Announcing Govern This

Dose of DeFi subscribers,

I’m excited to announce Govern This, a newsletter about all things governance. Over the last few months, DeFi has shifted from talking about governance to actually governing. Most notably, MakerDAO unveiled a new plan this month to decentralize, while Synthetix made a similar announcement in December, and just this week, Compound launched a governance portal for its new COMP token. Plus, Kyber, 0x, etc.

These are positive and necessary steps for DeFi. The new governance structures are intended to help coordinate across community stakeholders and make better decisions. These dynamics are influenced by the issues covered in Dose of DeFi, but I believe they deserve their own focused analysis.

Govern This aims to educate token holders and make them better voters. Emphasis will be placed on specific governance proposals and relaying community governance discussions on forums and weekly calls.

Governance is a coordination technology that has helped countries and companies build more than the sum of their parts. Blockchains are also a coordination technology, but for computers, not humans. Govern This will track the development of the melding of these two over the coming years.

Like governance, Govern This is a work in progress. I would appreciate any feedback on format, topics covered or any other suggestions to make the newsletter better. Just hit reply.

The first issue of Govern This is below. Please click here to subscribe.

Thanks for reading,


dxDAO aims to power DeFi protocols through decentralized governance

Gnosis launched a long-awaited DEX last week with batched auctions for low-liquidity trade pairs. The front-end, Mesa.Eth.Link is owned and operated by dxDAO, a decentralized collective that hopes to power other DeFi protocols. 

While dYdX does not have any specific governance plans (yet), this tweet from dYdX founder Antonio Juliano is a common approach to governance.

The tweet at the end of 2018 was in response to 0x and its native token, ZRX. The project was popular but the token had no use case outside of governance.

This governance strategy – build now, decentralize later – is widely accepted in the space and is perhaps best exemplified by the A16Z’s Jesse Walden’s post, “Progressive Decentralization: A Playbook for Building Crypto Applications”, which the A16Z-backed Compound has essentially implemented (more in the section below).

dxDAO, on the other hand, maintains that decentralization must come at the beginning or else the core team and investors will have an outsized influence on the project in formal (token voting) or informal ways (dictators for life).


dxDAO was launched in May 2019, spun out of a collaboration between Gnosis and DAOstack over managing the DutchX platform. dxDAO’s key governance design is separating financial rights to the DAO (DXD) from voting power over the DAO (Reputation). It used an Edgeware-style lock drop to distribute reputation to stakeholders in May of last year. Any user could lock up ETH or an accepted ERC-20 for a month and receive Reputation, which are voting rights in dxDAO, even though it is not a token and cannot be transferred.

Over 400 unique Ethereum addresses participated in the distribution scheme. Gnosis went through a pretty extensive process in July 2019 to “step back” from its involvement in the DAO, and since then, the community and dxDAO have aligned behind a mission of “putting the ‘De’ in Decentralized Finance”.

Following on last week’s launch of Mesa.ETH.Link, dxDAO is conducting a fundraiser or (“DAICO”?) to help fund its new slate of DeFi products, including a prediction market platform (Omen) and a privacy-centric DeFi dashboard (Mix).

Project launch is typically when a project is most centralized. Execution is hard and direction and accountability are important. dxDAO’s approach will be an interesting counterexample to the “decentralize later” trend and may provide insight into new governance strategies.

Click here for more information about the dxDAO fundraiser.

Here’s what is on the dxDAO docket this week:

Compound governance goes live, has it found Market-Protocol-Fit?

Since its founding in 2017, Compound has executed with an almost flawless record: no bugs/hacks, a major protocol upgrade and a big name fundraise (twice).

But all of that has been because Compound, the company, has executed well, but can protocol development and the growth of the platform be sustained with community management? We shall see.

Compound’s governance system could not be simpler. Anyone with at least 1% of COMP can submit a proposal of executable code. COMP holders have a 3 day voting period; the proposal passes with a majority of token votes AND a 4% quorum of all COMP tokens.

The 1% minimum for proposal submission is a good anti-Sybil mechanism but it greatly limits participation by small users. There is delegation, so you could imagine a “proposal petition” where you would delegate your COMP to a proposal instead of signing your name.

Compound is clearly taking the “less governance is the best governance” approach. This has worked surprisingly well with Bitcoin and Ethereum, which of course, do not have any formal governance, but those communities clearly have informal governance systems that make decisions.

The biggest governance question for Compound: who is the community?


Other Internet has an intriguing essay on the emergent order from new blockchain tokens and their communities. It is worth a read. It discusses the emergent iteration that blockchains – as a technology and a community – go through to find a niche, both in culture and product.

While it focuses on base-layer blockchains that launch with a token, the essay underscores the most underrated governance element: token distribution. It quotes an insightful tweet from Eric Wall

Before Bitcoin could harden its code and find ‘Digital Gold’ and before Ethereum found ‘DeFi’ and ships ETH2.0, both needed to find a “a strong community of believers” in order to create a “virtuous cycle between headless brands and infrastructural build-out to progressively realize [their] initial promise.”

Communities are connected through a wide spread token distribution, Bitcoin through cypherpunks and online drugs and Ethereum through a global ICO (what Teo Leibowitz called “The Immaculate ICO”).

$COMP distribution

The biggest “news” has been details about $COMP distribution:

  • 24% – Compound Labs shareholders

  • 26% – Founders, current and future team

  • 50% – Compound Protocol users

There are no explicit plans yet, but the widely held assumption is that the COMP distribution will be determined by the interest earned and paid by users on the protocol since its inception. This is a clever way that only incentivizes more use of the protocol and is hard to game because interests accrues over time.

But the question still remains, what will the COMP community look like and what values will it espouse? Can emergent cultures arise out of Silicon Valley too?

Here’s what is on the Compound docket this week:

  • Governance AMA with Compound CEO Robert Leshner – Robert answered a variety of questions on ETH2.0 (staking yield is of great interest), Chainlink (Compound’s oracle system is better), contentious forks (Compound would signal a preference on chain) and how Covid-19 changed his mind about remote work. They also announced…

  • Proposal: Add USDT Support – announced on the AMA, USDT was approved by Compound users in a poll last September but had yet to be included. The proposal to add the largest stablecoin in the world is the first test for the new governance portal. (Very) notably, the proposal does not allow USDT to be used as collateral, as Compound currently does with wBTC. It’s not clear if Compound wants to be in the largest stablecoin market or not and underscores the governance challenges of straddling both worlds.

Maker and wBTC, a test case for the MIP process

While Maker had planned to spend Q2 moving forward with their upgraded governance process, most of its focus has been on restoring the Dai peg.

For more on how the Maker governance process has expanded outside the core community, check out the previous edition of Govern This.

Here’s what is on the Maker docket this week:

Governance and Risk meeting (April 23)

  • Head of Community Rich started off with a new meme for governance: the path from intent to implementation, discussing how forums, polls and other initiatives are designed to capture the intent of the community, and then “empowered people” are tasked with implementing that, foreshadowing upcoming changes.

  • Half of the call was devoted to the addition of WBTC as collateral with representatives from WBTC, Bitgo and CoinList in attendance. CoinList’s WBTC announcement gives WBTC the type of liquidity needed for Maker’s auctions (“can redeem WBTC in less than 2 minutes and burn less than that”). Most of the discussion revolved around the circular loop from BTC->DAI in times of high volatility. While there was some concern that WBTC liquidity was dependent on acceptance as Maker collateral, most on the call seemed to support the addition. The strongest support seemed to come from the Maker Foundation’s market making team, who is reportedly the largest market maker for WBTC. There’s more in the Maker forum thread.

  • State of the peg – Vishesh’s overview (graphs can be seen here) showed that the peg had come down to $1.01x area but most of the discussion was around the debt ceiling. At the time of the call it was 4 million away from its 90m debt ceiling. Vishesh advocated for a more programmatic lifting of the debt ceiling. Update: Dai hit the 90m debt ceiling Friday evening ET. Should help the peg.

Single Collateral Dai shutdown – the process has begun. A poll passed with May 12 as the official SCD shutdown. Just yesterday, an executive just passed yesterday to make the MKR oracle fee-less, which will help with migration. Many in the community think the migration of debt from SCD will do more than enough to restore the peg.

13 MIPs and 2 sub proposals – Core to the new Maker governance process is the “Maker Improvement Proposals (MIPs), which are modeled off of BIPs (for Bitcoin) and EIPs (for Ethereum). The two sub-proposals are to appoint the Smart Contracts Team and assign Charles St. Louis as the MIP editor.

The 13 MIPs are listed below:

–       MIP1 (Maker Governance Paradigms)

–       MIP2 (Launch Period)

–       MIP3 (Governance Cycle)

–       MIP4 (MIP Amendment and Removal Process)

–       MIP5 (Emergency Voting System)

–       MIP6 (Collateral Onboarding Form/Forum Template)

–       MIP7 (Onboarding and Offboarding Domain Teams for Collateral Onboarding)

–       MIP8 (Domain Greenlight)

–       MIP9 (Community Greenlight)

–       MIP10 (Oracle Management)

–       MIP11 (Collateral Onboarding General Risk Model Management)

–       MIP12 (Collateral and Risk Parameter Management)

By and large, the MIPs codify many of the informal Maker governance processes. There is currently a request for comments period (MIP forum) and there will be an informal poll on Monday, April 27 on whether to proceed with the 13 MIPs and 2 sub proposals. If it’s a “Yes”, than an executive for an official ratification vote would start on May 1 and lasts for 4 days. If it passes, the official governance cycle will begin and the rest of the MIPs will likely be approved from May 4 – 6.

Other Governing Things

  • Synthetix trials incentivzation program to encourage ETH shorts to balance debt position Link

  • PieDAO community call on audit and post imBTC actions Link

  • Coinbase Custody double downs on DeFi governance Link

  • Terra considers punishing validators that don’t vote Link

  • 0x governance proposal to decrease epoch length to 7 days Link

  • The case for DeFi Rate governance Link

That’s it! Feedback definitely appreciated. Just hit reply. Written in Brooklyn where it rained all day. No euchre today, but yesterday was epic.

Govern This is written by Chris Powers. Opinions expressed are my own. All content is for informational purposes and is not intended as investment advice.

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