The Builder's Journey Recap: CityDAO's Da3vid & ScottA
November 11th, 2022

Decent presents The Builder’s Journey podcast, featuring intimate discussions with the builders behind the most exciting and innovative protocols, products, and communities in Web3.

On this episode of the Builder's Journey, we chatted with Da3vid and ScottA of CityDAO. CityDAO is building a web3 city of the future. They discuss their backgrounds meeting in the DAO, the unique elements that make up CityDAO, and the critical next steps for building a community and city on-chain.
On this episode of the Builder's Journey, we chatted with Da3vid and ScottA of CityDAO. CityDAO is building a web3 city of the future. They discuss their backgrounds meeting in the DAO, the unique elements that make up CityDAO, and the critical next steps for building a community and city on-chain.

On what first got them excited about Web3…

ScottA: I've always been fascinated with decentralized systems and emergent orders. Of course, being an economist, markets are always front and center. And there's this real appreciation when markets are very competitive and very decentralized, they do really remarkable things. So I've always been interested in this space, I just feel like it could be an expansion of that and sort of technology that can really change the world.

ScottA: The blockchain is just a huge, transformative technology that will change the way we live. I love the idea that it's just borderless. This gives people a way to get over those borders in some way.

Da3vid: I personally got into Web3 originally from crypto and the reason was I lived in China for most of my adult life and I was paid, of course, in Chinese renminbi. And I was looking for a way to get the money back to my Bank of America account. And it was just so difficult (this is probably in about 2010). It was very difficult to do with all these different tax forms; Western Union was a possibility, but somebody would need to pick it up. Somebody had suggested Bitcoin to me, and I started looking into it and discovered a real use case there. And I found it to be so fundamentally disruptive on that level, that I immediately started getting interested in crypto, not so much as an investment, but as pure disruptive technologies.

Da3vid: One of my favorites back then was Ravencoin because it was disrupting the idea of fractionalized ownership of assets. I thought that was a really interesting way to disrupt the rich. I knew a lot of young people who had knowledge about things like Jade or art or calligraphy, but the best they could ever do is be a purchasing agent for some rich person. But with something like the technology of fractionalized ownership, they could actually get people together and do something very much like ConstitutionDAO was able to do and raise all this money.

On first introductions to CityDAO…

Da3vid: I'm not even sure how it got on my radar. It was just something I saw randomly somewhere and I thought, this is a great idea because cities fundamentally seem to have problems. I mean, I'm from New York City and then I went to law school in Honolulu, Hawaii, and then I lived most of my adult life in Shanghai. So I've been in very large cities that are very touristy, that involve a lot of people who are not natives of the city. And seeing that there are some great, really wonderful aspects to the organic growth, the dynamism, the economic stimulus that exists in the growth in cities. But what I've also seen in America now is the deindustrialization of cities, the distressed economic nature of cities, the disparities between rich and poor, things like voting, gerrymandering, all these issues that cities have and rethinking, how can we fundamentally change this?

On the historical power of cities…

ScottA: Most innovation in the world happens in cities. So many people in the world are relieved from poverty just by moving to cities. It's where innovation happens. This idea of being able to build a city in a more efficient and democratic way has just been fascinating.

ScottA: Cities are the absence of distance. They're the fact that a lot of people live geographically in a closer area. And of course, as we move online, it's not necessarily a geographically closer area, but it's a digitally closer area.

ScottA: People with skills that complement each other naturally seek each other out. It's just like a force of gravity. They pull each other together because they can help each other. They can innovate together.

On CityDAO’s “Town” project…

Da3vid: The whole idea behind this Town idea is that we would have a physical place to try to build a Silicon Valley, organically over time. That would involve a variety of different DAOs. They'll come in throughout the years and create a physical place for DAOs, starting with one structure that different DAOs will use, almost like a timeshare for a very curated IRL experience. 

Da3vid: Town is not something that CityDAO will own. It's a public good; it will probably be a nonprofit. It's something that CityDAO will pioneer and obviously, we will be a part of it. But it's not meant to be a CityDAO investment, it's meant to really be something where all the DAOs collectively would own a piece of land.

On CityDAO’s Guild system, and the decision to move away from it…

Da3vid: The idea was that when we started CityDAO we were going to have functional departmentalization. And so we would have a variety of Guilds, and every Guild would have their own multi-sig treasury, every Guild would have their own facilitator. And then while city DAO has CIPS, which are CityDAO improvement proposals that the whole DAO votes on, Guilds would have GIPs, which would be Guild improvement proposals. Each Guild would onboard its own people, and the Guild would kind of operate as it saw fit. And we would all work with each other and have clear communication.

Da3vid: For one, it was very difficult to communicate across 12 different departments. And you ended up just having the Guild facilitators mostly talking to each other, and everybody else being siloed. And then we would put up all these bounties. So there really was no need to have this level of division at this point.

On the evolution of thinking about CityDAO’s place in the industry…

Da3vid: Originally, the idea at City DAO is that CityDAO is the product. What we do is we buy land, we sell NFTs, the NFTs are for governance only, not ownership. And that's what we do. That's it. That's what CityDAO does, we own land. But what we discovered is lots of people have lots of great ideas. Some people want to build, there are all of these different ideas. And so what we've started to realize is, CityDAO was much more of a Y Combinator of sorts. CityDAO is a factory where lots of ideas could be incubated, not just the product.

On community as the true north star of Web3…

Da3vid: I don't think any of this will work if we're not truly a community. I don't just mean CityDAO, I mean all of this. The point of Web3 is that we have some amazing technologies and we can do great stuff. But if the great stuff we're doing is bringing us farther apart, not closer together, then what's the point? I care a lot about how people can be in different parts of the world and get on their computers and be part of a community that actually has a treasury that does public goods. It doesn't mean they don't make money for their individual investors. but I think we have enough of that. 

Da3vid: We definitely want a vibrant, economically sustainable community where people can come to all these different DAOs, and they can do things that allow them to have a lot of autonomy over their lives, or be digital nomads, provide for their families or use things in new and inventive ways that don't require 60-hour-a-week commitments to jobs that just make CEOs rich.

On CityDAO’s exploration of new modes of societal organization…

Da3vid: As somebody who lived abroad most of my whole life, I don't really feel geographically tied. I'm not a New Yorker or a Bostonian or a Shanghainese, I'm not anything. And I always thought it was kind of crazy to identify with a place because coincidentally one was born there, when at this point we can have ideological connections, where we identify with a group. And what if that group really could have locations around the world where you could physically be?

Da3vid: Another thing more on the philosophical side is, right now, America - and a lot of the world - is caught up in very nationalistic ways of thinking. And a lot of this is in some ways imaginary. There are some real paradoxes with nationalism, the idea, for example, that countries or cities have some ancient provenance, when in fact, countries and cities are not 1000s of years old. These are relatively new contrivances, that everybody has a nationality, everybody is from a place. I think that's going to be rethought in the future. And so one of the things I love about CityDAO, and DAOs in general is, we are really talking about a real evolution of social communities and how humans organize.

Da3vid: When we think about community and togetherness, and the quality of our relationships, and the meaningfulness of our connections to other people, rethinking this idea of distance, and time and what a settlement is, is really at the core of what CityDAO is all about.

On the thinking behind CityDAO’s 40-acre plot in Clark, Wyoming

Da3vid: We're not trying to displace or replace cities, or say that cities in the future won't be contiguous pieces of land. We're trying to rethink different forms of community. So that piece of land in Wyoming was very much a proof of concept. Nobody's ever going to live there.

Da3vid: It was a proof of concept to see, can a DAO become an LLC and own land legally in America. And then could we distribute NFTs to govern that land, without there being any expectation of profit, without them being securities, and totally above board 100%, no gray area whatsoever? And we did it and that shows us that the technology exists.

Da3vid: It's not necessarily our only goal to buy a piece of land. It could be to co-own, it could be Metaverse - who even knows? It's really just rethinking what happens when people come together and want to reconsider and rethink ideas of what a human settlement means, in light of modern technology. 

Check out the full episode of The Builder’s Journey with Da3vid and ScottA and be sure to follow for new episodes every Tuesday!

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