DAOs are transforming the way things are done — be it in the business world, creative spaces, social arenas, and the charity sector. From artists and political activists to legal services and tech investors, Web3’s answer to a company, organization, or collective has piqued everyone’s interest.
First things first: a DAO is an internet-based formalized community that can self-govern and take on aspects of a company. It is decentralized, meaning there is no top-down hierarchical structure, as there is with most businesses, so decisions can be made by all involved.
A DAO’s rules are enforced automatically because they’re embedded in code and stored in a blockchain. Members are able to vote on what the DAO will do — often via governance tokens. With some DAOs, those who hold the most tokens will call the bigger shots.
What’s NEAR’s role in the DAO world? With its super-fast, easy, and low-cost blockchain, which is moving toward infinite scalability through the unique Nightshade sharding approach, the NEAR protocol is the ideal ecosystem for DAOs.
One such project making use of NEAR to help accelerate the DAO ecosystem is Astro — a DAO designed and maintained for DAO creation. Take a closer look.
What is Astro DAO?
Unveiled in late 2021, Astro is a NEAR-powered platform that lets anyone launch a DAO. Celebrated by users for being simple, it allows anyone to set up a DAO in just a few clicks. “Everyday, easy DAOs” is Astro’s motto, and once you get under its hood, it’s easy to see why. But first, an origin story.
Astro’s founder, Jordan Gray, who is part of the TenK DAO and NEAR Misfits NFT collection, was working on a decentralized incubator at NEAR last year when he was drawn into helping create Sputnik — a new hub for developing and interacting with DAOs through powerful smart contracts built on the NEAR blockchain. (Smart contracts, by the way, are lines of untamperable cryptographic code that automatically execute contracts between multiple parties.)
With Sputnik, the NEAR community now had a launchpad to help people set up their own DAOs. But Jordan wanted to simplify DAO creation. Sputnik’s smart contracts were powerful but complex for newcomers, or anyone wanting to set up more basic DAOs, for that matter. Jordan worked through smart contracts to essentially strip them down and group them together in the easy-to-use interface that became Astro.
Astro is now a web front end to all the smart contacts that run DAOs using the NEAR network. Jordan stripped it down so Astro’s easy-to-use UI is almost binary in how it lets users set up a DAO: users are given two options on how to launch. For example, whether voting power will be democratic or token-weighted.
“Somebody who is even new to crypto could come and start a DAO, and be able to manage a treasury with their friends and vote on things,” says Jordan Gray, Astro’s founder. “With a few clicks, you can get your own DAO set up.”
Who is using Astro?
In the year since its launch, Astro is gaining traction. Scores of DAOs have been set up using Astro, and they really run the gamut.
A DAO designed for Africa’s blockchain developers? Check. A DAO to publicize NEAR artists and the DAOs’ metaverse activities? Yes. An exhibition in the NFT world to give “visibility to cis women, trans women, non-binaries and transvestite Brazilian artists”? This was also created on the Astro platform.
The list of DAOs launching on Astro is varied and constantly growing. Each new DAO built on Astro takes advantage of how quick and easy it is to use the platform to build on the NEAR blockchain.
One project, Marma J, which leverages web3 tech for social good, chose Astro because of its ease-of-use feature set. The DAO, comprised of council members who vote on proposals with “the goal of spreading love and positivity” — such as raising funds for sick children — is one of the most active projects launched on Astro.
Chloe Lewis, the founder of Marma J, said that NEAR’s low-cost blockchain is what helped the project expand.
“Astro has been much easier to use, not just for us, but more importantly for the community,” said Lewis. “NEAR helps mostly by having a good user interface as well as low transaction fees so our community can onboard simply.”
Michael Kelly, also known as Ozymandius, is a founding member of the Croncats DAO, a platform for scheduling blockchain transactions, and a member of MOVE Capital DAO, which helps early ecosystem projects launch on NEAR Protocol. He said that Astro was easy for those who didn’t necessarily have the technical know-how to set up a DAO on NEAR but were attracted to its benefits.
“This is what we got with Astro,” Ozymandius says. “A clean, user-friendly, and well-powered DAO spin-up factory for projects to have pretty good customization on how they want to handle funds and govern decision making.”
What’s next for Astro?
These are still early days for Astro, and Jordan Gray says things aren’t 100 percent where they need to be just yet. The team behind Astro is still working to make the platform simpler to use. “We’re getting there but we’re not there yet,” Gray says.
Though Sputnik will be updating its smart contracts: v3 is on its way. And when it arrives, it will have new tools and functions built into them. Astro will implement these new smart contracts which, it is hoped, will speed up DAO adoption and innovation on NEAR.
Gray did make it clear that using Astro won’t immediately create a community that many big DAOs have. It just provides the template to quickly automate what DAOs do.
“It’s really just software that allows you to automate some things and have security if you are doing a treasury, or governance,” Jordan adds. “Your community is something other than your DAO.”