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Early-stage Startups

Two Weeks, $12K, and Two Dynamite Companies Built on Nights & Weekends

An Intro to ConsenSys Labs Relays

After spending a year as a Design Strategist and Researcher in the crypto space, I became frustrated by the constant tug of war between incremental infrastructure development that’s needed to make the space function and the grandiose, aspirational problem space that inspired many of us to join the Web3 revolution in the first place.

Working as a consultant to project after project, and team after team, I found myself asking the same questions trying to maximize the impact of the people gravitating toward this kind of work:

What would happen if, instead of asking people to do the best, most meaningful work of their lives amidst the distractions of their “day jobs,” we could incentivize them to innovate when and where they’re inspired to do so?

What would happen if instead of telling people what problem to solve or worse, giving them no direction at all, we could provide broad provocations and let passionate individuals solve problems that would improve their life or the life of someone close to them?

What would happen if instead of using centralized teams and resources to build decentralized solutions, we worked hard to leverage decentralized talent and funding to overcome the most pressing problems of our time?

They say to only start a company when you fall in love with the problem; this one began keeping me up at night. Throughout my career, I’ve taken on many roles, including a curious graduate research student at Georgia Tech, an intrapreneur at Emerson, and a consultant to technology companies in the Fortune 100. I’ve witnessed some of the most talented, creative, powerful leaders experimenting not at their day jobs, but in the context of their real lives, where they encountered imperfect realities constantly. Many of them can’t or don’t leave their day jobs to pursue these passionate side hustles; and without the added inertia of a kickass co-founding team, or incentives that are aligned to ignite the engine, these glowing embers of future billion dollar companies remain just that, rendered inert by time and obligation of adulting.

Not surprisingly, there were several others at Consensys Labs that were thinking about this issue too and in early April, the Nights and Weekends initiative was born. As a team, we so fervently believed that, by accessing this untapped global talent and pointing them at deep purpose we’d uncover some of the best work yet to be done in Web 3. We are a group of eternal prototypers, so we invented an experiment to test our hypotheses. In our inaugural Labs Relay experiment with Gitcoin, we attempted to upend the rules of traditional VC, and traditional startups, to see if we could get the best work, the best teams, and the most inspiring ideas we had ever seen, just for $12K, in two weeks.

Spoiler alert: it worked.

In just 2 weeks, for $12K, we were able to inspire 19 teams to take part in our projects. To further invest in the teams, we generated over 20 pieces of reusable content to help new entrepreneurs get started, and we walked away with a resounding 9.6 score on our NPS survey. Additionally, multiple outside partners reached out looking for guidance on how they could replicate it for their communities and technologies.

We saw serial entrepreneurs like Daniel in Singapore dive in to solve a problem for his dear friend in the Philippines alongside a Nigerian Web3 expert he met during the remote relay. In 2 weeks, from distributed locations across 4 countries and 3 continents, they delivered a compelling landing page, first draft of clean, usable code, and a specific, targeted user and use case for the platform that they’re building. They demonstrated why web3 is uniquely positioned to solve their problem, and amid stiff competition from other, equally compelling teams, have earned their place as our prize winners for the Richer Financial Reputation bounty for our very first Labs Relay. They also won Best In Show across the entire hackathon event, and team member Thomas Spofford presented their work to a captive audience at the Ethereal Conference in New York.

The second winning team, Double Dabble, was equally impressive, establishing a new 4-person team across the United States, Canada, Nigeria, and Italy to reinvent the concept of credit using an algorithm designed by and contributed to by both borrower and lender. Over the course of just 2 weeks, they ran three tests to help them zero in on exactly what to build first, imagined and realized the journey of the end user, and got two prominent CEO’s to join the team as advisors and SME’s.

This is just the beginning. The first of many remote-first, distributed, global Relays that our team will be putting on over the coming weeks and months. The next one kicks off later in June, and we want you to join us. Join us as a participant, as a co-sponsor, as an innovator, whether you’ve been in Web3 for years or you’re just getting here. Help us determine whether we should be hacking on Decentralized Finance, Healthcare, the Future of Education and Work, or all of the above and more.

Comment below, connect with us online, or reach out at www.buildandship.it so we can get started BUIDLing the future together.

About The Authors


Program Director

Katie Johnson is a User Experience professional from Boulder, Colorado, who spends her waking hours trying to understand and empathize with people to design and deliver delightful experiences.