Why We Invested: The Decentralized Quartet of Origami, Inc.

Jack An, Analyst (安良方 / 分析師)

Jack is an Analyst covering AppWorks Accelerator. Before joining the team, he was a co-founder and early team member at two InsurTech startups, where he developed a passion in user experience and product development. Previous to his startup journey he worked as a commercial property underwriter at Chubb Insurance in New Zealand. Jack graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Waikato University where he studied classical piano. He loves to cook, read and is a practicing stoic.

With the introduction of a new form of asset ownership such as fungible tokens (cryptocurrencies) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) powered by blockchain, accounting for production value is perhaps at the most efficient point in human history. These new tools – and any other tool that came before – change human behavior as suddenly the world we perceive now works differently. This could very well be the first ripple to forever change how humans organize and collaborate with each other. 

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, DAOs for short, is envisioned to be a re-invented form of community-owned organization that follows rules encoded by computer program, decision making and financial transactions following these rules are transparently made for the community and kept on blockchain ledger, creating this “trust-less” environment that open up the possibility for organizations to function without relying on total oversight such as the government or a few selected authoritative. This allows organizations to operate from anywhere in the world, as they are incorporated on-chain instead of with local sovereign regimes, and the payment for these operations can also be made to anyone in the world leveraging cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

DAOs really took off this year as all sorts of communities adopted this form of on-chain organization from gaming to DeFI, to social and non-profit organizations. The most prominent and immediate DAOs that are seeing strong traction right now are investment DAOs where people pool money together and make investments similar to an angel club. These on-chain investment DAOs are able to invest in both NFTs and tokens, while people in the DAO possess something representing their ownership stake of the collective funding. Investment DAOs have seemingly found a product-market-fit (PMF) this year. 

That’s why we are very excited to make our investment into Origami, Inc., launched by veteran founder and crypto native Ben Huh, alongside Bloomberg Beta, Protocol Labs, Dylan Field, Balaji Srinivasan, and many others. Ben  and his co-founders are extremely passionate about helping humans co-create their tribes and organizations by building tools and playbooks that can help scale these organizations into the future. 

Origami co-founders – a true test to decentralization organization

The co-founders of Origami are spread across different time zones. Ben (CEO) and Johnny Chin (CGO) are both based in San Francisco, while Matt Voska (COO) is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Stephen Caudill (CTO) is based in Colorado. This made scheduling our calls slightly difficult with AppWorks being in Taipei. But in those early morning calls we were still able to really find resonance with the team’s passion for collaboration, even with thousands of miles between them. Which stands as a solid proof that DAOs can work and they can work very well together.

Being decentralized, the team was naturally formed on the internet like most DAOs these days. But more than just randomly DM’ing each other, the Origami team already had an interesting track record together co-founding OrangeDAO and raising US$80 million to back ambitious crypto founders around the world. The team initially connected as they were all part of different Y Combinator programs, but as YC didn’t really focus on crypto and web3, the Origami founders turned their maxed-out WhatsApp crypto group of 256 people into OrangeDAO with over 1,000 members.

The founding of OrangeDAO wasn’t by luck either. Just before the WhatsApp group started, Ben was introduced by friends to some famous internet cats that took the crypto world by storm – Cryptokittes – created by Dapper Labs, an AppWorks portfolio. Ben is a veteran when it comes to cats on the internet, having built I-Can-Has-Cheezburger.com (ICHC), a collection of User Generated Content (UGC) websites fueled with memes. And at the prime of their operation had 400 million unique views per month.

Ben immediately made the connection between the relationship of blockchain and how it can power communities in a whole new way. With his time at ICHC, Ben and his team cultivated thriving communities that produced endless streams of new content, metas, and derivative content of everything in between. However, there simply wasn’t a way to account for the values created by the community itself nor the value of cultivating the community itself. This problem seems finally solvable with the new tools brought to us by blockchain.

Onboarding the next 100,000 DAOs

The team took their learnings from OrangeDAO and made it into a framework for other investment DAOs to adopt, including Kauffman Fellows VC3 DAO, Techstars Constellation DAO, and Bessemer Venture’s BessemerDAO. But it doesn’t just stop there. Although investment DAOs have found PMF this year, there are also countless other DAOs formed and operated across Decentralized Finance, web3 gaming, open-source NFT governance, social clubs, and so much more that in 2021 alone the assets held by DAO treasuries grew 40x to US$11 billion in one year. Even the 2022 Taipei Blockchain Week is run and hosted by a DAO dubbed Bu Zhi DAO.

However, it isn’t easy to run a DAO. A lot of DAOs struggle to keep their communities engaged, select the best voting style for their community, or still find it difficult to properly communicate among their peers. And this is where Origami comes in. With the funding, Origami will be able to scale up technologies and support a variety of DAOs, with their framework in tandem to provide these new organizations a guideline on how to optimize coordination in voting, decision making, and member management so they can produce a consensus decision wherever they are and in whatever field of focus.

Places to belong

Ben, the Origami team and their investors, including we at AppWorks, all believe DAOs will play a very crucial role through onboarding general users and giving them their first web3 aha moment. At the end of the day, humans are a very diverse bunch with all sorts of different wants and needs, and each of us desires to belong and spend our time here on earth on things we find meaningful. We’ve already witnessed the result of connecting diverse communities and organizations that span around the world via Reddit or other forums alike. But for the very first time, these assorted forums of fascination can now be so much more than just text with efficient organization powered by DAOs.

At AppWorks, we look for great founders who are building new and innovative models. We’re honored to have the privilege to partner with Ben and the entire Origami team as they continue to push the envelope on DAOs and how people organize in the digital age.

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with web3 and AI / IoT, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the largest founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】

Virtual Real Estate Marketplace, Parcel, Raises $4M in Round Led by Framework Ventures

Editor’s note: Congratulations to Parcel on another great milestone. As the virtual real estate economy grows, Parcel aims to be the leading one-stop-shop for landowners and creators in the metaverse. AppWorks is excited to be a part of the journey. The press release from Parcel is below:

Parcel, an NFT marketplace for virtual real estate, has raised $4 million in a seed round led by Framework Ventures, a venture capital firm known for its early entry into Web3 and decentralized finance (DeFi). Additional participants in the round include Fifth Wall, Blizzard Fund (Avalanche), AVIV Group (Axel Springer), AppWorks, Great Oaks, and Serafund; as well as an impressive roster of angel investors including Aaron Wong (SoftBank), Sebastien Borget (The Sandbox), and Santiago Santos.

Co-Founders Ian Mukherjee and Noah Gaynor

By aggregating digital land listings and architectural services for virtual landowners, sellers, and builders, Parcel is the first comprehensive marketplace tailored exclusively for the virtual real estate economy. Parcel launched in July 2021 amidst a virtual real estate market that generated more than $500 million in sales in the 2021 calendar year and has already surpassed $1 billion in sales during the first half of 2022. The platform aggregates real estate listings across several of the largest virtual worlds on the Ethereum blockchain, including The Sandbox, Decentraland, Voxels, Somnium Space, Mona, and NFT Worlds. Multi-chain support on Avalanche and Polygon is planned for later this year.

Parcel’s marketplace offers interactive, data-rich visual maps to help users more seamlessly navigate the virtual real estate ecosystem. Parcel also provides real-time price appraisals for open listings and utilizes a proprietary gas-efficient smart contract to facilitate sales, enabling users to buy and list land for half the cost of gas fees found on existing NFT marketplaces. For a limited time, Parcel is reimbursing gas costs for wallets that list land on its marketplace.

“The ongoing growth of the digital land ecosystem presents endless opportunities for creators and investors,” said Noah Gaynor, Co-Founder and CEO of Parcel. “However, to build a truly successful metaverse economy, users need a marketplace solution that not only encourages the sale and transaction of digital land, but the development of valuable projects and businesses across virtual worlds as well. By aggregating resources for all metaverse stakeholders – from prospective landowners and sellers to virtual world service providers and architects – Parcel provides the full suite of services needed to build a thriving metaverse.”

To encourage the development of diverse projects and services across virtual worlds, Parcel is developing a comprehensive creative directory known as Creatorverse. Through Creatorverse, landowners will be able to easily discover and employ virtual architects and service providers by browsing their portfolio of digital work. Parcel also offers Learn, an educational platform that helps seamlessly onboard new users and advance knowledge for the Web3 community.

“Though the metaverse land market has grown rapidly over the last year, the market is still quite fragmented between various virtual worlds,” said Michael Anderson, Co-Founder of Framework Ventures. “We believe Parcel is uniquely positioned to unify the virtual real estate ecosystem and lead the development of an open and thriving metaverse. We’re very proud to work alongside their team as they become the leading marketplace for the virtual real estate economy.”

The funds from the round will be utilized to continue developing Parcel’s feature set for the Creatorverse and expanding marketplace listings to virtual worlds beyond the Ethereum ecosystem.

About Parcel

Parcel is on a mission to empower people with the tools they need to find their home in the metaverse. Born out of an industry that was scattered and lacked transparency, Parcel developed the first comprehensive marketplace tailored exclusively for virtual real estate. By aggregating digital land listings and fostering connection between landowners and creators, Parcel offers the full suite of services needed to build a thriving metaverse community and economy. To learn more, visit https://parcel.so and join the community on Twitter @ParcelNFT.

If you’re a founder working on web3 / DAO, AI / IoT, or Southeast Asia, you’ve come to the right place! Applications for AppWorks Accelerator

Flow Launches $725 Million Ecosystem Fund to Drive Innovation Across the Flow Ecosystem

Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to join Flow Ecosystem Fund to provide developers with support in building applications on the Flow blockchain through investments, FLOW token grants and in-kind support. The press release from Flow is below:

・a16z, AppWorks, Coatue, Greenfield One, Liberty City Ventures, Union Square Ventures and other global firms to support Flow developers through investments, FLOW token grants and in-kind support.

・Largest joint ecosystem fund to fuel next-generation of applications.

Flow, the Web3 platform powering next-generation games, apps and digital assets including NBA Top Shot and NFL All Day, announced a new $725 million Ecosystem Fund designed to hypercharge innovation and growth across the Flow community.

The largest joint commitment made towards any blockchain ecosystem, the Ecosystem Fund participants will provide existing and future developers with support in building applications on the Flow blockchain through investments, FLOW token grants and in-kind support.

Participants include industry-leading firms that have backed several of the most successful Web3 companies, such as a16z, AppWorks, Cadenza Ventures, Coatue, Coinfund, Digital Currency Group (DCG), Dispersion Capital, Fabric Ventures, Greenfield One, HashKey, L1 Digital, Mirana Ventures, OP Crypto, SkyVision Capital, Spartan Group, Union Square Ventures, and Dapper Ventures.

“We are thrilled to see such a strong vote of confidence in the Flow ecosystem from some of the world’s leading investors in Web3 through their commitment to this Fund,” said Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs. “With their active participation and support, the Ecosystem Fund has the opportunity to become a real game-changer for the 7500+ strong and fast-growing developer community in the Flow ecosystem.”

With a focus on enabling more distributed and equitable Web3 opportunities to developers around the globe, participants will focus on providing support for gaming, infrastructure, decentralized finance, content and creators. The resources are expected to be used by developers for product development, product scaling, team expansion, user acquisition and general operating expenses.

“The Ecosystem Fund is an opportunity to power the next generation of developers across the global Flow community,” said Dan Rose, Chairman of Coatue Ventures. “Coatue has already backed multiple companies building in the Flow ecosystem including Dapper Labs, Crypthulu and Faze Technologies, and we are excited to play an active role in enabling more Web3 opportunities.”

In addition to financial support, the developers in the Flow ecosystem will be able to leverage expertise via informational events, office hours, accelerators & incubators, subsidized office space and similar initiatives. For example, investors will provide Flow teams office space in cities such as Berlin (Greenfield One) and Asia (for AppWorks Accelerator program), and Liberty City Ventures will be providing two scholarships for college students to work on Flow-related projects. As a Venture Partner for Bybit and BitDAO, Mirana Ventures will also help catalyze strategic collaboration opportunities for Flow projects.

“As web3 accelerates and sophisticated app developers search for the best platforms, Flow is perhaps the best decentralized blockchain built for the scale, security, and ease of use most modern startups need to succeed.” said David Pakman, Managing Partner at CoinFund. “The Flow Ecosystem Fund will be a huge accelerator of innovation and growth on the platform and we at CoinFund are excited to work with this talented community to help drive innovation and growth.”

Originally developed by Dapper Labs to create more efficient, secure and scalable proof-of-stake blockchain experiences, Flow is an open-source, developer-friendly and energy efficient blockchain built for consumer applications. With global partners including the NBA, NFL, UFC and Dr. Seuss; unicorn developers such as Animoca and PlayCo; and emerging projects such as Genies, Fancraze and Cryptoys, Flow has seen daily transactions triple since September 2021 as it has grown into the leading blockchain for non–fungible token (NFT) sales by number of NFT transactions. 

To learn more about Flow and the Flow Ecosystem Fund: www.flow.com/ecosystemsupport

About Flow

Flow is the blockchain designed to be the foundation of Web3 and the open metaverse, supporting consumer-scale decentralized applications, NFTs, DeFi, DAOs, and more. Powered by Cadence, an original programming language built specifically for digital assets, Flow empowers developers to innovate and push the limits that will bring the next billion to Web3. Created by a team that has consistently delivered industry-leading consumer-scale Web3 experiences including CryptoKitties, Dapper, and NBA Top Shot, Flow is an open, decentralized platform with a thriving ecosystem of creators from top brands, development studios, venture-backed startups, crypto leaders, and more.

For more information: www.flow.com

【If you’re a founder working on web3 / DAO, AI / IoT, or Southeast Asia, you’ve come to the right place! Applications for AppWorks Accelerator.】

L.A. Music-Tech Startup trac Raises $2.5M to Create the Operating System for Artists’ Careers, Bridging Web2 and Web3

Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to join trac’s mission to support artists and creators bridge web2 and web3 world. The press release from trac is below:

trac, a music-tech company, announced it has closed a $2.5 million pre-seed round led by Lagos, Nigeria-based Zrosk Investment Management—with participation from AppWorks, InfinityVC, Calm Company Fund, Dapper Labs, as well as key angels including Roham Gharegozlou and Siqi Chen. trac will use the funding to scale the business and increase its market reach while expanding its engineering and operations teams.

Founded in 2020 by tech and marketing leader Cardin Campbell, trac is a one-stop-shop for artists to monetize and manage every aspect of their careers so they can build more sustainable financial futures. trac first launched by giving artists free music distribution on platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, and Tidal—and is quickly adding on other integrated products to create the ultimate artist stack, bridging Web2 and Web3. The company will soon begin creating decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) for artists that will run on their own unique artist tokens that incentivize engagement.

“Artists shouldn’t have to worry about technology—what’s a blockchain, an NFT, or even how to work a crypto wallet. They should have a platform at their fingertips that they can trust that is always innovating and creating opportunities for them to monetize their passion,” said Campbell, who has held past global marketing and technology roles at world-class companies over the course of his nearly 20-year career including Intel, Nike, Expedia Group and most recently Peloton—in addition to being a singer, songwriter, and producer earlier in his career. “This capital allows us to continue to scale as we gain more trac(tion).”

trac’s capital raise coincides with the rise of self-releasing artists who are leading streaming music’s growth and as technology has led to major labels being outpaced by the independent sector. 

“The recording industry is ripe for disruption and has been for years. It’s an industry where many artists struggle with building a fanbase and monetizing their career,” said Samson Esemuede, Chief Investment Officer at Zrosk. “We were captivated by Cardin’s passion and his vision for tokenizing the music industry, that not only solves these age-old problems but finally flips the industry right side up. In addition, as Afrobeats is becoming one of the biggest cultural exports from the African continent, trac provides the sort of infrastructure that ensures that the value generated from such exports is extracted by the people responsible for creating them.”

About trac

trac is an artist monetization platform. We provide the virtual infrastructure every artist and their teams need to easily monetize their content, name, and likeness directly with their fans. Our long-term vision is to tokenize the economy around the artist, using smart contracts and the blockchain to help them sell their music, build their brand/community and track their impact more effectively and efficiently.

For more information: http://www.trac.co

【If you’re a founder working on web3 / DAO, AI / IoT, or Southeast Asia, you’ve come to the right place! Applications for AppWorks Accelerator.】

Why We Invested: James Key, Co-founder and CEO of Autonomy Network

David Wu, Associate (吳戴文 / 投資經理)

David is an Associate mainly focused on investments. He previously lived in the US, but was drawn to the Greater Southeast Asia region by the growth opportunities and the wonderful people here. He spent the first five years of his career as a consultant at IBM, where he became intimately familiar with the enterprise software and services needs of Fortune 500 companies. Later, he focused on building predictive models and solving optimization problems for large companies, and gained an appreciation for the role of data and algorithms in our lives. He joined AppWorks in 2020 after receiving his MBA from Columbia Business School, and also has a B.S. in Mathematics from the Ohio State University. In his free time, he tries to stay active and is always looking for opportunities to hike or trek, often seeking the trail less traveled.

NFTs have finally burst into the mainstream consciousness in the last year after spending a few years simmering underneath the surface as critical infrastructure was built out. This followed a DeFi boom after a similar infrastructure-building phase.

Today, essential groundwork is being built to unlock tomorrow’s use cases and utilities in NFTs, gaming, and DeFi, which will bring about new classes of assets and activity. On-chain sentient NFTs, non-player characters (NPCs) in gaming, and automated financial transactions in DeFi are just some of the things that can be unlocked through “decentralized automation”. 

We are proud to announce our investment into Autonomy Network, a decentralized automation protocol that unlocks these brand new use cases in web3. Despite their name, smart contracts have limited intelligence, and Autonomy aims to bring them to life. The founder behind Autonomy is James Key, one of the most impressive young founders we have met.

A determined decentralist on a mission

When we first met James in the interview for our accelerator program last year, it didn’t take long to be impressed by this 25-year-old’s strong passion and devotion to his craft. We recognized this was a genuine life calling for him and he would stop at nothing to accomplish his dreams. 

Based in Berlin, James was a university student not long ago, completing the last year of his physics degree while working in a quantum computing lab on the cutting edge of physics. Though it was interesting work, the pace was slow compared to the other itch he had – crypto. James took leave to work on blockchain forensics, including for the FBI, and when the university asked him to either come back or drop out, he made the easy choice to do the latter and pursue his interests further, including stablecoins and cross-chain bridging. 

The draw of crypto would have been natural to James at a young age. As a child, when his parents installed child locks on his computer, James found a way to hack the locks  – despite having no previous interest in hacking. So, when he read about censorship-resistant currencies years later, it was a natural curiosity and easy sell. 

During the next few years working for other blockchain projects, there was another itch, growing every day – to start his own company and serve this glaring need he had recognized in the market, all without compromising on decentralization (something he had witnessed working on other projects and could not accept on principle).

After working on it on the side for some time, he emptied his vacation days and coded nonstop for two weeks. At the end of it, he faced the choice of either giving up on this idea or going all in – building a team and becoming a founder. Again, he made the easy choice, and Autonomy Network was born.

Fully enabling DeFi smart contracts

Due to the nature of smart contracts needing to be called by an outside party, critical use cases in DeFi have been missing, such as stop and limit orders, automatic liquidity provisioning, and automatic self-liquidations in a completely decentralized, non-custom, composable manner. 

This is especially essential in DeFi, as crypto markets are 24/7, fast-moving, and volatile. 

Autonomy Network has built a fully composable, decentralized network of bots that can perform any action when an arbitrary condition is met. Users register requests, bots monitor the network state, and a proof-of-stake algorithm determines which bot can execute the request and collect a reward. The team has already begun integrating with major DEXes with some more big names on the way.

Other features like recurring payments are also being developed, but perhaps the most exciting is autonomous NFTs.

Sentient NFTs, a new form of life

With autonomous NFTs, a non-human and non-human-controlled entity can execute their own transactions on a blockchain using Autonomy Network. They can vote, trade, send messages, play against you in a game, buy other NFTs, upgrade its own logic, and even have offspring by minting aNFTs of itself. 

The ultimate goal, as James puts it, is to create the first blockchain-based citizen in the UAE. But for now, the team is working on NPCs for major metaverse applications and its first blockchain game, MetaDungeon, in which users can fight NPCs and claim (or lose) real assets depending on the result. 

We’re excited to support James on this mission, through all of the twists and turns and ups and downs. At AppWorks, we make big, bold bets on potentially industry-changing founders and are honored to have the privilege of putting our faith in the drive, vision, and execution of James, his co-founder Diego Chui, and the entire Autonomy team.

【If you are a founder working on a startup in SEA, or working with web3 / DAO, and AI / IoT, apply to AppWorks Accelerator to join the leading founder community in Greater Southeast Asia.】