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.

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