Building a Blockchain Community
The blockchain industry is currently receiving overwhelming mainstream attention from everyday, not specialized users. Various demographics, tech-savvy or not, are flowing into the scene and getting involved in a multitude of departments. Given that the industry is still pre-mass adoption and the technology is just beginning to permeate into real use cases, it is important to remember the grassroots beginnings of this once underdog movement. Within the context of startups, early blockchain community is one of the most important aspects of a young business' existence. As we will observe below, the community of a particular blockchain startup can at once be its key investor, network forger, target user base and talent recruitment tool. In certain scenarios, a particular community member can be all four.
The Blockchain Community
Just like in any other area of technology, majority of blockchain startups work towards achieving mass adoption and global implementation of the product or service they offer. However, given the fact that the industry is still in the introductory stage of its life cycle and requires a set of skills and knowledge not attainable easily, it is often the case that the blockchain community also doubles up as the prime target audience for a startup’s proposition.
Community as Network Forgers
In order to properly function without interruptions or delays majority of contemporary blockchain ecosystems depend on a decentralized network of nodes validating blocks of transactions. Becoming a network supporter requires relative technological expertise - including anything from purchasing and setting up a physical server base, to, in some cases, keeping up to date with network updates so that the node is fully integrated with ecosystem at all times. Therefore, becoming a network miner, or forger, can be both time- and resource-consuming and requires real ideological investment in a particular project. Most fledgling networks source their first network supporters from within their own blockchain community.
Lisk uses the Delegated Proof-of-Stake consensus protocol and allows the top 101 voted delegates to forge the network and reap the rewards from each validated block. The DPoS, as its often abbreviated to, adds a democratic aspect to the Lisk network and its consensus system, by allowing each LSK token holder to vote with their own currency for those he or she deems as most engaged and dedicated to the project, whether it be through community and marketing work, or by contributing code on GitHub. The Lisk Foundation has chosen this particular algorithm for the support of its ecosystem to ensure that only the most committed community members get to be delegates.
Just as the community’s affinity and understanding of the product often result in them becoming the target audience, a large pool of tech-savvy individuals who not only comprehend but also engage in the technology, serve as a useful recruitment pool for potential developers, marketers and a variety of other positions. In the case of Lightcurve, most dedicated and results-driven employees first began as online blockchain community members or early ICO investors. Jan Liz-Fonts went from early community member to moving to Berlin in 2018 in order to become a full-fledged Lightcurve Community Manager. Bart Stassen also joined the community very early on and is now one of the first members of the Lightcurve Graphic Design Team. Lastly, Mariusz Serek is one of our earliest community code contributors and Lightcurve Backend Developers. While the Lisk Foundations benefits from having the Lightcurve Team in one centralized location, the advantages of contemporary technology allow for more practical solutions for young projects. The interconnectedness of the modern world and alternative, cryptocurrency-based payment initiatives spell a new chapter for the decentralized, global workforce.
As well as this, given the futuristic, technologically complex and often abstract nature of the industry, the workforce is on average younger and globally distributed. For example, Lisk’s team currently boasts over fifteen nationalities and is constantly growing!
The final and one of the most distinct functions of the blockchain community ties in closely to the issue of blockchain funding. The most popular and media-worthy method of blockchain startups to raise capital is to conduct an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The easiest way to understand this phenomenon is to see it as a combination of crowdfunding and venture capital. In an ICO, an investor usually receives a so-called ‘token’ in exchange for his contribution to the overall sum required. While we will explore the intricacies of ICOs, token uses, or how to trade them in the following chapter, it is important to understand this vital role of the community. In most traditional companies, an organization needs to go public in order to be able to sell shares to the general population. This process on average can take a company many years and milestones before it can engage in this new level of capital raising. As opposed to this process, the decentralized, grassroots nature of the blockchain industry allows for most companies to be able to crowdfund their funding straight away, with sums gathered going up tens (if not hundreds), of millions. Apart from holding the tokens, they have bought ICO participants do not have any legally binding control over the direction of a particular project. This combination of no legal ownership and financial investment perhaps explains the close-knit, often scrutinizing nature of a particular blockchain community. When technological passion and financial investment meet, great things can happen!