Partner of DoraHacks: More aggressive actions in a soon to hit-bottom bear market
Although there will be a bull-bear cycle in the crypto market, traders are mainly leaving the market this year. The fundamentals of the builders of the encrypto industry have actually been improving.
Authors: Enmin, ChainCatcher
Interviewee: Steve, DoraHacks Partner
Following the collapse of Terra and Three Arrows Capital, the breakdown of FTX and its repercussions have brought a harsher winter for crypto industry. With the depressed market, declining coin prices and tough regulatory posture, crypto industry seems to be ushering in the darkest period in its history. Recently, the phrase “Winter is coming” has been prevalent in its community.
But still many developers and investors are advocating for LFG as they see the crisis as an opportunity to turn around and actively develop and build. DoraHacks and its ecosystem is one of the brightest. Since its birth in 2014, DoraHacks has been funding the geek movement and advancing the open source movement for a long time by hosting hackathons and adjusting its strategy in time as the geek community embraces blockchain technology. It started to march in crypto industry in 2017 and has now grown into a leading Web3 hackathon organizer.
A clear achievement is that the DoraHacks hackathon has come out with many star projects such as Polygon and STEPN, and has actively developed a MACI-based funding mechanism for quadratic funding. In addition, in the past year or so, DoraHacks has organized 80 major global hackathons and Grants and helped more than 3,000 startup teams receive over $30 million in funding.
It is worth noting that DoraHacks was born in Tsinghua University, and its founders and core team members are all Chinese web 3 builders. In mid-November, ChainCatcher invited the partner of DoraHacks Steve to have an in-depth conversation. In the conversation, Steve introduced both the current status of Dora’s operations and progress of decentralization, as well as shared his views on multi-chain ecologies such as Polkadot, Aptos, and Cosmos. He also shared his views on hot topics such as the FTX crash and the new Hong Kong crypto policies.
Steve believes that the bear market is a good time to have feet on the ground to make things. This year, most of those who are leaving are mainly traders, including Do Kown and Su Zhu, and the basic situations of the crypto industry builders have actually been improving. He suggested that the crypto industry can be a good place for college students to learn and enter, and college students in the Chinese world should think globally and seek global opportunities in web 3 world.
Below is the full conversation:
“Connecting hackers around the world to solve important and urgent problems.”
ChainCatcher: Please tell us about your experience before and after entering the crypto industry.
Steve: I studied economics and finance at Tsinghua University as an undergraduate, and I came across the crypto industry at the end of 2017, my senior year, when I wanted to be a lawyer and had completed my application for the Doctor of Law at American universities and received some good offers. After the application, I had time to try something new. By chance, I saw that DoraHacks was holding a blockchain hackathon in Beijing, and contacted the then Dora team.
Dora believed that hackers could change the world, which gave me a sense of mission. People’s education, background and experience is not a determining factor of people’s success in this industry. Rather, this is an industry where all smart people eager for success can freely yield their talents and build things and this is also why this industry really attracts me.
2 months after I joined, in March 2018, the Dora team invited me to be the COO. I thought to myself if the team thought highly of me and I may do a great job here, why not give it a try? So I first applied for a deferment from the U.S. college, and later I just turned down the offer.
ChainCatcher: It seems that Dora did not aim at the crypto industry at the beginning, so what prompted Dora’s transition?
Steve: The Dora team was first exposed to blockchain in 2015. An interesting experience was that Eric, the founder of Dora, participated in the Ethereum Shanghai Hackathon organized by Vitalik and Wanxiang, and the participants included Fantom, Da Hongfei, Shuai Chu, etc. However, the Dora team believed that blockchain technology was not mature, when many organizations were fooling people with very few real applications on the ground. Until 2017, some DeFi applications on smart contracts became to take shape and the blockchain industry has been adopted by more people, with more gradual implementations transforming from conceptual high-level designing.
The turning point was in 2017, when 70% to 80% of Dora’s hacker community was very interested in this, and almost all hackers in hackathon were doing smart contracts and developing blockchains. Dora aims to serve hackers, focusing on what they care about and what they want to solve. So since 2018, Dora has been organizing blockchain hackathon.
ChainCatcher: What have been some important changes in Dora’s growth strategy and how did Dora contribute to web 3?
Steve: In 2018, the Dora team made two important decisions: first, to focus on the blockchain industry. Because among all technology stacks, the blockchain technology stack is the most open source and grassroots, with a much lower threshold for startups, where anyone can quickly find the right direction to start their business and successfully solve a specific problem. Second, the geek movement is a global one. In 2018 we went to 15 cities in 8 countries around the world and organized 31 large blockchain hackathons. Also from 2018, Dora firmly decided to take on the route of supporting multiple chains, when we supported 10 public chains at that time, including Ethereum, Neo, Nebulas, Ontology and other ecologies.
In my opinion, Dora is the “arsenal of Web3”, helping entrepreneurs in the crypto industry to cold-start their own business and get the most needed help in the early stage, including funding, investment and other resources. In other words, Dora is helping to drive innovation in the entire crypto industry. If we look at Dora itself, although Web3 is a very important industry and sector for us, our business scope is far from that. We are always ready to explore various cutting-edge technology directions, including quantum computing, commercial aviation, controlled fusion, and other areas.
ChainCatcher: DoraHacks has worked with many stellar projects. What is the most impressive one?
Steve: The most impressive one is Polygon, which participated in Dora’s hackathon in Bangalore back in 2018, a competition organized by Dora with Sequoia India, Lightspeed, etc. Polygon was then called Matic and was one of the four most promising projects in India. Shortly after participating in the Dora hackathon, Polygon received investment and incubation from Coinbase.
ChainCatcher: The Dora ecosystem also includes DoraHacks Ventures. What are your investment criteria?
Steve: DoraHacks Ventures has three core investment criteria.
The first is tools (e.g. DAO tools). Starting in 2020, Dora has designed and developed a variety of tools that contribute to the crypto industry, such as multi-chain quadratic funding, which is a way to effectively fund early stage developers and various public goods.
Based on Dora’s own development strategy, if Dora can help developers with tools to raise funds, it should also be able to develop its own tools to help developers with treasury management and community management. One opportunity we see is a multi-chain wealth management tool and community management tool that can be compatible with various assets.
The second is cutting-edge technologies, including quantum computing, commercial aviation and their intersections with blockchain technology. Quantum computing is now probably at the same stage as Bitcoin and blockchain in 2012. This is a really early stage with quantum hardware just taking shape and quantum software a complete blue ocean. In fact, in Web3, few institutions focus on these frontiers while some Web2 institutions are interested in it while lacking in-depth research.
The third is the grassroots geek movement, where many stellar and early technology founders stand out from the competition held by us. We encourage grassroots developers to seek their opportunities. In the world of hackers, there should not be classes and privileges. Many hackers and entrpreneurs do not have good resourcese, and Dora hopes to provide them with a good stage to show themselves.
“We working with all ecologies. We do not take sides. ”
ChainCatcher: What is the current status of Dora’s operations? What are the immediate plans for growth?
Steve: Dora’s total funding is over $50 million, able to support the community and the team for many years. This does not include the decentralized organizations that Dora uses to help geeks and open source developers around the world, such as the Dora Grant DAO, and the Dora Venture.
Instead of contracting in a bear market, we are strategically and carefully expanding. In the past year or so, Dora has organized 80 major global hackathons and grants and helped over 3,000 startup teams get over $30 million in funding, which we are proud of.
There are about 50,000 to 60,000 active developers on the Dora platform every month, and the number of global developers Dora can truly reach should be between 500,000 and 1,000,000, which means that Dora can reach more developer communities than most public chain ecosystems.
Dora also has reached more than 100 thousand Rust developers. It is fail to say Dora has a very good strategic pool of talents proficient in various development languages.
Dora is determined on the direction of multi-chain ecosystems, and now has very good partnerships with 70 or 80 Web3 ecosystems. In the next year, we will expand the cooperation to two or three hundred ecosystems and applications. In the process of expanding the multi-chain and multi-application strategy, we will provide more resources to developers and the traffic of Dora platform will keep rising.
We also continue to invest resources in cutting-edge technologies, including frontier areas such as quantum computing, commercial aviation, controlled fusion, and their integration with the blockchain industry. These directions are still very early, but we are willing to be the first to have a try.
ChainCatcher: Why did Dora choose to bet on DAO sector? How do you see the relation between DAO and the company?
Steve: We started to focus on DAO and DAO tools in 2020, and decentralized governance is a very important topic. We think DAO is a big opportunity, and there will definitely be more DAOs born in the future. However, there are actually no killing DAO tools in the industry at the moment, except Gnosis Safe. The existing DAOs, including Bankless, Friends With Benefits and other DAOs that are more famous in Europe and America, they are not very mature in terms of market value, organizational model and business model.
In addition, many hacker projects in the Dora community also pursue decentralization, hoping to turn the project into a DAO, or protocol, at the end, which also drives us to go for high-quality DAO tools and drill down into some good DAO governance models and governance mechanisms.
We use to think that DAOs would replace companies in the future, but now we tend to think: first, DAOs will not replace companies. DAOs are DAOs and companies are companies. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Second, there is no need for DAOs to replace companies, both companies and DAOs can use good tools, for example, companies and DAOs can use Gnosis Safe.
ChainCatcher: The Dora team has said it wants to gradually decentralize governance. Is the Dora Grant DAO part of that?
Steve: With centralized organizations, we can see where the ceiling is, such as the number of teams, topics and research are limited. Decentralization can actually further expand our capabilities and influences. We have been trying to decentralize Dorahacks. While we have the advantage of funding developers, we also want to include our community in the decision-making process of funding early-stage projects.
In the beginning, we designed Dora Factory with the hope of making a toolset to build and improve tools such as quadratic grants and make them available to organizations large and small, which has already been achieved. Later, we used Dora Token to do part of the work to decentralize DoraHacks. Dora Grant DAO is the first decentralized open community funding organization, which we focus on to fund very early hacker projects.
Our definition of a “very early stage project” is a very early stage hacker project that has never been financed and is valued at less than $10 million, whether or not it has participated in Dora’s hackathon project. Dora now has a stable income and we will do it phase by phase, and in each phase we will take out hundreds of thousands of dollars from the treasury to regularly fund developer projects.
In the funding process, we want to bring in the community to participate, and the way to participate is to get vcDORA by hedging Dora Token as a way to vote for the project. The community can see all the projects and each project will submit a proposal to the Dora community and we will also release the details of all the projects that make it to the finals. The community can vote based on the quality of these proposals and projects, and based on the results of the vote, we will give the project grants.
The first phase of Dora Grant DAO will issue $400,000, which can fund 6–10 hacker teams. These projects will also continue to give vcDORA community benefits during the development process in the future, such as testing opportunities for early stage projects or products, opportunities to join the early stage community to interact with the project, etc., and even become part of the Dora ecosystem in the future. We also especially welcome and encourage the positive interaction between the two community projects.
ChainCatcher: DoraHacks also recently launched the Aptos Grant DAO. Please tell us more about it.
Steve: From the perspective of the development of Move language, Aptos is more oriented towards grassroots developers, which is highly consistent with Dora’s development path and core philosophy. So, for Move, we prioritized a partnership with Aptos.
We are now officially launching the Aptos Grant DAO funding program, which is held about every month or two, with $30,000 and 4,000 APTs for the first time, and will continue to fund Aptos eco-developers with this amount of money for a long time to develop the developer community around the world together with Aptos.
In the Aptos Grant DAO funding program, we plan to introduce vcDORA community participation in governance, holding vcDORA to be able to grant voting rights to Aptos projects. More specific details will be released later.
Aptos is the key cooperation project of Dora, and of course we will want to expand the cooperation model to more ecologies, for example, the second core ecology we focus on is Cosmos ecology. We believe that Cosmos ecology is a decentralized ecology second only to Ethereum, and there are many good cooperation opportunities from it. Unfortunately it is greatly underestimated in the Chinese-speaking world.
ChainCatcher: Dora Factory is based on the infrastructure of Polkadot, but the current development of the Polkadotecosystem seems to be insufficient. How do you see it?
Steve: Dora Factory is the protocol layer incubated by DoraHacks to provide the infrastructure for the global geek movement.
In the very beginning we planned to integrate many applications on an infrastructure based on the Polkadot parallel chain. From what we have seen so far, the Polkadot ecosystem is really not as well developed as we thought it would be. The reason why we chose Polka at that time was because we thought, to some extent, that it might be more mature than infrastructures such as Cosmos. Our investment in the Polkadot ecosystem includes various applications such as the Kusama parallel chain, quadratic funding and multi-signature that Dora Factory launched this year. We are bullish on the Polka ecosystem, despite its very recent controversy.
In fact, whether we are optimistic about Polkadot or not, Dora has a core strategy, that is to work with all ecologies, and we are actually neutral about ecologies. In this industry we are often asked to stand in line, but we actually don’t do that. We want to work with everyone so that we can provide the best support to developers.
Dora’s infrastructure is also multi-chain, not only in a Polkadot version, but also various multi-chain versions, both Ethereum EVM-compatible and non-EVM-compatible. We have actually deployed the multi-chain quadratic funding protocol, MACI governance protocol to more than 30 ecologies. And vcDORA, as an economic model for open community governance, is based on the DORA token for Ethereum, and fundamentally, we are one of the few neutral teams in the industry that has truly embraced multi-chains.
“Will be more aggressive in a bear market”
ChainCatcher: Dora has been working closely with colleges and universities. Are Chinese colleges and universities keeping abreast with the global development of web 3 industry? Are Chinese students interested in Web3?
Steve: Dora itself was born from Tsinghua University and cooperated with Chinese universities since its inception. The first hackathons of Chinese universities such as Tsinghua, Peking University and Fudan was organized by Dora. In addition, Dora also maintains a good relationship with global universities such as Harvard and MIT. Based on my experience with universities around the world, I intuitively feel that Chinese universities are a little bit disconnected with the crypto industry are relatively and slightly behind compared to other countries.
At present, Chinese universities such as Zhejiang University, Tsinghua University and Peking University have produced a number of good projects in crypto, but compared with international first-tier universities such as Stanford and Berkeley, Chinese universities are not abreast with the crypto industry and cannot keep up with the most cutting-edge innovation in the industry, nor can they make the best projects in this industry. This is to some degree due to the fact that Web3 does not boom very much in Chinese market. I am looking forward to seeing Chinese universities to be on par with international universities in terms of teaching and research.
What is valuable is that students in Chinese colleges and universities are highly interested and have been continuously following the most cutting-edge information in the crypto industry. They are usually smart, inquisitive and fast learners, and although they have not yet identified their direction of interest very early, they can learn and explore their knowledge systematically, and even find their way to entrepreneurship on campus.
There are generally 3 ways for college students to step into Web3. They can do that themselves. They can learn about Web3 through Twitter and other channels to gain the first-hand information of the industry; The second is through the courses. Good professors in universities and colleges can help lead the relevant academic discussion; the third is through people around them. Some Chinese colleges and universities have also set up blockchain clubs, which are gradually growing.
ChainCatcher: Based on your own experience, how would you advise students and those around you to join Web3?
Steve: I think crypto industry is a place where you can learn how to make money. In the five years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve been learning non-stop every single day, especially by now, there are new projects and new knowledge in the industry coming up every day, which is actually much more efficient than passively learning in college.
In my opinion, crypto industry is a desirable place for college students to learn and enter, and college students in the Chinese world should pay more attention to the development and opportunities of Web3. Observe globally, I found that Web3 has clearly be more pursued and paid attention to especially when when many industries are in layoffs and recession. Also the best capital and industry leads from Web2 are currently flooding int o Web 3 for the investment and entrepreneurship. So it would be a loss to miss it.
I often encouraged people around me to join Web3. But I don’t meant that Web3 is for everyone because Web3 itself is very cyclical and international. However, I would recommend everyone to pay attention to blockchain because it can bring good values such as freedom and democracy to everyone, but I will not invite everyone around me to join it.
ChainCatcher: Is there a barrier for college students to enter the industry? What are your experiences and advice for entering the industry?
Steve: There is a threshold for college students to enter the industry. The environment of developing Web3 in China is rather special, for example the jobs of development and BD (business development) need to comply with the Chinese policy. Of course, despite of that, there are still many excellent companies in China. If students want to find a good job opportunity, they can look globally, and the closer ones are Hong Kong and Singapore. To get better growth in Web3, I really encourage you to look at the world, there will be more space and room for development.
Currently there is not such a particularly good channel for aggregating all the job opportunities. For students who want to enter the industry, they need to pay more attention by themselves. I know people in the industry will compile job lists and update crypto job information every day, and there are also channels to see what hot positions are currently available. At the same time, they should also pay more attention to the recruitment information of the big ecological projects in the industry. For example, Aptos is actually recruiting Asian leaders and excellent team members. There are actually a lot of good opportunities like this. I know a lot of relatively mature companies and ecosystems are looking for Asian leads, developer relations, BDs, etc. I also know a large number of startup teams looking for competent members.
Students who want to enter the industry should also focus on strengthening their own qualities. First, they must be good at English because a lot of information and the first place of communication in the crypto industry is in the English world. Secondly, they should have the ability to learn quickly because the crypto industry is constantly iterating and they have to learn many new things every day. Third, they should be able to adapt to work in a global team, because most organizations in Web3 are decentralized and team members are distributed in different time zones around the world, so they have to be flexible to adapt to this kind of working and collaboration model.
In my own case, joining Dora was a risky decision at the time, and I was appointed COO not long after I joined. So what I want to share is that you should not be afraid to take more responsibilities at a very early age, which also means a richer growth experience, and not be afraid to fail, because the best time for people to try things is when they are young. It is worth doing something that seems risky and challenging. In fact, in the world of Web3, as long as you work hard enough and persevere enough, the probability of success is very high, and I have seen countless examples in the past five years. Dora really supports college students to study and join Web3, and will invest more resources and energy to help them in the future.
ChainCatcher: The recent introduction of the new crypto policies in Hong Kong has triggered a heated discussion in the industry about the development of crypto in Hong Kong and Singapore, how do you see the development prospect of Hong Kong in Web3?
Steve: Actually, Hong Kong used to be a Web3 hub in Asia, especially in 2017 and 2018, when Hong Kong had very good projects and excellent capital. But in the past few years, for a variety of reasons, Hong Kong has slightly lost its clout. I am now in Singapore and I have observed that more talents decided to go to Singapore than Hong Kong.
Compared with Hong Kong, Singapore has trading companies and startup teams in different directions such as gaming, metaverse, NFT, social media, etc. More than half of the crypto organizations in Shanghai have their Asian headquarters in Singapore, and most international crypto organizations such as Nansen and Ethereum Foundation have also chosen Singapore as their Asian headquarters. Due to the policies to contain the pandemic, Singapore attracted more talents with stronger communities than Hong Kong. Singapore’s talent policies, such as work visas and permanent residence status, have also been more open recently.
But Hong Kong is after all closer to the Chinese mainland, and in future, with strong support from the mainland, there can be a good input of talent resources, including students from universities and mature technical talents from big companies like Tencent and Huawei. Hong Kong also has capital that can support strong entrepreneurship, and with more policy liberalization in Hong Kong, it would certainly be a good thing if crypto industry can prosper in Hong Kong again. For the new Hong Kong crypto policies, I think all policies that encourage the development of the crypto industry are good policies, and I believe that ultimately good regulatory decisions will benefit the development of the industry, and attract more talents and capitals.
Overall, I think Hong Kong’s future crypto policies will be more open and attract more talents and talented teams to enter this field.
ChainCatcher: FTX had led Dora’s Series B1 funding round of $20 million in May this year. How dis the FTX collapse affect Dora? How do you see the impacts of the FTX incident?
Steve: We regret for what happened to FTX. FTX Ventures has helped us on many aspects including financing and day-to-day collaboration, and we are very grateful for that.
The FTX event will have relatively little impact on Dora compared to FTX’s investors and institutions that are unable to withdraw their funds. dora is completely unaffected financially and FTX Ventures, as a minority shareholder, has no influence over dora’s operations and decisions. In addition, this is an equity financing and will not have much impact on our Token.
The FTX incident certainly has far-reaching implications for the crypto industry. Unlike fully compliant exchanges such as Coinbase, FTX is not fully regulated, and its unregulated nature actually represents a crypto-native quality that the crypto industry does not want to be regulated. However, it is undoubtedly a major blow to the crypto industry that a large number of the crypto communities suffered as a result of the FTX crash when it was not regulated. This greatly hurt the crypto community’s trust in institutions with good reputations, and how Web2 industry preceive and trust Web3, and would trigger a series of chain reactions.
Or turn the entire thing the other way around. FTX is actually a centralized presence in a decentralized world, which further proves why decentralization matters. People may be more willing to believe in an on-chain data, on-chain operation, completely license-free, self-custodial transaction model, rather than an custody system where assets are completely out of control. This is a bit like the “Mt Gox bankruptcy” that year, and it is an important event in the development of the crypto industry. Many people suffered great losses and were kicked out game as a result. But thr cypto industry will not be killed, rather it would become a stronger one.
Looking at the Luna and FTX events this year, global regulation for the crypto industry will definitely be tightened. Whenever the regulation is tightened, to a certain extent, it is inhibiting the development of the industry and will discourage everyone’s motivation to start up, trade and participate in the Web3 world. However, the problem of centralized exchanges will always exist, and I don’t think it is easy to say whether Coinan will have problems in the future.
ChainCatcher: How do you see this bear market and how is Dora dealing with it?
Steve: One direct impact of the bear market on developers is that the market will import fewer resources to some extent, and the money invested in the crypto market will be much less than in the bull market, and the first round valuation of projects may fall quite a bit compared to the bull market, and developers will sacrifice more. Many institutions have not experienced the previous bull-bear switches and do not know how long this bear market will last, so they are prone to be short-sighted and afraid to invest. In the bull market, good projects need institutions to compete, despite the high valuation of the project, it is still hard to them get the bid. But in the bear market everyone is instead very cautious.
It is worth noting that although there will be bull and bear cycles in the crypto market, those leaving this year are mainly traders, including Do Kown and Su Zhu. The basic situation of crypto industry builder have actually been improving, whether it is Ethereum L2, or new public chains like Aptos and Sui, they are all improving the underlying performance of the industry, actively building the ecology, and the worldwide developer community is growing.
I think the bear market is a golden time to support early stage developers. Developers really need us and we are willing to support them. The bear market is also a good time to focus on building. Although teams failing to find PMF will die in the bear market, teams with persistent efforts to make products and find good directions will stand out in the bear market, which is what often happened in previous cycles.
In fact, the bottom of the bear market should not be far away. Dora has started to focus on funding and investing in particularly good early stage founder, which is what we have been doing, but will do it more aggressively in the bear market. In a bull market, we mainly provide more resources for developers and play the role of a platform; in a bear market, when it’s hard to get good support for a project, we step up and give support.