How Web3 Builders Can Build Trust Through Storytelling

Web3 builders face many challenges when it comes to launching a new project. Not only must they code and design a new project idea, they must also get other people interested in it!

One framework for thinking about this is Andrew Chen’s “Cold Start Problem” framework. The gist of the Cold Start Problem is this: once a project begins, it must find users, or it will die. 

All software projects must face the Cold Start Problem, and must solve it to succeed and grow.

It’s a bit of “chicken-or-the-egg”–you can’t have users unless you have a project first. Essentially, every project starts the same, with zero users.

So how do you get users?

Hackathons are one way to validate a project idea. By shipping a project in a short time span and–hopefully–winning some prize money you can give your project some financial runway to address The Cold Start Problem. You also may receive valuable feedback from hackathon judges and other participants on how to continue developing your project.

However, validation does not equal a sustainable user base. In Web3, we typically use the word “community” instead of user base, but the terms are synonymous.

When it comes down to it, to gather a community around your Web3 project, you must use storytelling to build trust with that community.

Good Storytelling = Trust + Transparency + Consistency

The first step in gathering a community around your Web 3 project is to do some thinking about who your ideal user is. 

For instance, what communities might they already be a part of?

To build the community for your project, you must first go to where your users are. 

Building a climate-focused project? Check out the Regen Network server.

Working on a project to advance diversity and gender parity in Web3? Drop into the Boys Club or She-256 communities and introduce yourself and your project.

Building a public good for the Ethereum community? Pop into our Discord server, or sign up for an ETHGlobal Hackathon.

As you join these communities and talk to people about your project, it’s important to have a mailing list, a landing page, and social media accounts– whether it’s Twitter, Lenster, or Farcaster– to keep people posted about what’s happening.

Why?

Because it’s not enough to tell someone about your project once. To build trust with your community, you must build a relationship over time

The way to do this is by telling your story, via tweets, Twitter Spaces, email, Discord voice chats, and so on. 

How Do I Tell My Project’s Story?

You can “tell the story” of your project by talking about:

  • Your roadmap
  • Your vision
  • Your narrative

If you’re considering applying for a Web3 grant (for instance, during a Gitcoin Grants round), having a clearly defined narrative and vision is essential for a successful application.

Your roadmap is self-explanatory. This has to do with project features, updates and improvements for your project. Many Web3 projects tend to focus heavily on communicating their roadmap and feature improvements because it’s the most straightforward way to tell your project’s story.

However, focusing too much on technical elements makes for a dry narrative. While you can promise the world in your roadmap, incremental feature changes are not always going to generate excitement.

Your vision is storytelling at its most expansive and imaginal. For instance, one question that is commonly asked to help founders nail down their vision is, “If you were successful beyond your wildest dreams, how would [your project] change the world?”

With your vision, it’s important to paint a picture for your community. The great thing about communicating your vision is that it doesn’t need to be formalized on an “Our Vision” section of your homepage. Rather, your vision can shift and change as you continue to build your project. You can talk about it in Twitter Spaces, and you can write tweet threads or long-form blog posts about it.

The guests Kevin Owocki invites onto his GreenPill podcast almost always have a compelling vision to share. If you’re looking for inspiration, we suggest starting there, and listening to 2-3 episodes.

Your vision is also linked to your mission, which is defined as the main goal for your project. 

Your mission statement can be simple, or aspirational. 

For instance, for Kickstarter it’s, “To help bring creative projects to life”. Adobe’s mission statement is, “To move the web forward and give web designers and developers the best tools and services in the world.”

Just like your vision is uniquely yours and is constantly evolving, so can your mission.

Your narrative is typically the hardest of these three, as most people find it challenging to talk about themselves. Your narrative includes your positioning, and your origin story.

Questions to answer in crafting your narrative:

  • How did your project begin? 
  • How did you get to where you are now? 
  • Where are you headed?

You will have to do some form of this if you intend to do any speaking about your project, whether it’s on Twitter Spaces, Discord voice chats, or even IRL. Just like communicating your vision, it’s an art form, and something you will get better at over time, as long as you find opportunities to practice consistently.

Building a Community While Building Your Project 

There’s no doubt about it: it can be tough to find the time to tell the story of your project and build community while focusing on shipping and creating a great product.

We recommend taking it slow and committing to some basic patterns of communicating with your community.

Tweeting daily or weekly, and sending out a short newsletter once a month with project updates is a great place to start. Just as important is letting people know that you have a newsletter and Twitter account in the first place, and telling them where they can follow for project updates.

We also strongly recommend spending time in other Web3 communities and participating in conversations where you might find community members for your community. 

Once you have a small community, you may want to think about launching a Discord server. Usually you will know when you’re ready. Often, you will start to get members of your community asking you, “Wen Discord?”

The most important thing to know about community building is that it takes time. It helps to think about community milestones logarithmically. For instance, getting your first 10 community members takes as much work as getting your first 100 community members, your 1000 members, and so on.

It’s a reasonable expectation to spend a year growing your community to 300 to 1000 members. You may have to reapply yourself after neglecting community growth in favor of product development. 

Eventually, you will find a steady rhythm with regard to community growth efforts. 

Also, there are plenty of Web3 community building experts out there, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! 

This is the first in a series of articles we’re releasing to support grantees as we transition to grants protocol. Grants protocol is Gitcoin’s vision for the future of funding– not a platform, nor an isolated fund, but a permissionless protocol anyone can use, from anywhere in the world, to empower community members to coordinate funding for community-led projects that address their shared needs. Just as grants protocol seeks to make the technology underlying Gitcoin Grants accessible to all, Gitcoin is also aiming to make the expertise we’ve gained from working with hundreds of grantees across fifteen quadratic funding rounds with leading ecosystem partners accessible to all. Stay up to date on our latest blog releases by following us on Twitter.