Introduction to the Combine DAO

Inside the mind of the Combine

July 1, 2022

Anthony Arroyo



This is cross-posted from The Combine DAO Blog. If you'd like to comment, join the public Urbit group

Until a couple of weeks ago, The Combine was a subdivision of the Urbit Foundation with a budget earmarked to invest in new projects. As of Urbit NYC that all changed. Now we’re an honest-to-goodness DAO built on Urbit—by Urbit maximalists, for Urbit maximalists. We pool assets to invest in teams building new tools, products and services for the Urbit Universe. Our members are investors, engineers, founders and galactic senators.

In this post we'll talk about what we're aiming to do and why we’re in the best position to do it. In a future post, we'll dive into technical and strategic insights drawn from building a DAO on Urbit.

Our Objective

Our objective is simple: support organizations in building high-value projects on Urbit. Urbit address space has intrinsic, tradeable value, as is the case with many crypto assets. But, unlike most crypto, that’s just the tip of the Urbit iceberg. Where most crypto assets are built to be owned and exchanged, Urbit is built to be owned and used. It has the potential to replace virtually every centralized part of Web2 you use (but don’t own) today.

The Combine DAO invests in teams working on projects that generate and capture value beyond Urbit address space. The price of address space reflects confidence in Urbit's user growth, but every increase in utility to an Urbit user — that is, every time a user can do more with their Urbit — creates additional value. The Combine takes advantage of this upside.

For example, one of our portfolio companies, Uqbar, is building a smart contract platform on Urbit. The Uqbar network will use Urbit ships as nodes in their network, as ZK provers and sequencers, creating an ZK Rollup L2 with the full power of general compute and identity. While their use of the Urbit network as part of their infrastructure will drive demand for planets, stars and galaxies, the value of Uqbar is potentially much greater than that demand.

So, members of The Combine DAO should believe at least one of two things:

  • That products built on Urbit can outpace the value of address space alone, and that The Combine is in the best position to capture that value.
  • That successful projects built on Urbit will enhance the value of Urbit address space.

Our Pipeline

The Combine works hand-in-hand with the Urbit Foundation, meaning we have unparalleled visibility into the development of new projects and teams on Urbit. The Foundation has been working hard to shore up Urbit's developer pipeline, with Hoon School constantly bringing in new developers. The last cohort had 61 finishers, seven of whom had no previous programming experience. The Foundation’s Grants program is active with over 40 active grants. The Combine and The Foundation continue to work together to identify, nurture and launch projects in need of funding.

Our Membership

Startups are risky by nature. Add Urbit’s novel technology and you’ve got more than your share of pitfalls. The Combine mitigates these risks through its membership. Combine members are long-time supporters of the project who have run startups, exchanges and have invested in successful technology on Urbit and beyond. The membership can help lead teams past challenges inherent to all new ventures. We're familiar with the technical and product landscape of Urbit and its adjacent technologies. All of us have experience building technology, on Urbit and outside it, which enables us to provide valuable coaching and due diligence.

Another of our portfolio companies, Holium, is building unified tooling for DAOs. They started with an application that the Combine DAO uses internally: a voting app called “Ballot.” Holium’s founder has been working on a unified environment for DAOs for some time, but it wasn’t until he came to Assembly 2021 that the pieces finally clicked and he realized that Urbit was the correct stack for Holium’s projects. As he built Ballot on Urbit, The Combine provided product feedback, investor intros, and access to experienced contractors and personnel. Now we’re actively dogfooding Ballot as a core element in The Combine stack.

In the coming weeks we’ll dive into the details of why we think Urbit is the natural home for DAOs. For now, we’ll just say that Urbit’s unified stack opens up a unique level of ownership and customizability to DAO builders. The Combine, as a DAO built on Urbit, to support Urbit, is test driving this use case. What we learn here will feed back into diligence, outreach and development priorities for the Foundation.

In the next post, we’ll share technical insights for DAOs gleaned from our own experiences building The Combine DAO on Urbit.