Kevin Owockic is the founder of Gitcoin, a funding platform for Web3 projects that build the common good. He is on a mission to accelerate the funding of the most impactful world positive projects. To this end, he has written a book called GreenPilled: How crypto can regenerate the world†
I recently sat with Kevin to discuss the book and his journey as the founder of Web3. This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity. If you want to see the full video interview, click here†
Kyle Westaway: What is the green pill and why should I take it?
Kevin Owocki: It’s up to you whether you want to take it. But the green pill is a story of how crypto can regenerate the world.
How do we build a world in which we have solved our contemporary challenges with sustainability? I believe that crypto can be a kind of firing point to build more institutions in the information age that provide money to ordinary people and help support our commons. What if we could use blockchain technology to create more coordination and solve coordination errors? That’s the idea behind the book GreenPilled: How crypto can regenerate the world†
I am the founder of Gitcoinwhich has yielded $63 million worth of funding for open source software projects for our digital infrastructure. So we’re actually putting these ideas into practice at Gitcoin. The book aims to educate people on how to put it into practice in their own projects.
west road: Help me understand quadratic financing.
Owocki: Gitcoin exchanges are built on top of this mechanism called quadratic financing, which sounds scary, but it’s actually very simple. It’s a way to match contributions from the crowd with a pot of matching funds. Every quarter on Gitcoin exchanges we have $3 million that we give away, and we match contributions from the crowd.
The way quadratic funding works is that the matched dollars are based on the number of contributions to a project, as opposed to the total amount raised. So if you had a grant that raised $100 from 100 contributors and I had a grant that raised $100 from one contributor, you’d actually get 99% of the matching pool because you’re supported by a broader base of contributors. This is really powerful. Even $1 contributions can be matched with $10, $100, or sometimes even $1,000 from the matching pool due to the quadratic funding formula.
So this is a way to push grant programs from a central grant manager, who decides if your project is worth funding for your peers in the ecosystem. Gitcoin grants are an indication of how many people in the Web3 ecosystem respect your project. And it’s a more democratic way to fund grants in your ecosystem.
Round 14 of Gitcoin exchanges will run from now until June 23. If you want to contribute to Web3 projects that serve the public interest, you can go to gitcoin.co/grants and check them out there.
west road: How are Web3 structures, such as the Impact Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), suited to address social and environmental challenges?
Owocki: Blockchains are a foundation on which we can build solutions to these problems.
- They’re transparent, which means I don’t have to be someone who works at the Fed to build an economy that can solve these coordination problems.
- They are immutable, meaning they cannot be tampered with.
- They are global, which means that someone as privileged as I am – who lives in the United States as a middle-class white person – has the same access as someone with Internet access around the world.
- They are programmable, which basically means you can build on top of them.
I define an Impact DAO as any Web3 project with a positive externality to the world. Impact DAOs use these tools to bring greater transparency and efficiency to the work that NGOs and nation states are already doing. Since these global coordination failures are systemic risks to humanity, we must do everything we can.
A few examples of Impact DAOs are:
- KlimaDAO—A project that tokenizes carbon credits and then allows Web3 projects to offset their carbon emissions through those tokens.
- Proof of humanity-A project that maintains a registry of unique people on the Ethereum blockchain and then sends tokens to them as a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI gives people a stable income that allows them to pursue meaningful work. There are even people in Latin America who live off UBI from Proof of Humanity.
- Gitcoin—At Gitcoin, we provided $62 million in funding to open source software. In a world where open source software generates $400 billion a year in economic value, that’s a drop in the ocean. But we still think it’s an important start.
west road: I would like to backup and ask how did you get into the Web3 space yourself and how did you get to GitCoin as your project?
Owocki: During my career as a technologist I have been a software engineer/lead engineer at various startups for the past 12 years. I have hired about 45 software engineers. In that time, I’ve learned two things about Web2 era startups.
First, many recruiters just buy $100 a month in LinkedIn subscriptions and then sell those engineers to me for a $30,000 placement fee. So I aimed to tear recruiters apart.
Two: open source software is at the heart of everything we’ve ever built in software. And the people who build open source software cannot be paid for the open source software they do.
So we created Gitcoin to be a channel through which open source software developers can get coins (pun intended) for their work in open source. I started Gitcoin in 2017 with some of the money I made in crypto. And luckily it got off the ground. There are now 350,000 software developers making money with Gitcoin. Everyone in the ecosystem needs software developers, so we’ve become sort of an aggregator of software developers. That’s how I ended up in the Web3 space.
But for me it was all about building and trying to bring value to people working in the ecosystem. It just warms my heart when I meet someone at an Ethereum conference, and they say we’ve opened a door for them. Or they survived a hard time in their lives because of some money they made on Gitcoin. It’s really powerful to have such an impact on people in the ecosystem.
west road: What would a world look like where Gitcoin is maximally successful?
Owocki: I would like to create a world where Impact DAOs increase every income on the planet. So what we can actually do is not just give people the means to survive, to pay their bills, to pay their rent, to put food on the table in their daily lives. Hopefully we create a systemic incentive to support your commons. Whether your commons are your local community – cleaning up trash or fixing things in your local community – or the global commons such as digital infrastructure and global public goods.
We see Gitcoin as a meta coordinator to drive funding for Impact DAOs. In a world where we are at maximum success, these Impact DAOs have been so successful that they increase every single income on the planet.
So I really think Web3 has the potential to do so much good for the world. But for that to happen, we need to have a flow of capital and talent into Impact DAOs and into projects that do regenerative work. At Gitcoin, we beat that drum to ensure that talent and capital can find those impact DAOs.
west road: Can you contrast for me the differences between these two leadership styles: command and control versus feeling and reacting?
Owocki: I am a pragmatist at heart. And I think you need to use the right leadership style for the environment you’re in. However, I’ve found that companies are really good at moving strongly in one direction. The boss says do X, and then everyone falls in line and pools their resources around X. This business model invented hundreds of years ago by the Dutch East India Company has taken us quite a long way.
A better way to think about leadership in the fast-paced internet age is as a network. Networks excel at sensing and responding to local conditions on the ground. The control can be localized to people who are actually on site to decide what they want to do. They make decisions in pods of responsibility that can roll up into a network. That’s a really powerful primitive, and you should use whatever primitive is best for you in that ecosystem.
So what I do, which is very involved in winning the hearts and minds of software developers, I like better as a network model. And everything at Gitcoin has always been centered on their mission to build and support open source software and public goods. One nice thing is that I think that really speaks to the hearts and minds of a lot of software developers and designers out there.
A network model in which they build software is a world that is changing rapidly. That was an effective way to grow Gitcoin. But just to be clear, we don’t get it all.
west road: What would you like to know as an early Web3 founder? What advice would you give the founders of Web3?
Owocki: Right now, we’re basically solving Gitcoin subsidies as a business and moving the Gitcoin subsidies ecosystem into a DAO run by its community. I sure wish I hadn’t built it the centralized way I did in 2017. But founders should consider building their project as a DAO from scratch if that’s the right model for their project.
Another thing I wish I had done differently is that in 2015 I bought a ton of ETH for $0.70. Then it went up to $1. And I was like, “Sweet! Free mountain bike.” I sold everything and bought a mountain bike, my friends know it as my $10 million mountain bike, so I was smart enough to buy early, but not smart enough to hold on.
I wish I had done that differently. But I just have the privilege of working on what I’m working on. And I feel very blessed to be surrounded by a network of like-minded individuals who are just building and enduring the party and famine nature of the blockchain ecosystem. So I’m just very lucky to be here and very grateful. Not many things I would do other than those two.