My first weeks in the Co.Lab Fellowship

Written by
Milena Monova
Published on
February 7, 2024

Hi there, I wanted to take a moment to share my experience during the first month of my Fellowship program with RnDAO. It has been an exciting journey so far, and I am so excited about what’s next.

Why I joined?

As a cofounder of Aut Labs (formerly SkillWallet), I have learned the importance of building and learning from customers right from the start. Many web3 projects tend to rush into building and launching without proper research, resulting in wasted investments and short-lived products.

RnDAO caught my attention because they are focused on addressing this issue. Their emphasis on user research, prototyping, and collaborative building aligns perfectly with my values. It seemed like a perfect match.

What’s the research topic?

During an event with Mycelium Hub last summer, an idea for a resource-sharing network was born. Inspired by the Mycelium network, the aim was to create an infrastructure for a circular economy where community-funded projects would share their profits with the community. This would allow the network to grow through continuous funding.

I partnered with my friend Flo and built a prototype of this concept at EthIstanbul during Devconnect week. We received incredible support from Uly, who provided the art for our Proof of Concept.

So, I applied to the RnDAO Fellowship program with the Profit Sharing Network idea. However, I soon realized that the problem I wanted to explore was too broad for a three-month program. We needed a more focused approach.

With the help of Daniel and Lino, we narrowed down the problem to Compensation Models in Decentralized Organizations. This allowed us to zoom in on the node level (project) within the Profit Sharing Network and make it functional before expanding further.

Daniel shared his previous research on compensation models for RnDAO and offered me the opportunity to build upon it. This meant that I could receive direct feedback from active users within RnDAO. Though I faced some uncertainty about decision-making freedom and product changes, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to work with Daniel and build on his experience.

First 2 weeks

My first two weeks as a fellow were all about conducting user interviews and refining the problem statement.

Problem statement

With the guidance of Lino and Andrea, I was able to craft a concise problem statement:

I am a founder
I am trying to form a strong team to build our project
But I can’t reward the contributors fairly
Because I can’t measure the value brought
Which makes me feel blocked.

User Research

I must admit, that user research was something completely new to me. Despite having experience as a founder, I had never conducted user interviews before. Nevertheless, I delved into two main categories of user research:

  1. People with the problem: I tapped into my personal network to find relevant individuals for interviews. I focused on founders of projects in the early stages, with limited funding. Thanks to my active involvement in projects over the past six months, I had the privilege of knowing many of them.
  2. Some interesting findings emerged from these interviews:
  3. The creation of Retroactive Public Goods Funding now opened a whole new set of problems and needs, such as Retroactive Compensation Models. SoilDAO, for instance, excels in winning all the QF distributions on Giveth. Almost the entire team contributes without upfront payment or compensation, and they are seeking ways to track and measure contributions to fairly distribute public goods funding.
  4. The compensation process of early-stage projects with no substantial funding is often based on trust. The contributors join because they both believe in the project and in the founder that they will eventually be rewarded when the project has profit or investment.
  5. I was also happy to validate one of my assumptions: Founders indeed look for ways to track and measure value brought and contributions.
  6. Current users of the compensation model within RnDAO: This group comprised individuals who were already utilizing the compensation model. Conducting interviews with them was surprisingly easy, as they were open to discussing their experiences and understood the purpose behind the calls.
  7. Here are some notable findings from these interviews:
  8. People expressed concerns about the objectivity of peer-to-peer assessments. They believed that perceived contribution often differs significantly from actual contribution. It’s quite human not wanting to offend our peers and praise them, even if the assessment is anonymous. There’s a mix also between who I like and who deserves my high valuation.
  9. Onboarding individuals who are new to web3 and DAOs can be challenging without the facilitation of proposals. Asking newcomers to put a proposal with an offer on work and compensation for this work is unthinkable outside DAOs and web3. If we want to include more newcomers, we need to facilitate this process better. We need an interface between the person proposing to contribute and the DAO.
  10. Regular compensation with proposals can be a really vulnerable process. If you need a change in your income, you need to go to your community and relatively transparently explain your situation.

What’s next?

As I move forward in the fellowship program, there are a few key steps that I plan to undertake:

  1. Review and adjust the design based on the valuable user feedback I have received so far.
  2. Conduct additional user interviews to gain deeper insights and refine our understanding of the problem.
  3. Prototyping and research with a no-code solution.
  4. Explore the market.

Appreciation and Gratefulness

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the RnDAO fellowship program and delve into this research. It has been an enriching experience, and I feel fortunate to have Daniel's trust in building upon his work. Additionally, I am lucky to have Lino as my mentor. Not only has he provided guidance and support in the research, but he has also been an exceptional coach along the way.

Keep an eye out for my next report where I'll share more updates from my journey in the RnDAO Fellowship program.