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Decentralizing Venture Capital: DAO

Protocol | Tomio Geron | March 12, 2022

Bessemer DAO - Decentralizing Venture Capital:  DAOVenture firms have been trying to reinvent themselves lately, in an era where founders have an edge with capital aplenty and, at least for now, still-high valuations. It’s no longer enough to be a good adviser, board member and cheerleader. VCs are pushing services like marketing, recruiting, design and data, and broadening their investing stages from seed to growth.

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But with the clear arrival of Web3, is that enough? Bessemer is asking that question with a new initiative it’s calling BessemerDAO. The move is part of the firm’s allocation of $250 million of its $2.5 billion fund to Web3 sectors including consumer crypto, infrastructure and DeFI.

BessemerDAO is a statement about crypto.

  • Crypto is a different world, where decentralization of power is a key tenet of protocols and organizations. Starting its own DAO is a way for Bessemer to show it’s not stuck in the traditional Sand Hill Road mindset.
  • Bessemer has made some early and substantial bets in Web3 such as NYDIG, Sorare, MakersPlace and TRM Labs, but it’s still mostly known as a traditional firm investing in consumer, health care and cloud startups.
  • BessemerDAO is designed to provide additional VC portfolio services for its startups, but in a decentralized manner, crowdsourced from the community. Bessemer will still maintain its existing portfolio services, said partner Ethan Kurzweil.
  • The plan is to eventually make the DAO fully decentralized and run by the community. It’s an experiment to see what’s possible with the structure.

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Can DAOs disrupt portfolio services? 

  • Many firms including Bessemer already have email lists, online forums and collaboration tools for startups to connect with other portfolio startups and advisers.
  • BessemerDAO will be different in that it will have members from Bessemer startups as well as tech executives and other non-Bessemer startups. The invite-only setup might raise eyebrows in the freewheeling crypto world, but DAOs already vary in their membership structures: Some are “permissionless” where anyone who buys a token is automatically a member, while others might require a vote of existing members to admit new ones.
  • The ambition for BessemerDAO is to have a community like those seen in the crypto world built to manage projects like protocols. It could also potentially have the financial earmarks of a DAO such as token incentives. No word yet on a token, but Bessemer’s Talia Goldberg and Kate Walker teased out the idea of democratizing the economics of venture capital in a January post.
  • DAO members could help each other out in areas such as talent and hiring, business development and investment theses. And the DAO could potentially do it faster and with more precision than a VC firm could. One recent example is the DAO identifying a designer to create an NFT design.

But the ultimate disruption would be a DAO making investments. BessemerDAO could potentially raise money and take stakes in startups, though the regulatory and legal issues would have to be hammered out, Kurzweil said.

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