solana
There are a lot of open source projects with issues and bugs which can be approached through bounties or community funding for projects that the ecosystem needs.
The existing system of grants and bounties results in appropriate VC investment being allocated to one specific project. This distorts the priority of Solana’s communities.
Creating something like Gitcoin Grants is more of a socio-philosophical problem than a technological one. Most of the Ethereum projects like Uniswap, Aave, and Polygon regularly engage in the rounds because of their strong belief in supporting public goods. Essentially, their viewpoint is consistent with that of the greater Ethereum community.
Vitalik also points out large initiatives that do not participate in supporting public goods on a regular basis. And till now we haven’t seen any kind of philosophical movement around public goods in Solana. That’s the need of the hour, the need while building a better ecosystem.
Challenge 4: The legal structure for DAOs
How can a community achieve legal clarity?
DAOs are similar to many organizations like corporations, non-profits, partnerships (including both general and limited liability), and co-operatives. But these organizations are all regulated and governed by the rules of where they exist.
Whereas there is nothing sort of exists for DAOs, they are purely decentralized lacking a particular place, and the governing rules are not specific to any existing legal framework. Today DAOs from across the world battle with regulatory issues such as taxation of DAO tokens, treasuries, and investments, how to get insurance on investments, implementing other policies, etc.
Though this is not entirely a tooling problem, once there is some legal clarity in any region, it will act as a precursor to a huge range of tools catering to the legal needs of a DAO.
Challenge 5: HR solutions for DAOs
I know you might be thinking, are we back to Web2 again? Nope, there is more to it.
Aside from the legal challenges of DAOs, there are also complicating factors about the best methods for hiring, onboarding, and managing a team.
With the newness of DAOs, finding and vetting talent that is well-suited to work in the largely ambiguous and self-directed jobs accessible in DAOs is tough. DAOs that do not have connected organizations must also figure out how to address the legal complication of engaging in a connection with talent when there is no counterparty to engage in employment or contractor agreements with or to guarantee talent does not reveal secret information.
Teams in the DAOs find it tedious to convey institutional knowledge to new members once joined, hence DAO core teams frequently end up accountable for the majority of operations. Given the transparency of DAOs, this may appear contradictory, however, due to the rapid shift of DAOs, these firms have had difficulty documenting their internal procedures, making it difficult to onboard new members.
After being onboarded, DAO core teams must determine how to manage personnel, which may be difficult in a flat structure and even more difficult when a group is attempting to portray itself as highly decentralized.
Tools can NOT solve for the communities without a common objective, intention, and value system. While the market is still not very big for DAO tooling, the space will continue to evolve. Just like first protocols were built, and then came the applications. Similarly, we believe that, Tools will get built first and DAOs/Web3-native organizations will get built with help of DAO tools. DAO tools will essentially attract many organizations to be Web3-native, as they get more and more efficient. Overall, we believe Solana is one of the perfect chains, ripe for disruption, given a vibrant community & ecosystem.
It will be Excited to see, how the Web3 organizational stack gets built from here on🚀
That’s all folks!
— Thanks to Yash Agarwal for helping with key concepts and reviewing this article.
This was a deep dive into the wilderness of DAOs and the tools that wrap them together. If you find it helpful or want to suggest anything feel free to reach out to me at @inSitesh on Twitter.
- State of DAO tooling on Solana by Aditya Shetty
- Contributor payments experience in daos challenges and opportunities by Yash Agarwal
- DAO tooling in solana: what can we expect in the future? A deep-dive with-solanaFM
- All the links to the respective tools are hyperlinked with the name itself.
DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. We make no representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this report, including third-party data sources. This post may contain forward-looking statements or projections based on our current beliefs and information believed to be reasonable at the time. However, such statements necessarily involve risk and uncertainty and should not be used as the basis for investment decisions. The views expressed are as of the publication date and are subject to change at any time. Read the full disclaimer here.