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Ep 8 - The Rabbit Hole That Is Nouns DAO - Brian Flynn

Today we have Brian Flynn, CEO, and co-founder of Rabbit Hole. Brian is a dear friend who helped inspire the birth of Seed Club. In this episode, we dig into reputation, DAO tools, what we get right, and what we get wrong. How do we ultimately scale DAOs from 50 people collaborating with each other to 5,000? We spent a bunch of time talking about Nouns DAO. The bull case, the bear case. We also talk about building value in DAOs, the importance of it, the challenges of it, how far we've come, and how far we have to go.

Show Notes
& Relevant Links

Brian Flynn Twitter

Rabbit Hole Twitter

Rabbit Hole Website


Jess Sloss 0:06
Hello Friends, Welcome to Season two of the club podcast. Each week, we bring you long form conversations with the people building at the edges of crypto and community. At Seed Club, we believe in a world where people not platforms capture the value created online. And we're community on networks are some of the most valuable organizations in the world. Join us for a front row seat to the latest insights and tactical learnings at the intersection of crypto and community.

Very excited to be joined by an old friend of mine. And someone who I'm sure many of you know from his curmudgeonly yet insightful internet takes Brian Flynn, co-founder and CEO of Rabbit Hole. First of all, Brian, thank you for finally coming on this podcast. I've been trying to get you on this thing. Let's just take a moment to celebrate this big win for the club podcast. We spent a bunch of time talking about reputation. We talk about DAO tools, what we get right what we get wrong, how do we ultimately scale DAOs from 50 people to 5000 people. And of course, for those of you who follow Brian and myself on the internet, you know that we're big fans of nouns DAO and so we spend a bunch of time talking about nouns DAO, the bull case, the bear case, was to talk about how to create sustainable value and DAOs. To the importance of it, the challenges of it, that distance we've come so far and how far we have to go. This conversation with Brian is something that usually he and I have one on one, so I'm very excited to be able to bring it to you all. Let's jump into it.

Brian Flynn, welcome to club.

Brian Flynn 1:36
Dude, it's been a long time, but not long enough. This is a long time in the making. I know. I've been meaning to get on the podcast at some point. Glad we're finally doing it. Yeah,

Jess Sloss 1:46
I think this is an interesting time for us to do it as the the world implodes. And yet, when we zoom back a little bit, the first time I think we connected was, I would say 2018, maybe early 2018, sometime like that back in a very different world. And I was thinking about that. And I think the thing that we connected over was foam dot space, shut up foam space, had a brief chat with Ryan, couple weeks ago was at blast.

Brian Flynn 2:08
And the reason was in 2017, I was working at Foursquare at the time, and it was spending my time and trying to figure out how Foursquare launched as a token. And so it was really deep into proof of location at the time. And so it was just trying to figure out what this intersection of NFTs and peripheral vocation was in early 2018. And I was tweeting about these ideas, and you reached out to me in like, tears, you're like 10 years out right now you need to you need to come back down to the present.

Jess Sloss 2:39
I think it was like the earliest indication of the best way that I frame you. As you know, I think you're somebody that you cannot ignore, like the thinking and ideas are definitely leading, I guess to say it simply and yet at the same time, probably too early, generally. And so it's like, okay, you gotta pay attention to Brian, but also, you can't assume that what he's talking about is relevant to today.

Brian Flynn 3:03
So the way I describe it to my team is like I say, Hey, guys, I'm on step A right Now, we're on step B, I need someone to figure out how to get from C, D, E, F, and G.

Jess Sloss 3:14
Just the easy steps of going through the alphabet. So before we jump in too much further, give us a brief introduction. Who are you? And what are you working on right now?

Brian Flynn 3:26
Yeah, so my name is Brian, I am the CEO and co-founder of rabbit hole getting Crypto and early 2018. Right when Jess and I first met was first hired opensea, worked at Dapper labs as a PM pretty early into NFT. Sort of like as overall and then became sort of this NFT skeptic sort of result. And you can kind of go into that as well. But yeah, now now working on rabbithole, mostly to educate people on what it means to be actually crypto native paint that zero to one path of becoming a contributor into like protocols and DAOs. And we partner with lots of protocols like Uniswap Compound Aave, and help them get users and contributors. So that's about what we do today.

Jess Sloss 4:02
It's interesting to me that this sort of reputation thing goes right back to the earliest days of us sort of diving into the space and thinking back on so many of our conversations, like there's just a very, very clear consistency there. So like, Why do you care so much about reputation? Or why should we care so much about it?

Brian Flynn 4:17
You know, I tried to draw this line through kind of like, what makes the crypto space tick a lot. And one of the biggest problems that I constantly see, and I think three hours was a pretty good indication of this is why social capital is a problem. in web three. It worked really well in where to sort of discover interests and connect people together. But in terms of actually aligning a coordinating incentives, it doesn't really do a great job because what tends to happen is that you have these actors who build these spheres of influence or these mass followings and then just start filling their bags relentlessly in order to get others to invest. And I think web three hours was kind of the prime example of this sort of happening recently. And so we need to leave that other forms of reputation in Web 3 space, if we're going to actually be able to coordinate a much more efficiently.

Jess Sloss 5:05
I love these conversations with you because you use words in a general sense that I have a slightly different definition for. And so I want to maybe take some time to pull that apart, because in my mind reputation is social capital. And it sounds like the way that you're defining reputation is maybe through the very thin ways that you're able to represent online social capital. So like, what does reputation in the way that you're looking at it? How does that actually differ from what we're seeing in Web2? Or, you know, in the the bad ways in web three, right now.

Brian Flynn 5:31
The best way to generalize reputational is just another word for trust. People trust people because of their followings, like if they have five or 10,000 people following them on Twitter, they're probably more trustworthy. But actually, I think it's proven over time that they become somewhat untrustworthy if they have more following. And so the thing I spent a lot of time figuring out, which was rabbit hole is, are there better ways to give trust to people in this new world of web 3 especially as more people become anonymous as well.

Jess Sloss 6:00
You remember, back in the day, I got into my professional career, right? When social media was becoming a thing, and we had this thing called clout. Remember, cloud was like the way of your Klout score, it would automate to bring all your it was an attempt to show some sort of cross platform reputation. And, you know, the biggest limitation there was that you're trying to simplify very complex things down to a very simple number. And I think that's like, the core challenge, or one of the core challenges around reputation. So how are you thinking about making the sort of simplicity required to make reputation legible, and yet the complexity that's goes into that to make it useful?

Brian Flynn 6:35
Yeah, it's harder into facets. He has, I think, to give them a context, and we're doing a rabbit hole, we're basically creating these on chain credentials, which demonstrate proof of learning across a variety of vprotocols including DeFi, DAOs, and NFTs, a lot of the time we're trying to convince protocols that these are actually much more educated users potentially even higher quality at same time, we've proven that internally that we just ran our uniswap quest on with optimism, arbitrage. And we had 3500 users drive $6.7 million of volume just from them alone, just because we've used that the DeFi credential, but in terms of actually getting external communities using these credentials, most of them want not just higher quality users, but their own credentials themselves, we've actually found that communities want their own forms of reputation, because it actually makes these communities stickier. And this is really, it's kind of gets at the core of the reputation problem is that a lot of these communities want to keep people on site and don't want to give other communities these credentials, or give these people a reputation. So how do you actually keep people in? How do you actually attract high quality contributors remain sort of the biggest problem of crypto communities today.

Jess Sloss 7:43
Obviously put my Seed Club hat on, or maybe it's possible for me to take it off. And I think for me, it's like, we would want to use reputation within Seed Club as a DAO and then make more broadly within Seed Club as a network of networks. And so my concern would be less about other people being able to jump on top of that, because I think if you have something that's valuable, worthy reputation, that's like, I mean, this entire organization was built on social capital. And I think the trusted social capital that you're trying to get out here, but more so saying that because you were highly ranked in xyz DAO doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a great fit over here, it might be. So I think you start to see the constellation of those building up. And, and I think we've probably had a number of conversations around this. It's definitely like in Seed Club, there's sort of two major things that would be driving reputation in the simplest form. One is, can you choose really great projects, you know, token holders helped to choose great projects, we believe that some people were probably gonna be better at that than others. And so how do we show reputation there. Two is our collaborator group are the people who lean in and support our earliest stage projects. And we want to make sure that we are putting the absolute best quality support that we possibly can. And so those are the two buckets that make a ton of sense. And then I guess the question to me is, like, do those things actually translate out to the Songcamp, send to the Krause Houses into the poolsuite? And to me, it's a very interesting thing to go explore. So and I think it does get away from the more like, where a lot of the conversation is going in reputation right now with sort of soul bounded tokens and this sort of meta reputation. And we'll do sort of the LinkedIn of crypto type thing, and .

Brian Flynn 9:09
The classic play of LinkedIn on crypto.

Jess Sloss 9:11
I'm not going to comment on time since you've lasted a while I'm like, yeah, we'll need to unpack exactly what you mean by that, I think. Okay, so the other thing that I've seen you talk so much about is this idea of like airdrops generally like this idea of how are we actually distributing ownership within communities? How are you recognizing value it's being created. There's very clearly a distinction between sort of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. And the mixture of those in these communities, specifically, with more social communities gets really messy really quickly. The example I always give is like, Hey, Brian, you want to come help me move. You come help me move. We buy a pizza, buy a beer, it's great. But if I offer you 10 bucks to help me move, you're like, you are a cheap pls and I don't want to be your friend anymore. Stop showing me your NFTs something along those lines. And so you've been a very vocal critic about how air drops have been done and I think we've seen Now I can see that the model of ERC20 airdrop to some sort of bucket of users is probably not going to be the sustaining thing. Is it as bad as ICOs at 2017 I don't know. But I think we're going to look at it through a very similar lens. So can you maybe like frame the issue with airdrops or with how we're distributing ownership right now?

Brian Flynn 10:18
Yeah, for sure. The most difficult part about token distributions is how we value work from a user standpoint. And really what airdrops try to get at is like, how much value is there to bootstrapping a network? Airdrops like uniswap, which kind of kicked off, you know, the whole shebang basically was like, hey, we want to reward early users and everyone sort of follow that playbook. And now we have a lot of innovation coming on with teams like optimism, or doing more things like continuous airdrops, but I think it all gets at the same thing, which is, how do we distribute tokens, people who are doing like, effective work? To me, I think the best analogy to token distributions is sort of like recruiting. And something I always say is that you want to distribute tokens to effective contributors, or people who are going to good work in the future, and not essentially good work in the past. And this is the main problem with airdrops is that is rewarded work in the past, as opposed to work in the future. I think when when you talk about reputation again, the reason why I'm so into the idea is because it is a good proxy for how effective someone is going to be contributor in the future. I think if we are able to answer that question of how much work is this person is going to do in the future and our best guess, then we can distribute tokens with a higher degree of confidence that it will be correct and much more sustainable as a result.

Jess Sloss 11:39
You see various teams trying to come at this from many directions, but like the traditional way, I guess, right now is there's a separation between how do you get liquidity or reward those early users get tokens out into the into the hands, there's some sort of level of decentralization? There's a whole number of reasons why you might want to do that. And then how are you you know, incentivizing long term commitment to a project? Because I think that's like, a big issue that we've seen a little bit of, but I mean, I guarantee we're gonna see this in the next six months or a year, especially as token prices and immediate liquidity is, will not be available to most of these teams, even if they've had it in the past. You know, I'm hearing you're talking about reputation and sort of this idea of like, how do we reward future effort, or at least structure things in a way that rewards future effort? Reputation being a part of it? What else do we need to be thinking about there? Because it feels like that's a a really big question or mark around how we might do that.

Brian Flynn 12:29
The best proxy that I've seen teams use is active governance participation, this is something that a lot of teams love to use as a criteria into their job. Have they been a multisig signer? Or have they been vote in snapshot? Have they done other these onchain proposals. It comes back to are these people actually becoming owners? So that's what token ownership actually is like? Are you actually being a responsible owner at the end of the day, instead of just trading or speculating? This kind of gets at another problem, though, that governance has, which is that it has like kind of this problem showmanship with a lot of new protocols launching, they end up doing these like chooser delegates of like, who should be on like multisig, or who should be in the committee. But every time you see a new protocol launch, you see the same names pop up on crypto Twitter, why is that? Well, it comes back to this problem, social capital, people with the largest influences that everyone knows the same names and choosing the same people, it's really hard to be a member of multiple communities at the same time, especially when you're a current member. And of course, you know this. And so it's even hard to measure like, Are people even governing most effectively, in sort of the way that we have reputation set up today? There's a lot of moving pieces here. But I think in the last cycle, we started to see some of the cracks in the current model with the way that we just depend on social capital. That's kind of the most important thing we need to solve. And to move forward here to get to the next cycle.

Jess Sloss 13:53
I think the example I love to give recently is just watching how the Gitcoin community has navigated the challenge of funding as markets shift, you know, from going from very bullish and paying out and tokens and not being super fiscally conservative to immediately needing to be fiscally conservative and thinking about like, we would call that a hard decision that needs to be made often that is put into the hands of a CEO who needs to make that hard decision and will take some responsibility for that hard decision. But when you sort of step into these now Gitcoin as an example of what we're sharing here, there's a whole bunch of delegates and and I think many of those delegates, are I social capital delegates, there are others that are very active in the community, can you tell the difference between them without sort of a deep dive? Maybe not. But I think what we did see was that there were emergent signals, right? So who is asking the hard questions who are in its depths of a discourse right now, right? Where people are saying, Okay, I know this might not feel good, but we need to change and we need to change now. And see Matt, as somebody who's just a human reading and building reputation in the more traditional sense, which is like wow, this person makes sense. are they acting in good faith? Are they actually moving the needle here was very clear to me that there's two or three people in that community that would go, heck yes. Like, if I wanted a responsibly governed network, you would be great. But the UX around how one actually identifies those people is severely limited. gitcoin has even gone so far as to create a scorecard around participation there. And yet still, the data that you can pull from it is, it's still so limited. So I think when I think about reputation, we get down the path there, that's ultimately my bear case to all of this, it's like, can we actually pull out meaningful data that's actually relevant to in the ways that I can or as a human can when I look into your eyes, and you know, we stare longingly here through zoom to get a vibe check on somebody, or we see those those really difficult questions that go that need to get answered and are consistent, because there's going to be at least like moments in time that have incredible high leverage, or computers or machines or algorithms going to be able to actually pull out the truly valuable insights that will allow us to make those what are really very tough sort of social decisions on who we can trust.

Brian Flynn 16:07
I think kind of getting, is there room for objective reputation as opposed to subjective reputation, like can be inputted into this? Yeah, yeah, there's something I've spent a lot of time thinking about, because of course, we do on chain credentials, which take in some on chain microtasks, as well. The large criticism against this approach is that a lot of the factors of what makes them want a quality contributor isn't actually the demonstration of knowledge, but it's actually sort of the day to day of what they're doing at communities, then there's much more subjective, so things like coordinate actually can potentially be a bad reputation and all that sort of economic and credential, I think we're I ended up in this debate is that it comes back to the actual smart contracts that are live to actually determine these objective signals, you know, today, determining that someone can interact with uniswap, or training NFT, or Mint NFT is not really that important. But something like actually seeing if someone created a successful proposal to something like nouns, which is much harder to do, is an objective signal that can actually be captured and be much more valuable. I think this is where that a lot of these objective reputation was going to move to is, what are these things that are kind of this input of subjective reputation, but with an output of objective measures, and successful governance proposals is one element of that. And I'm sure there'll be many in the future that will kind of allow us to have this more interoperable standard.

Jess Sloss 17:38
Right, so we're gonna have these sort of like high trust DAOs, that might actually be as strong signal because of how effective they are in governance, etc. To be able to pull in these other systems. I think it's really interesting. It gets to the question.

Brian Flynn 17:50
Exactly. So it's that like, the way I kind of put it is like the new college degree isn't, you know, getting a go into the system. But it's now like creating a successful proposal and another DAO to prove that you're able to do that, that is kind of the final test.

Jess Sloss 18:07
Well, then there's a test after that, which maybe I mean, a love that we're 30 minutes into this call without even talking about Nouns. It's success. The questions have led us in the right direction, because that's like every other conversation we ever have hits Nouns. We're gonna go there. But I think you actually had a wonderful tweet on it. I'll paraphrase it like, essentially nouns, it's moving the ability to run away from the team and into the proposer. And so like, there's this, you know, not only do you need to get a successful proposal passed, but like, did you do that? Well, did that create value? And so you start to step down those paths, maybe even. And to me, that's where like, this reputation in a community makes a ton of sense. So how are we actually, okay, we like this idea. It's a great idea, did you actually execute on it? And was that valuable to the DAO? And that's, you know, it's a very traditional thing that you have in most corporations, right? It's like, what's the return on investment here? Maybe that's not the right metric here. But you sort of once you started getting into the trusted community proposal Pass, which is a difficult thing to do, and success, or at least some great feedback from it, and being able to pull that back into a broader reputation framework. That starts to make a lot of sense to me.

Brian Flynn 19:08
Totally. Yeah, it's sort of like the new resume isn't maybe just a combination of sort of micro tasks or you know, what you did in discord, but it's more so these on chain proposals that you've passed through that is potentially sound like beginner level, and then some new levels sort of start to form up along the way. But it's sort of interesting how once people start forming around specific governance standard that can then be used as the reputation angle and that's sort of what nouns and compound Bravo are kind of pioneering here.

Jess Sloss 19:41
One of the things that we've talked about a bunch and that's sort of top of mind for you, is this idea of scaling these communities scaling DAOs I think before it scholar, you're talking about how you know, the reality is most DAOs are, what five to 40 people that are actually active and if you were to ask most general web three folks like what is the vision of DAOs it's probably looks a lot more like the constitution DAO right where you have maybe 1000s of people with 10s of millions of dollars are going out and doing big things. And you know that the practical reality of trying to operate something like that right now is just like, I would strongly suggest that that's probably going through like the largest, biggest, you know, noisiest might be a recipe for some pain. And so And yet, that is I think, like the bull case for DAOs. Like, how do we create these coordination layers that can do more than what we can do in a in a startup or in a corporation? I'm curious, like, what are the big barriers to us actually, being able to get there, and I have a feeling you're gonna start leading us down the path of nouns here, which I'd be very happy to get into.

Brian Flynn 20:36
Yeah. So the irony is that companies can scale better than DAOs. Today, right? Like DAOs have, companies have figured out how to get to 10,000 people DAO still to figure out how to get to 50 people. And why is that I think it's because of matter of attention. More than anything else actually. Something that we've learned from rabbit hole is that if you can focus a large amount of tension into one place to do an action in a short period of time, you can actually have a pretty great output. This is how our quest are sort of designed is that you have a incentive to do something in a very short period of time that is tailored toward you based off your eligibility requirements. As a result, we can do things like, you know, give protocols and 10,000 users in a span of just a day or two, right, which not many other things can and crypto can do things like for voting. Imagine something in the future looks like or rabbit hole basically is where you do your tasks for your DAO that is specific to you based off tokens you've owned and things you've done in the past. That's sort of like where we're going in the next five years now sort of ticket to nouns, for example, I think they are one of the first examples of a DAO that can actually scale past that sort of 50 number, or whatever that number is actually. And they do that by sort of this inflation illusion mechanism of one a day, or you have this large skin in the game buy in, we're saying now you need to do the work. It's no longer that the Creator does the work to your example of the heroic pulling, and now you have this entire DAO that is incentivized to create value, otherwise, the floor will drop, which wasn't the case in sort of the past. And so now everyone in Nouns is sort of trying to figure out how to coordinate. Now they're having a lot of problems of their own, which we can get into, mainly because everyone has their own idea of what this infinite whitespace should look like. But coordinating even in the nouns ecosystem, in traditional web two tools, kind of remains one of the biggest problems to nouns being able to scale today. They're still relying on Discord and discourse and Twitter as their means of sort of reaching and attracting new members and having new ideas. But I really interested in what does that web three tool look like that allows nouns to scale and actually get to the next level? I think that is the big question we need to answer here as sort of a as a community.

Jess Sloss 23:00
I think that's your tweet from earlier today, when three social isn't finding new ways to own your data or content, it's finding new ways to coordinate with others. The traditional complaints with discord are sort of noise. I think it's also like the general call it like the challenge of information asymmetry. Like if you are in the core, you're investing this is your one thing, you have so much more information than somebody who's maybe a more passive member owner, what are the things that we're getting wrong with the current tool sets that we need to unlock?

Brian Flynn 23:27
I think the biggest innovation that came out of the last bull run for communities is token gating. It just allowed everyone to get in the same room that has the same aligned incentive. Now you have everyone in the same room. But now how do you actually start filtering ideas that are good and bad? Do you start getting into this problem of like, you have these like loudest voices in the room, you don't know if they're like good or bad ideas, they're just very loud, and maybe even gained popularity. And some people are even afraid to speak up in some of these DAOs. If there's like bad ideas, people are afraid of talking about salaries and all this other stuff. And so like, you need a new tool that actually is allow for putting people to work and not and just basically throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. The best thing that I've came up with recently, and I've been kind of like helping nouns kind of construct, this is a simple bulletin board where you can basically just throw ideas at the wall. And if you own an NFT you can basically propose this idea and upvote other ideas if you own an NFT as well, this way you kind of solve that attention problem are everyone's kind of looking at the same thing, right? And you can basically very simply put people to work as soon as they obtain a token. That way, you know, people are acquiring NFT acquiring ERC 20 Now, putting their ideas down, the best ideas rise to the top sort of Hacker News style, and the worst ideas will stay at the bottom. That way that is a much more efficient way of potentially organizing rather than something like discord or discourse, which kind of gets like thrown by the wayside. Right? The problem with discourse is that it's too way too formal. You basically have to play defense the entire time to your idea. And on Discord, you're afraid of things just being thrown into the abyss and no one actually giving a shit. So like, what does that medium look like in the middle for DAOs, potentially something like this. So that's where I'm kind of like thinking about these days.

Jess Sloss 25:15
My bear case for nouns is like the bear case for DAOs, generally, which is really effective at bringing large treasuries together, but really ineffective of actually deploying them. And I think we start to see some interesting, like, the velocity, I think of ideas and proposals that are coming out of nouns is, is higher than most, but it's also not really to the scale of the Treasury that exists there. Yeah, but I guess through things like prop house as well starts to change that a bunch. But

Brian Flynn 25:40
My largest criticism of nouns is that the velocity of governance is actually pretty high. But the quality of proposals is pretty low, compared to other guys. And it's mostly because like, they're way too lenient with giving away money, a lot of marketing, creative people in that community who wants to propagate the meme, but not one, people actually want to create value for the underlying token.

Jess Sloss 25:58
And to me that gets to like the other sort of the hard part of sort of coordination and understanding what is a good idea? But how do we do that in in more traditional organizations, we have the be hag or the vision or the mission. And then it's chunked down into a lot more understandable pieces, right? So you would probably have a three year and then maybe you have a one year, and then you're doing a quarterly and it's that one year and quarterly that you're actually executing against. And so I think like the idea of like ETH with a meme, or perpetuate the meme of nouns is like, wonderful at one level, and then completely disorienting at the actual practical level. And then the other piece being that, you know, it's compounding efforts over time that actually create value. And so if you're doing 42 different things that are not having follow on pieces to it, but the question there is, is around value. And I think propagating, the meme is is a thing that actually plays much better in a world like that, then say, let's go build a DeFi protocol. But it still runs into levels challenges, and I think use the word like, how do you actually create value? To me that right there, we draw a box around it, and we say, community token DAO, whatever? How do you create sustainable value is the thing that we need to figure out through this next cycle? Or this just doesn't work?

Brian Flynn 27:09
Totally. Yeah. And I think it will come down to how do we find those tools to coordinate? And then how do we thing find a great value?

Jess Sloss 27:16
I love the idea that like, we haven't seen the Hacker News for what three, at least the ones that are trying to do it are still copying Web2. But this sort of vision of like, actually very useful within social construct with ownership and money and governance tied to it, I think, is a very interesting lens to look at it through.

Brian Flynn 27:31
Yeah, I helped to create this little Nouns governance proposal thing, check. This bowling party should take a look at it. I think you would find it interesting,

Jess Sloss 27:39
I am real deep with a little nouns, baby. Let's go. Yeah, let's go. I'm curious how you earlier said sort of the issue with governance is showmanship, right? And you see this in like the vast majority of proposals, get 98% approval. And I could argue that okay, what's because a lot of work has been done in the background to get there. But also, it's because somebody with high trust is most likely putting forward and, you know, we're not getting and maybe we do not have the pieces to actually effectively argue those pieces. My question, I guess is like, how do we avoid showmanship and governance in something like Nouns? And so can we use that as an example? I'm assuming this tool is being one of them. But it seems still incomplete?

Brian Flynn 28:13
I think one of the most important things is to kind of lean into being anonymous. I think when you're anonymous, you create this even playing field between all new members, and that there is no this existing reputation that's being ported over from Twitter with all your followers. Now, everyone can start from zero and kind of being treated equal. You know, if you have metallic enter DAO, of course, everyone's going to listen to more, no one wants to kind of arguing with him. But when you start from zero, it's just much easier for kind of all of like the best voices in the DAO to kind of like rise to the top in that scenario. So, of course, we don't really have a way of doing that today with sort of the tools that we have available. But that's kind of what we need. And to kind of avoid this showmanship problem.

Jess Sloss 28:51
Interesting. Yeah, practically impossible. Yeah, so maybe culturally, it maybe is the way to solve that. If I think back to when we first met, you know, we were both sort of very early in our crypto careers. I think we bonded over that. And also, like the world looked very different, like where we were starting back then was very different than if somebody was starting today. You've also we've both gone on these rather crazy adventures since then, right? You know, you've worked at a number of really leading crypto companies newsletter jam session, founding rabbit hole, taking VC funding for rabbit hole, sort of, you know, growing a team, like needing to pivot like all these sorts of things that are like, big, challenging, but sort of the following a path that was sort of available to us at the time and put me in the same boat, right, you know, Seed Club and being able to generate capital and stuff like that. But I always sort of wonder, like, starting today, where would we start today, if we were coming into the space today, right, because there's, there's 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of new people who are paying attention to this space right now.

Brian Flynn 29:46
I think the first thing would be, you know, I wrote so much about NFTs but didn't buy any, so it would have been much richer at that point.

Jess Sloss 29:52
I wasn't gonna bring that up. I feel like I was so far ahead. You're so far ahead that he left the opportunity because he goes on to the next one.

Brian Flynn 30:03
Always want to be right versus want to always want to be rich,

Jess Sloss 30:05
well said, and it's something I appreciate about you, I think you're going to do fine. But you know, like this path of like maybe you say this last part of the cycle, right was like the move was Okay, leave my FAANG company find a web three startup get a whole bunch of money in the door and question mark, get rich, do you think that's gonna be a sustaining thing is that we're builders that are coming into the space today should be looking, I feel like there's so many new opportunities or methods of being able to go and have an impact, earn money, all this sort of stuff like Where should people be looking?

Brian Flynn 30:31
That's a good question. And something I've been thinking a lot about is that a lot of the companies that were started in the last bull cycle were about solving problems from the last bull cycle, such as building companies around token gating, that is just one mechanism that exists. But is that the only mechanism that exists? For example, I think naturally, a lot of people build companies even around the concept of this like 20 person DAO as opposed to this 5000 or 50,000 person DAO. And I think we just need to unlearn a lot of assumptions that we kind of took for granted in the last bull cycle such as is ERC 20 governance, the best way of shipping ownership? I think now is this sort of potentially even challenge that too, it's at right now, a lot of founders are kind of, you know, exploring this this question. But this is, I think, just by starting from first principles in a lot of this stuff can just help us create better basis. But as we start to go into the next bull market here.

Jess Sloss 31:27
We talk about nouns quite a bit, I'm in this place where like one, we are very actively big believers in NFTs as the best early community token, and perhaps like the best way of recognizing governance and downs generally. And I think, you know, part of that has come from a lot of lessons last cycle, and then you can start to see the innovation that comes from projects like nouns. And you know, one of the funny things in crypto is that, you know, as soon as something works, everybody in their dog wants to go copy it. And what you start to recognize really early on is that most people truly do not understand what is actually happening within these networks, and therefore they copy like the wrong pieces. So I'm curious, like, when we look at nouns, what do people mostly miss when they think about running announced style? Something like, what are the pieces that really make nouns? The innovative project that it really is? Or that you think it is? We think it is?

Brian Flynn 32:13
Yeah, I think there's a couple of things. A lot of people tried to solve the fair launch in the last bull cycle, especially when you're launched, a lot of community tokens have also tried to solve this. Nouns is the first project to actually master the fair launch in a hot way, by getting people to actually buy in and then giving the ceraters themselves every 10th Noun that is to forever exist. That way, everyone has a fair by any chance, at least from the beginning. And there is no this initial pre-mint that goes to quorum employees or investors. I think that if this model were to be successful than I think this would actually be an entirely new distribution model that can have a fair chance of letting people in from the ground floor. That to me is one of the most interesting things about the nouns model. I think one of the other interesting things here is on chain SVGs is of course pretty new territory here. Being able to dynamically generate these NFTs gives this uniqueness element ownership, which doesn't exist before with ERC20s When people want to buy in because they feel affinity to a specific object or a specific thing that represents their ownership in this community rather than just this arbitrary thing in itself. So those are the two biggest things that I see as most important. I'm sure there are kind of many others that I've talked about with you in the past.

Jess Sloss 33:37
Yeah, we're just CC0 come into this. Like is that as an essential piece here?

Brian Flynn 33:41
Yeah. So the way to think about CC0 is very similar to the way I see like the EVM. Many blockchains, of course, will be created on EVM as a way because it was easier for developers to kind of like tap into the existing existing market and or existing applications. In the same way. I think a lot of people build on nouns. Noun style glasses, because there's already a built in community that exists. There are people who actually believe in the mean of the nouns glasses, that's where I see the biggest benefit of CC0. And so there is one path here if the bull case for nouns, my opinion is nouns glasses become synonymous with a crypto movement as a whole instead of the Bitcoin logo or the ethereum logo because it actually represents kind of getting deeper.

Jess Sloss 34:25
Laser eyes.

Brian Flynn 34:26
Yeah, exactly.

Jess Sloss 34:26
Like that's what it is right now. I think. Yeah, I think to me, like you get other points in the CC0 is actually the sort of unshackling of IP allowing for there to be this sort of free, it would be challenging, I think, to have like this idea of revision of perpetuating the meme of nouns and also having this sort of like, I mean, there's some of these NFT communities where you look at the terms of service, and it's just like the legalese, basically saying, like, yeah, come hang out with me, but like, you cannot do anything with any of these things. It just seems very contrary to the underlying intent and value unlock here, which I find kind of interesting. I'm curious, one of the things that I think you and I have had sort of different single opinions on and I have a feeling it's often due to sort of the definition of the word. But it's this idea of speculation. And you've been a notable speculation bear on Twitter, at least that was there was a period of your timeline that was very much about that. They many fair points there. I'm curious, what is your current take on speculation the value of it the detriments that come from maybe yet running rampant.

Brian Flynn 35:21
I was spending some time this week sort of like reflecting on the past couple years. And I think one of the biggest things that came to my mind was, how different this last bull cycle was, in the first bull cycle, I started this plays into your questions again, but the first bull cycle was tokens without products. The last bull cycle was tokens with speculative products, where there's actually no utility behind it. But people just the best value was speculation, I hope the next cycle is tokens with useful products, or those actual utility tokens themselves. Nouns is really the first type of token that I've seen, it doesn't have this speculative nature to it, because it shifts that spective nature on behalf of the owners themselves. I've come back to the conclusion that speculation is good for attracting people into the ecosystem. I think you believe that yourself. But it's sort of a means to an end, in some sort of like there needs to be something more than just speculation. Because if we live in this tokenized world where people are just speculating, not actually doing anything useful, and we're kind of screwed.

Jess Sloss 36:22
Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think I defined speculation very broadly. And I think if you're starting a startup, even if it's illiquid, and you're running something like there's speculation, the founders do it under speculation that the individuals that are participating in or doing, and then there's like, the more discreet or liquid speculation, which is what you see with token drops, et cetera. And I think comes right back to like, without a doubt, if we are not able to build things that are the very least self sustaining, which means that there's value being created, and that value is economic value. And I truly found myself using the word like the business of DAOs, a lot more were six months ago, I would have been shunned for saying that, and or at least his dad, actually, I think it was his dad once for saying it. But I think the reality is like if we do not have these communities are coming together recognizing governance in a digital asset. And that's where it sort of ends and it's just purely based on, you know, the collectability of something, I think that market is actually fairly small. And I don't believe that we're going to be limited to that I think the area of possibility is just too big once you start to think about, like getting brilliant people together, sharing incentives, etc. And I think, yeah, there's big question marks around that. And I think, you know, even going back and I didn't even show you, I don't necessarily like the existence of Seed Club traces itself back to you. Right, like, right, I'll get back to you. But you're like, Yeah, we should probably look at this thing. And, yeah, we should start like an accelerator and incubator, I think at the time, right. And the model that we sort of workshop was really coming down to solving one of the core challenges that we saw early on, which is like, how do you actually get revenue on chain? If you're gonna have organizations that are represented on chain? How do you start to generate revenue on chain? And you know, our method was like, well, we'll earn a percentage of those tokens and those things, you know, there we go. And then all of a sudden, NFTs came and we go, oh, wow, like that is actually a an event like that is an on chain revenue source. And it has a huge benefit over off chain revenue sources, and that there's programmatic royalties that are coming in. It's interesting that we sort of I think we're able to step away from that over the last little while through speculation. And I think I would say that's like, the negative side of speculation is it just completely distorts where value actually lives? And unfortunately, hurts people a lot. I mean, sure, we've all been hurt to this last massive huge drawdown, not unlike other ones. But yeah, this idea of like, okay, well, we're seeing a lot more tools that exist, we need more tools to exist to do it. I guess it's a long winded way of saying, this is the area that we need to be focused on. And also, I'm very optimistic or bullish on there being many, many more evolutions of how we actually create value on chain. And if you think if you're sitting out here as a builder right now, like that, that is the angle to be focusing your effort on and we're gonna see this in the traditional startup world as well, where you can't just go pump money in forever and expected you're gonna get free evaluations on the IPO, like people are gonna care about revenues, and money's more expensive now and all this sort of stuff. So yeah, I don't know. I'm renting. That was my rent. Take that rent rent Flynn, and thank you for your early support.

Brian Flynn 39:08
Yeah, it's been amazing to see how far Seed Club this comes in so.

Jess Sloss 39:13
I always tell the story of like, Thank you give me some credit and helping you start your early newsletter and I give you lots of credit for helping to start Seed Club and, you know, there's that meme out there. Maybe it was just about your friends all along the way. Like I think there's actually an immense value to that if you think about the the networks that we've been able to build through nerding out over weird shit. It's kind of kind of crazy. Okay, there is this a number of videos over the last little while I've come out of very prominent that are VCs or thought leaders trying to explain the value of web three to a broader market. You know, Marc Andreessen, I think is getting put on blast lately here Paki and was put on blast. I think it might have been from the same podcast. But of course, you know, there's no shortage of skeptics. Whether you're on Hacker News, you're on Twitter. Why is it so hard for us to communicate this value prop of web three and crypto even for folks sort of like deep, deep deep in it.

Brian Flynn 40:01
I thought about this myself and I even play the experiment of having a friend asked me what the value of what there is. And what I found is that when you're so deep in web three, it's hard to distill the value down simply to a skeptic or sort of an unbeliever, someone inside the space, even trained, describe what a smart contract is, or what a blockchain is, in simple definitions, someone outside the space, when you've been in it for so long, it is extremely hard, probably one of the hardest things for myself to even do. And so I like to use metaphors for these things. Naturally, I think when people start to give definitions to things, or to or given us like web three podcasting examples, it becomes very skeuomorphic from that sense. And I think the more that we try to use metaphors that describe like what the new technology is, or even talk about some of the novel use cases, you know, things like I like to use the examples of pull together being super easy one to understand super fluid is another super easy one to understand those things are the things that make people go, Oh, I get it now. And that actually is baked into some of the magic in rabbit hole as well. Of how can you actually have someone get that magic moment in crypto right away by the content that we're showing, as opposed to, you know, the simple speculating and turning tokens or doing something that people already understand. Not many people understand that party that allows anyone to turn crypto into this multiplayer game to bidding on NFTs? Once people realize that value like holy shit, this is something extraordinary.

Jess Sloss 41:40
Now you get it the why the ability to tell those stories? And that's would be my answer to this question. It's like, we need to tell stories that showcase more specific value, which I think is what you're getting at here. But the importance of that isn't just to win over skeptics, skeptics are going to exist forever. I mean, Bill Gates thought the internet wasn't going to be a thing and like, whatever it's gonna exist. But the alternative is, if you think we're Max Payne was felt from new users coming into crypto was people buying the top, purely speculating on Dogecoin? Or I mean, the number of friends I know that, like their only interaction with crypto has been buying Dogecoin at you know, whatever the the local top was, and I'd be like, What are you? My Uber driver at Austin is and he's talking about owning safe moon and just like 10 year bet, and crypto and I'm like, What are you? But it's like the shiny objects that thing the influencers are talking about? And so that's I think, like, that's the competition rather than how do we convince some skeptic about it. And so much of the story that we need to tell to really get to it is there's compounding knowledge, right? It's like these blocks that are being built together that create a possibility, both the need to understand all those blocks that are coming together. But also the fact that there is still a whole bunch of possibility. And there isn't an overwhelming number of like, obvious use cases, I think he named a few, but many still require, like this optimistic visionary take, which is the reality of you know, most people aren't early adopters, or super early adopters. And this can be a tough thing for them to really wrap their heads around is an added difficulties that people actually don't want to specifically wrap their heads around. How do you even overcome that? Yeah, yeah, I think better examples and better stories about those. And, you know, you know, there's gonna be a whole lot of soul searching here over the next little while around, like what truly matters. And as much as these sort of cycles really suck to be caught at the bottom of and today's another, how low can it go? Well, it can go a hell of a lot lower. But where are you most optimistic right now? Like, maybe set another way? What do we get right over this last cycle that's going to support the future?

Brian Flynn 43:30
I think we understood what the primitives are in the last cycle, and what the possibilities are. So we understood why NFT is exist. We understood why DeFi, we understand why DAOs exist, we don't know what the form of DAOs look like. We don't know where NFTs can go outside of speculation. And we don't know how defi protocols become sustainable with Antun revenue or otherwise, those are the things that we need to sort of like figure out sort of the next cycle. Those are kind of the big open questions.

Jess Sloss 43:57
A lot of this conversation will offer conversations reminds me you speak to things very succinctly and clearly most often not always reflected in your tweets, though, I think you just like to Brian Flynn shitpost. I'm trying to push it edges. So but you know, I know that you've had a very regular writing habit or joy in your life for a while he's still writing and maybe this is a leading question to like, when do we get to see more of these sort of in depth thought pieces, maybe bear market Brian coming back to.

Brian Flynn 44:24
You know, a lot of the team has been seeing those stop pieces right now. So this is going to be a shell to join rabbit hole. A lot of spots open on the team right now. But those will be open to the public soon as well. So let's start reading some more publicly. I think as the bear market starts to take a turn to figure out what's next.

Jess Sloss 44:43
Awesome. Yeah. Okay, Brian, I love that. I need to set a formal container here of our podcast for us to have one of my more favorite conversations with you over the last little while. So look out might have to invite you back on but appreciate you and appreciate you generally I've been calling you the the old man of crypto because of your curmudgeonly takes. I don't think I have called that to you to your face just yet, but it's a term of endearment like I imagine you shaking your fist at the cloud sometimes. And I think that's the thing that can look out of place when those everybody's like, well, the clouds are full of rainbows and yet I think it's an incredibly important mindset to be in and to follow. You sort of mentioned that you have a bunch of rolls open a rabbit hole, I'm gonna give you a little space like what's the call to action here? Where should people go pay attention? Listen, folks that you go work with Brian, it will be frustrating in many ways and you will probably be one of the smartest moves you make so.

Brian Flynn 45:30
You can follow me @Flynnjamm on Twitter, rabbit hole is @rabbithole_gg. go earn some onchain credentials and build up that reputation can be a lot useful in the future and we have a couple of roles open right now so you can check those out on our site as well.

Jess Sloss 45:45
And also I got a shout out the pivot into tick tock for rabbit holes just been giddy up let's go I cannot wait to see you on that TikTok. I don't actually have TikTok but I know that our followers will definitely make it available as soon as you actually are. So maybe go join rabbit hole and help encourage Brian to get on TikTok so we can all join .

Brian Flynn 46:03
Some web 3 meditations on TikTok right now. It helps calm you down in a bear market.

Jess Sloss 46:07
I like that. And then appreciate you. Let's see on the internet.

Brian Flynn 46:10
All right. Take care. Thanks for having me.