Catalyzing a Movement with Gitcoin Grants

We caught up with Vincent Weisser to download the playbook on catalyzing a Gitcoin Round.

Vincent helped catalyze the Decentralized Science (DeSci) Round in GR15 from inception to execution together with a range of amazing supporters from the Gitcoin and DeSci ecosystem: Kydo, Shady, Erik, Eugene, Ben, Janine, Annika, Caro, J Ringo, Azeem, Carl, Vishnu, Sage, Umar, James, Scott, Joseph Cook, and many others. 

The result was a remarkable total pool of $567k in funding for over 82 projects. Teamwork makes the dream work. 

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Leading the ecosystem at Molecule, Vincent supports VitaDAO, Bio.xyz, PsyDAO, and Longevity Prize. He's dedicated to advancing the DeSci ecosystem and is a long-time Gitcoin supporter, having previously been involved in the Longevity and Climate rounds.

Let's dig into DeSci, GR15, and Vincent's experience to harvest insights anyone can use to help fund the public goods they're most passionate about.

Decentralizing Science

Decentralized Science is a movement using web3 tools to radically improve the creation and management of human scientific knowledge. The thesis is that as we enhance science's transparency, permissionlessness, and decentralization, we also enhance its speed, efficacy, and equitability.

It's unfortunate, but the traditional scientific community (TradSci) suffers from widespread calcification. Incumbent rule incentivizes gatekeeping, making it hard to fund, publish, review, and access the collective knowledge needed for progress. Yet if we're to resolve existential risks and promote human flourishing, that progress is critical.

Joseph Cook notes that "ultimately these structural problems with science funding and publishing have arisen from centralized control – a small pool of power-players sculpt the scientific landscape and have created a deeply imbalanced industry from what should be a public good."

Here's just a slice of web3's potential to disrupt TradSci:

  • Funding

Quadratic, retroactive, hypercert, and DAO funding models offer more diverse and equitable pathways to securing the capital needed for research.  

  • Access 

Not relying on centralized gatekeepers for funding means you don't have to rely on them for distribution. Scientists can own their data, incentivizing them to make it accessible—and decentralized storage hedges against catastrophic loss.

  • Reproducibility

All this means there's a greater opportunity to replicate research and drive more discovery. By putting it all on chain, we can represent the totality of the human knowledge graph as a transparent public good.

It's easy to see why the group that made the DeSci round happen was keen to help accelerate the movement with a Gitcoin round to support projects in this space.

Round Catalyzing Playbook

GR15 saw the first-ever dedicated DeSci Round. The goal was to use Quadratic Funding to help "expand and distribute humanity's shared knowledge…reimagining the incentives, culture, and infrastructure for research using web3 tools and technology."

Two thousand three hundred nine individual donors supported projects in the DeSci ecosystem with over $67k. And a $500k matching pool was supported by donors like Protocol Labs, Vitalik Buterin, Stefan George, Ethereum Foundation, SCRF (Smart Contract Research Forum), Molecule, Orange DAO, GreenPillCN, AlchemixFi, and Springer Nature.

Vincent shared with us everything you need to achieve the same level of public goods funding success:

1. Choose your Cause

"DeSci was getting increasingly popular and lacking an efficient bottom-up structure to enable people to donate to all these efforts."

These signals made it clear to Vincent that the time was right for a round supporting Decentralized Science. But any intersections between web3 and strong communities can work.

Don't worry if your passion isn't an everyday thing. Vincent advises focusing on "where there's an overlap of crypto donors and funders that want to make stuff happen."

"Even niche ones should be attempted," and "ultimately, the main point is this problem of centralized actors in philanthropy and philanthropic movements and spaces." Areas with legacy bottlenecks are excellent opportunities for funding disruption. DAOs already have a defined mission and community and are fertile ground here.

2. Mobilize a Squad

"The best is to have a group that wants to make it happen, not just one individual, but a squad." 

It's much harder to go it alone, so connect with others passionate about your cause. You can pool and leverage everyone's energy, network, and time.

"If there's no donor, no relevant project, no one behind it, and no one really pushing for it, it won't happen." Your core crew is the first step.

3. Build Trust & Personal Relationships

"What made it the easiest was building trust and going directly to the people in the community."

Get to know potential donors and connect with contributors at Gitcoin. Submitting governance proposals, operating async, or building quietly can work independently, but it's much harder. Meet up IRL, hop on calls, and make friends. Build deep connections in the relevant communities. 

4. Secure a Critical Mass

"What I realized is that you need this getting from zero-to-one energy to build momentum."

A few early funders can make all the difference, "there needs to be a minimum threshold of ideally $50-100k which allows things to grow." Things are far easier if you have the seeds of a matching pool committed. Work to establish that before widening your net, and you'll have a much easier time building momentum. 

And think creatively–you'd be surprised who is willing to support and at what level: "it's a very easy call to action for a large organization to just donate to a Gitcoin Round than start a huge bureaucratic process to do their own grants."

5. Expand your Reach

"We made a long list of ideas for matching donors and crowdsourced a Google spreadsheet with 100 ideas for projects to onboard."

It's time to start promoting and gathering commitments more broadly. Tap the relationships you've built to get projects and matching pool funders on board.

If you've laid the groundwork, you'll find "others want to join because the group is growing bigger and more legitimate."

The Future of Funding

With the imminent launch of grants protocol, spinning up your own cause round will be more accessible than ever. All of Vincent's advice will be even more relevant, and Gitcoin will always be here to support, but now anyone at any time will be able to deploy web3 funding tools in a true permissionless fashion.

Just like the DeSci movement aims to dismantle the centralized constriction limiting our potential for scientific inquiry, Gitcoin aims to unbundle its monolithic grants functionality to empower orders of magnitude more decentralized funding opportunities.  

What will you catalyze?