Friends with Benefits is perhaps the perfect way to describe what a DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is. Like-minded creatives banded together by a shared passion for crypto and culture, the Friends with Benefits DAO is looking to change the way online social clubs operate.
DAOs are described as anything from a “Web3 co-op” to a “group chat with a shared bank account.” To join the Friends with Benefits DAO specifically, one must apply and buy a certain number of $FWB tokens. Once you’re in, you’re granted equity or a say in major initiatives and the community votes on everything from new projects to new leadership. There is no board overlord that oversees all. But there are elected leaders who represent the people at large.
Alex Zhang is the mayor of Friends with Benefits. His background in community organization has helped him understand the massive power of human coordination. He first heard about DAOs through friends and was intrigued by the idea of artists being able to build ownership and have value accrue back to the creative.
We took this opportunity to ask Alex what’s next for brands when it comes to the future of cryptocurrency, online communities and web3.
At Movement, we’re really focused on building online communities so we’re definitely paying attention to the future of DAOs. Is there a specific piece of this you’re most excited about?
The governance and community ownership is fascinating and at the core of this. As someone who has worked in traditional companies and community orgs, I can’t imagine the tools web3 has to give users a say or provide feedback to influence decisions. A good example of this is Emily [Weiss] at Glossier. Originally, she asked community members for their input on what shade of lipstick they wanted to see next.
This type of user feedback or input is just the beginning – can fans say, help shape the lineup of events or concerts?
Blockchain and cryptocurrency have also seen their fair share of criticism from its environmental impacts. What are your thoughts on that?
We are incredibly early in a new ecosystem and everyday, new L1s, L2s, and new side chains are looking to address and minimize environmental impacts and high gas fees. If you look at the larger pie of energy consumption, web3 and crypto are still a small sliver of that pie (compared to say, flying on airlines).
When it comes to Diversity and Inclusion in the space – how can we ensure that Web3 lives up to the promise of a democratic internet and not just rich people getting richer?
Right now, web3 and crypto do have high barriers to entry. Making a wallet, buying ethereum, and knowing if you’ve done it correctly, do cost energy and money. We also need to challenge ourselves to think about NFTs as a base layer to things. NFTs are tools used to power different things like tickets and concerts. And as NFTs begin to integrate into different facets of culture, hopefully it also detaches from just artwork and the overall quality should improve.
For FWB, we think of it from the top down and think it needs to start with leadership. FWB was started by a black man (Trevor McFedries, producer and co-founder of tech start up Brud) and I’m an asian man as an executive. When we think about how we can be more inclusive – we have a Fellowship program where we focus on artists that are underrepresented and underprivileged and we see how Web3 can give them ownership of their work. These communities include POC and members of the LGBTQIA+ community whose voices we want to amplify.
My general take is, what’s really exciting about the Internet at large, is it’s definitely a step up from existing corporate structures. Now, so many of my friends who I’ve met this year, who didn’t come from any means, are able to figure it out. I think that’s a drastic improvement from 20 years ago. Access to knowledge wasn’t as present. Whereas maybe before you had to go to university or network through family wealth to access this type of information. But the baseline access to knowledge is higher.
Is it still quite homogenous? Yes.
Can it be improved? Yes.
Do I think it’s a much better baseline than previous eras? Yes.
What can be improved at large? I think just way better education and documentation on ways to get involved. There’s thousands of new projects launching everyday. If one just has the time and curiosity to dig in a little bit more, they can make it quite far. The question is just improving those education onramps so people can learn alot more efficiently.
We work with large and established brands – as we start to think about how we can work with our brands, what are the most exciting opportunities for brands wanting to enter the space?
The thing that by far interests brands the most about getting into NFTs or web3, is this idea of NFTs as a way to create community, governance and decision making to inform the product. I’ve seen this across consumer apparel and fashion. They’ll ask, “why are we on this artificial bound seasonal model?” where we should be thinking about, “how can creative directors or product teams work hand in hand with their community to decide what they want to see or use?”
It’s also approaching brands and demonstrating that web3 is not a weird niche industry like crypto was two years ago. It’s a new layer to the Internet. Web3 is an advancement of where the internet is. It’s not a passive experience of scrolling but instead, picking a couple of projects that you feel passionate about and going deeper on that. Right now, this relationship exists usually through a proxy partnership with an influencer who is associated with a brand, like when an influencer partners with Adidas for example so you buy Adidas. It’s a bit short sighted as the influencer may leave that brand eventually.
But what does that look like to create a decade long relationship with that consumer? What does it look like to be a brand’s first 5,000 customers or 5,000 followers on Instagram? What does it look like to have a piece of that ownership through an NFT? To inform or provide feedback? To engage those customers and make them feel heard? Web3 is an extension of that.
People love flexing. To be able to say, I was able to be a part of a brand early and ride through that early and have a piece of that financially through being an affiliate marketer or influencer. Brands can shift how they directly collaborate with their early consumers.