We're Totally F*cked If We Don't Find Useful Things to Build With Blockchain: Pet3rpan
MetaCartel member says he's hell-bent on helping build dapps people will use.
Hello Defiers! I’m sharing an interview with one of the most crypto-native people in the planet. He’s so deep in dapps and tokens, he says there’s probably no turning back to the “normal” life for him at this point. This designer and community organizer, who goes by the online name of Pet3rpan, is one of the most active and founding members of MetaCartel. You may have seen the group’s distinctive dancing chili around on Crypto Twitter, but this group is much more than a meme.
MetaCartel has become a force in the Ethereum community, relentlessly driving viable use-cases because, as Pet3rpan said, “we're totally f*cked if we don't find useful things to build with blockchain.” The decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, holds about 900 ETH and has about 60 members. They’ve funded and helped launch over a dozen Ethereum decentralized applications, or dapps.
Pet3rpan goes on a futuristic tirade about how a Web3-infused future will feel a lot like a video game, with DAOs and tokens everywhere. He’s already getting a taste of it as he’s living almost 100 percent off DAOs, which makes him feel a bit like a space money, he says.
Some of the key takeaways:
MetaCartel started out as a working group around meta transactions. The group decided to keep the party going and organize into a DAO, forked from MolochDAO, to fund user-facing dapps.
The idea stemmed from the belief there was too much focus on infrastructure, and not enough on building for end users. Some success stories or exciting projects being funded right now: rDai, Metafactory, Gelato Finance.
The experience has led Pet3rpan to believe DAOs have the potential of fundamentally changing the way people work and are organized as for the first time, online communities can easily coordinate and re-allocate money
This interview has been edited for brevity and I’ve bolded my favorite quotes. This time, the interview will be fully available for free and paid subscribers. To get full access to exclusive interviews every week, subscribe now.
Camila Russo: I know you're involved in many different DeFi and Ethereum projects. Can tell me about each one and then we can dive into them.
“Pet3rpan:” Right. That's insanely hard. One of the main projects I work on today is a project called VentureDAO. It's a community run investment fund. What it doesn't look to do is act like a traditional venture fund, but it aims to go where traditional VCs can't go. We really want to drive experimentation and investment to really crypto-native assets, you know, things that perhaps aren't even seen as investible yet, such as DAOs, personal tokens, perhaps even, revenue share projects, like buying into the revenue share of say, Tornado Cash, right?
I spend a lot of time working on the MetaCartel community in general. It's not really a company, it's not really anything else. It's really a community. And I guess it's centered around a community grants DAO, which just started last year. The aim of this GrantsDAO is to help people build things, experiment on the application layer, find new use cases, innovate on the business models. Really focus on building things that should be built, you know, really great experiments.
Not everything can be commercial and not everything will be from the very beginning. I think it's really important to just actually build things that seem cool, as simple as that sounds. A lot of the grants are really small. We do grants for several reasons. A lot of them are really a sign of support. And then we put our community behind projects, and when we help them find initial users, customers, and we kind of help close down the feedback loop. We find that to be the main source of value for most of the projects.
We do some larger grants, where we help teams get over various challenges like audits. We help teams patch runway for like a month or two. And we fund internally incubated projects. And besides that I'm dabbling in different sorts of experiments and things, always trying to participate in most of the DAOs when I can, because I really believe in doing and learning from that.
Birthing a Dancing Chili
CR: Can you tell me more about MetaCartel? How did that get started, how did you get involved?
PP: So most people aren't aware of this but MetaCartel was initially a working group around a technology called meta transactions. What meta transactions does is that they allow people to interact with blockchains without actually needing crypto. The relay nodes pay for gas. Hence MetaCartel. It was a fun working group name and we had various memes, a dancing chili came out of a hackathon. We ran this group as a working group around that specific technology and UX solution until early 2019. The gas station network came out of this and spun out from MetaCartel, we helped solve that problem and we thought a lot of work around meta transactions was over.
But MetaCartel was a group of friends. We hung out at conferences, we had dinners, everyone collaborated online. We kinda like each other and there's a culture, and we thought, let's solve a different problem, let's keep this party going. And first we thought let's create incubator to get more dapps built, back in January 2019.
This plan really didn't go anywhere. And then that was when MolochDAO came about. I tried to join, but they kicked me out because I was poor or they didn't kick me out, but I was ejected because I wasn't rich enough. And Ameen [Soleimani] was like, why don't you just fork it and we did.
I was still working on the dapp incubator idea. We had a really big vision initially, but then we scoped it down and came back to reality after a month or so. I was like, let's just start with a GrantsDAO that funds application layer advancements on new use cases, business models and UX. That's the beginnings of MetaCartel DAO itself, but we were a community from way before then.
CR: So who are the people involved? Where, where are you all based? How did you all meet? If you can give me more color on the members of MetaCartel.
PP: The main chat came from the meta transactions working group, but in terms of the MetaCartel DAO itself, that's a bit more defined group of people. It's like 60 people.There's people in the US, people in Europe, all abouts. We all coordinate through Telegram, chats and Zoom calls. And how did we meet, I guess it's just like through Twitter and just like adding people in and meeting and collaborating. We started collaborating, working together fairly early on, April 2019. We only really met each other in person in August 2019. Then we did a MetaCartelDAO offsite in Denver, in October of 2019. And that's when most of the core group members were in person and we were, like wow, we're all here.
MetaCartel’s first dinner in DevCon Prague 2019. Image source: Pet3rpan’s Medium
CR: And so you all participate in this kind of loose organization and is it just for charity or what do you get in return?
PP: We have like 900 to a 1,000 ETH in the DAO right now. And no one takes a salary. If someone contributes quite heavily, I may take a chunk of money just to pay rent and bills, right? A lot of why we do MetaCartel is basically, just simply... I don't know, to be honest, it's a good question. I think we really needed that community to have our backs. A lot of the MetaCartelDAO members really like working with each other because it's a really closely tight knit group of people who are crazy enough on the same level. It's just a bunch of crazy, weird, strange people who really egg each other on to do crazy things. I think that's the main reason why we're still together and why we do what we do.
CR: Do you also fund, projects led by people inside of MetaCartel?
PP: Yeah, we encourage it. For example, MetaFactory is one of the projects that an internal DAO member proposed and we put a grant towards it. We really like supporting the existing members.
Funding New Dapps, Doing Cool Things
CR: What are the main characteristics that you're looking for in projects that you want to fund? And then I'd love to hear more about the most interesting ones or examples of some of these projects.
PP: We really like projects that are trying to push and find new ways to use Web3. To either help people make money, or coordinate. To put it simply, we fund new dapps that do cool things. We fund new DAO ideas. We like to fund proofs of concepts where we can look at, experiment and go, "Oh wow, that was really cool." Or understand whether it's something viable or something we should keep exploring. We don't really fund things that aren't user facing.
We don't have a lot of funding so we have to be really specific in where we direct our energy. All of our applications and the projects that we fund are really consumer facing applications. Also, we don't fund things on the enterprise side or infrastructure. We didn't believe in the UX fallacy. A lot of people are talking about UX being the limiting barrier for dapps. But we've always believed that we just haven't found a lot of the right use cases yet. UX is important, but we need it all to come together. And that's underpinned by really great use cases.
CR: And so far, what have been the most encouraging use cases that you've seen come out of MetaCartel projects?
PP: One of the earliest projects that we did a large grant towards was rDai. [an interest-bearing token which lets the holder automatically redirect the interest it collects to a predetermined address] We collaborated very early on. We helped them with branding, we helped them write their first blog post. I came across their project one late night and thought wow, this is really cool, and jumped on a call with Fran at 1:00 a.m. Berlin time on a Saturday night. I said, "Hey dude, do you have time to chat?" He said, Sure. I was like, Oh, this is really awesome. How can I help? And we launched the project two days later. I really push people to launch projects publicly and share as much as they can early on.
And then we found that people really want to build on top of it. At ETHBerlin there were three to four projects building on top of it, even though it wasn't properly finished. They were building on unfinished mainnet code. Once you realize that, it was a no brainer to look at the next challenges and realize that they didn't have enough resources to get to a 1.0 mainnet launch.So that's one of the larger grants that we did. We gave rDai a $10,000 grant to basically get a 1.0 mainnet launch done and get an audit done. That was one of the earlier cases.
Right now we're seeing a lot of really cool projects come through. One of them is MetaFactory. Basically it's an -commerce platform that's fairly crypto-native. Basically, you can sell stuff on boarding curves, similar to Unisocks, but it lets anyone create their crypto-native fashion brand or create their own cultural label. Really sell anything. We're working with a team called Flex Dapps on developing it.
Another example that we're look working with is Gelato Finance. They're basically looking to automate smart contracts or dapps on the Ethereum blockchain. It's essentially the, “if this, then that,” for smart contracts. So you can actually create conditions in which you want to call smart contracts. For example, I can create a condition where if Dai falls below $0.8, I’ll sell all of it.I connected with them very early on and we collaborated to get them to a public launch, get them feedback and get them funded to the end of 2019.
DAOs: Because Money is Better Than High-Fives
CR: It's such a new way of working and funding projects, the way MetaCartel works; a bunch of friends from all over, finding cool things that they like and helping them go live or pushing them to do it, through a DAO. It's really interesting. So why are you so interested or bullish on DAOs, you've mentioned them a bunch, you're working on a couple, what's, um, attracting you to them?
PP: For the first time ever online communities can now coordinate money. Not only have a bank account to store funds, but to actually coordinate safely amongst each other and do so for very cheap and in a very realistic manner.Despite how online communities and online forums and online groups have basically driven the entire internet, they've never had a real way to collaborate well with each other. We don't have a lot of software that's built for online and offline communities. You know, we have like GitHub and we have Meetup.com but we don't have anything else too meaningful beyond that.
And I think that DAOs are a fascinatingly simple way for people to collect and coordinate resources, and I just imagine what the internet would be if we all had the means to do so. Imagine if every online community had a means to invest in people, create grants, coordinate funds from each other. I think we'll see think this is definitely how the future of work will arise. It's going to be a community driven, crowdfunded, and operate in a peer to peer basis. What's really exciting about DAOs is that they're enabling communities to behave in different ways that I've never seen before.
MetaCartel is not the only community that I've run and MetaCartel has evolved so much quicker as a result of its ability to re-allocate resources.We're able to basically get teams and software live and running. This wouldn't be possible with traditional groups. I think people overlook that.
CR: You can have an actual impact on projects.
PP: Correct. It's better than a high five. Definitely better than the high fives.
Peter ‘Pet3rpan.’ Image source: Twitter
CR: So interesting. And so, in the long term, what place do you see MetaCartel playing in the community, for example, as opposed to, or relative to the Ethereum Foundation, which I think has a similar kind of mandate, you know, to fund Ethereum projects, or with ConsenSys, which is also serving a similar role. So what do you think your place in the community will be, longer term?
PP: This is a question I think about almost weekly or daily and my, my conclusion has been really been, the Foundation's role is to basically fund public goods, and step in as an arbitrator almost within the community, a very neutral presence. ConsenSys itself, has its own responsibilities in the ecosystem. MetaCartel, no matter what it is and what we're doing, I believe the end goal of MetaCartel is basically to create a community of builders and to basically create the future. That sounds a bit pretentious actually. But I can tell you what it will always potentially be. It will always be a group of community-minded people who are collaborating with each other to build dapps and cool projects. At the core, it's a community of builders.
Despite this general theme, I don't think there's too much of a long term vision, to be honest. You know, we're doing things in a very haphazard way. We know our values but we don't know where we're going. We know we like to move quickly, we're very action oriented, we want to build Web3, we want to build things that matter. We like to have fun, we don't take ourselves too seriously, and I think a lot of us who are in MetaCartel are spinning off and doing things that we find are interesting.
What ties all of it together is that we're heavily sharing what we're learning with each other, and we're all providing guidance with each other. We're a community where we can share what we're doing with each other and really appreciate it and get help and get feedback. I think this is what ties it all together. How I like to frame it is that, we all find the dancing chili hilarious.
A Dapp Obsession
CR:That's a good thing to have in common. So by the end of the year MetaCartel could very well turn into something else or dissolve. You've mentioned leading other other communities. Can you tell me more about that and about your background more broadly?
PP: I used to do freelance motion design and graphic design and I put a lot of my work onto YouTube, back in 2012 to 2013, and at that time where I started growing a community called Logic Network. It was a group of designers and we basically collected our work and put it up on a YouTube channel. We just liked collecting, aggregating our work in the community and sharing it. And creating a community platform to give awareness the right artists who were under-credited or underrated. We ran our communities through Skype groups –back then it wasn't Telegram. It was a pretty big ecosystem, just like, crypto itself, and that ended over time, we disbanded and we went on to do better things. It's a sad, but kind of nice, beautiful process.
Back then, I never really had too much intent. It was just purely for fun. This time with MetaCartel you know, early 2019 I came into it with a lot more intent. While we really kind of did stumble into the meme of MetaCartel and the dancing chili, and we didn't take it too seriously. But when someone actually volunteered to come run the ETHDenver meetup, did I realize that people just wanted to hang out with each other because they liked each other. It never really clicked to me until them and I think it was at that point when I realized we had something really special as a culture and that people wanted to be part of it. And that was when I sat down and said I'm going to dedicate one year of my life to building out MetaCartel community, and solving problems with the community.
CR: So you mentioned that you had an intent with MetaCartel, what was it? Specifically funding dapps?
PP: After the meta transactions working group, the first real intent was to basically get more people to build dapps. And that was also when I tried everything I could. I started a newsletter on dapps, I created a podcasts on dapps. Every Sunday I would fo on DappRadar, Dapp.com, StateofTHeDapps, all these dapp listing and websites and play with every new dapp that was listed and released. That was a weekly ritual for basically the entire year. I did everything I could. And then only when we had the idea of forking MolochDAO did things kick into motion.
CR: So what sparked this obsession on dapps? What's driving you to the space?
PP: Kind of an existential crisis. I just honestly think we're totally fucked if we don't find useful things to build with blockchain. Yes, ETH2, yes, infrastructure, yes, all of this, but none of this matters if we don't create value for real people, with new use cases that otherwise would not be created with Web2. Creating products with unique values and abilities that just can't be replicated. That's the sole reason we're here. Why are we not focusing on this? Everything should lead back to the user and the user value. I was pretty annoyed that this was not the discussion, that this was not the focus. I just decided to try to change it.
A Gamified Future
CR: Looking into the future, like where, where do you see Web3 going? Do you see it completely replacing the way we interact with applications in a completely new internet? Or do you see it coexisting with the current system?
PP: In the short term, it will coexist. But I can see a world where Web3 completely displaces not only the current platforms, but actually how we live as humans. That sounds crazy, but my belief is that we're able to collaborate between each other as individuals on a peer-to-peer basis via DAOs much more efficiently. That will change how we allocate resources. That will change how we work. I'm an example of someone who lives purely off DAOs and personal tokens. I think I'm one of the first space monkeys to undergo this.
I wrote this like crazy manifesto a bit ago called the Web3 manifesto, where I painted this vision where Web3 will be in everything; in every neighborhood there's going to be a revenue-generating investment DAO, everything will be tokenized, universities will be displaced by a DAO, where people have incentives to help these schools and those schools will be profit generating and incentivized to create better education. I look at everything and I think there's a chance where it could be completely displaced. We had this discussion with the MetaCartel group where we asked, what's this crazy thing we believe in? I started rambling and said in like 50 years life on earth will become one huge video game. Everything will be gamified. We're going to see teenage millionaires, anyone will be able to be an investment banker through DeFi. No one's going to care about being Googled anymore. It's going to be, has anyone tokenized you yet? Web2 is insanely lame if you think about it compared to Web3. It's a photo sharing app versus personal time tokens of someone else, that you can control. It's fundamentally more powerful as a technology.
CR: When you're adding value and money to the internet and making it easier and seamless to use, everything is bound to change. It produces different incentives and structures.
PP: Before, in the United States in the early 1900s, normal people couldn't create companies. But then they were enabled by the government to create companies and that’s enabled about a hundred plus years of economic growth. But still using the same securities, same regulations same frameworks. Imagine what happens when we take trust out of the equation and make everything more efficient. I just think it's pretty crazy potentially.
Living Like a Space Monkey
CR: You mentioned you're living 100% of DAOs. Is that, is that right?
PP: Yes. I have not had a real employment for a very long time. It's a bit scary to be honest. I probably can’t get a job outside of Web3 anymore. I'm probably ruined. I've been paid by MolochDAO to do opps for the last year. I have been paid by MetaCartel, I got a Binance fellowship for some funding last year as well. All these different bits of money come from very different places. I've been selling my time tokens. I get some sponsorship money from Wizard of Dapps, my podcasts, and I'm always looking into other various forms of making money. Also within MetaCartel there's a community-run developer shop. It's made up of different people who do various bits of work, and I take a monthly wage from that, a small one, just to do recruiting for the DAO.
CR: Wow, so you're just taking little bits of funding from different grants and DAOs,
PP: Yeah. I'm like this creature from District 8. I'm not sure if you've seen the alien movie, but it's grimy, weird alien digging for trash, their favorite food is cat food. That's me right now.
CR: What an experience. Is it stressful at all? To not have a steady, predictable income?
PP: Of course that sucks. I've gone through the ups and downs of it, but I've come to accept that I'm not doing it for money or anything else, but really just because I'm enjoying myself too much. I'm doing things that I love and I think that's good enough now. I want to drive progress in DAOs. I want to drive things in the community and just create for the sake of creating. I'm just really enjoying it right now.
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About the author: I’m Camila Russo, a financial journalist writing a book on Ethereum with Harper Collins. (Pre-order The Infinite Machine here). I was previously at Bloomberg News in New York, Madrid and Buenos Aires covering markets. I’ve extensively covered crypto and finance, and now I’m diving into DeFi, the intersection of the two.