A Brief History of ConsenSys Mesh and DAOs

Our Explorations & Investments Since 2016

"Change is the only constant in life." - Herclitus

Across Telegram groups, Discord channels, and Twitter threads, many communities are asking themselves, “Should we start a DAO?” Sometimes it’s a joke, but most of the time it’s not only serious, it happens. From Wall Street Bets to your favorite Subreddit, people around the Internet are primed to move from using software to simply communicate, to powering how they organize, form as entities off platform, make investments, dole out grants, and make decisions in general. After years of experimentation at ConsenSys Mesh, we hope to bring everything we learned, through both our failures and triumphs, to the community in this season of hyper growth around DAOs.

For those reading this who might be newer to web3, a brief explanation first. DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization. “A DAO is a business structure where control is spread out rather than hierarchical.” By definition and design, the organization’s aim is to push power out from the center to the edges. The autonomous component emphasizes the automation of how decisions and actions are made and executed on behalf of the organization.

From the early days of the original ConsenSys organization - now split into two sister organizations ConsenSys Mesh 👋 and ConsenSys Software - we intentionally worked with individuals from all sorts of backgrounds. In many ways ConsenSys tried to operate like a DAO by giving many people the opportunity to have a greater role in deciding where the organization would go. The idea that someone wasn’t a “culture fit” based on where they came from was thrown out the window along with many other traditional constructs. Believe it or not, consultants, bankers, professors ate lunch at the same table as Chief Anarchists, journalists, academic researchers and both Bitcoin and Eth maxis. We had decentralizing governance for how annual budgets were approved and which projects would get financing.

While many team members of ConsenSys Mesh (a.k.a. Meshians) have some strong opinions on what constitutes good decision making, at Mesh we now look to DAOs as the design space to focus on. We have spent half a decade improving upon how an organization works, and now we want to look back, in order to go forward.

In a series of posts, we’ll look at where Mesh is now and explore how our original venture studio experimented with deploying capital, formed new projects, departments & teams, and attempted to let the market lead the organic growth of the company. We used language like circles, spokes, shepherds, and leads to reflect a mesh-like network composed of many different groups with great agency, and hopefully, even greater purpose. We saw many positive and negative outcomes along the way, and hope the things we learned and where we stand today can help enhance the communities coming together around each DAO.

As Mesh continues to participate, co-create, build, launch, and join new DAOs, I wanted to remind us all that not every experiment will work out, but some will lead to creating a thousand more DAOs.

A special thanks to all those working at the Ethereum Foundation and the special relationship with ConsenSys. Each Core Engineer, Cat Herder, Researcher and builder has been instrumental serving in the shepherd capacity over the years. The “subtraction” philosophy that has led the Foundation has been invaluable to paving the way for more contributors to contribute in community led manner like so many DAOs are seeking to do.

A Brief History of ConsenSys Mesh and DAOs since 2016 Timelines