POAP inc. raises $10M to accelerate human development

A brief exposition on the vision of POAP

POAP inc. raises $10M to accelerate human development

The last three decades brought huge technological shifts which enabled people to engage at a never-before-seen scale. The new mechanisms invented were much lower friction, creating explosive rates of interaction and information transfer. Attention, engagement, participation and labor all became far more dynamic to accommodate the growth of the average human’s network.

Where it was once impossible to imagine knowing more than a hundred fifty people, humans today wind up with far larger networks facilitated by platforms and algorithms that curate digital environments on our behalf. We keep in touch with each other across continents, are constantly exposed to new ideas, and the information we need is never too far away.

This dramatic evolution in the way that we connect at scale came with consequences. Our generation’s struggle is marked by an unprecedented breakdown of social trust, a shift towards isolation, and a general sense of disconnectedness. Building deep and valuable relationships with each other and within our communities isn’t a process we’ve figured out how to scale.

This state of affairs is part of the turning wheel of progress. As humans, the challenge we face today is scaling culture: the process by which we feel affinity with the people around us. Increasing the fluidity of the various core components of the social fabric moved us towards a future where the probability that someone finds the people they are meant to engage with is higher. Now it’s time for us to turn our attention to the problem of reinforcing those connections.

If the last three decades of social technology solved for the problem of scaling the transferability of social primitives like information and attention, the next several will deal with increasing the depth of our engagement with our social surroundings under conditions of scale. New social technology will need to be invented to facilitate a greater depth of experience, connectedness, and self-understanding. This is what POAP set out to address.

Theory of P.O.A.P.

P.O.A.P. (short for Proof of Attendance Protocol) was established in 2018 by @worthalter@gomox_ar@dmf7z, and @reneil1337, and launched at ETHDenver 2019 as a community run project. The protocol was developed for the preservation of memories as digital records, which are minted as ERC-721 tokens and stored on the blockchain.

The word memory is used here in a somewhat broad sense. In order to qualify as being worthy of a POAP, an event needs to be:

(1) Social: the event should connect members of a group;

(2) Memorable: the event should be something worth remembering; and

(3) Time bound: POAPs exist to commemorate moments or periods in time.

Any qualifying memory can be captured by an issuer, and distributed to collectors in remembrance of a special moment shared by the group. At the core, POAPs are NFTs minted in recognition of a moment that created equity in the relationship between its holders.

What’s a POAP worth?

Finishing a book, participating in a race, landing in an airport, reuniting with a group of friends, shipping a product, weddings, graduations, memes, cultural experiences, celebrations of all sorts, purchases of identity-affirming items, and many other similar events are all excellent examples of moments the Proof of Attendance Protocol was built to celebrate.

Intuitively, we understand that our accomplishments, precious memories, and life-changing moments carry some ephemeral value. The founders of the Proof of Attendance Protocol discovered a way to capture this value, by taking the memory of what happened, and minting it as a token with the ability to provide holders some future utility at the discretion of the issuer.

While POAPs are invaluable to their owners, they are also able to have objective value which is recognized on secondary markets. This can be measured along two dimensions:

  • Content: The specifics of what the POAP is intended to commemorate, as well as how the collectible is crafted, drive the value of the individual tokens. POAPs that are older (such as early ETHDenver or DevCon souvenirs) as well as those carrying work from well-known crypto-artists, often carry high collectible value.
  • Issuance: POAPs have undefined positive expected value (EV), meaning that there is a non-zero chance that ownership of a particular POAP will make you eligible for some future utility at the whims of the issuer. This EV is higher with reputable, high profile issuers who are conscientious about distribution.

A consequence of the structure and intended usage of the Proof of Attendance Protocol is an ability for issuers to create utility for their collectors at any point in the future. Being able to provide value directly to people who invest energy into the community is a powerful tool for generating social cohesion.

The plethora of products in the POAP ecosystem is web3’s best kept secret. The POAP ecosystem has integrations…

  • for issuance (from hacks like MailMerge and KryptoSign, to software like MetaZoo’s Decentraland POAP Dispenser and the DEGEN bot for Proof of Attendance in Discord, to hardware like IYK’s NFC dispensers for POAP issuance IRL);
  • for utility (including gating content with MintGate, gating communities with Collab.Land, as well as real-time voting and raffles with POAP.vote and POAP.fun); and
  • for building community (POAP.gallery — IYKYK)

… which all exist with the intention of making it possible to assemble groups based on the alignment of members with certain ideas, activities, missions, or forms of recreation; to reward members of those groups with value as well as emotionally salient experiences; and to grow those communities by finding new members who are conceptually aligned.

POAP is a tool for humanity to value social equity; to cultivate it in our communities; and to nurture the groups that contribute to its accrual.

Identity primitives

In addition to being a tool for emergent social cohesion, the Proof of Attendance Protocol provides simple to deploy primitives for evidence-based, bottom-up assembly of individual identity.

The broad range of events and issuance mechanics made available by extending the meaning of “attendance” to include any form of attestation allows a POAP collection to present an extremely precise, reliable, and publicly verifiable reflection of a human being.

POAPs come in different flavors. (source)

POAP issuance mechanics are arguably some of the most exciting areas of development in the POAP ecosystem, as they allow us to capture the range of value created by human social activity. POAPs are issued as proof of attendance, proof of participation, proof of competence, proof of achievement, or proof of belonging, potentially reflecting the full range of roles, values, and interests that contribute to a person’s understanding and expression of her identity.

This, in addition to the diversity of social contexts where one can theoretically receive POAPs, in combination with the decentralized aspect of the protocol (meaning, issuers drop POAPs independently of one another) allow for an infinitely precise snapshot of a collector’s life narrative.

The fact of all this activity occurring as part of a standardized protocol on a public ledger makes reading this story as easy as scanning an Ethereum wallet.

The societal implications of an open-access, reliable record of someone’s participation in the world are immense. A POAP collection at some level, can be assembled to represent a hyper-granular image of a passionate collector’s life in real time.

However, there’s a second important mechanism at play for collectors in using the protocol:

Positive externalities of showing up

In the real world, reward profiles for taking action are generally positive:

  • Going to that party may mean meeting a new friend or your soul mate;
  • Attending a talk on your area of expertise may lead to your next big project or job opportunity;
  • You may have your next moment of inspiration at the art exhibit or show you wanted to visit.

However, these reward profiles are somewhat random. While doing things certainly is much more likely to lead to good outcomes than not doing them, its also entirely possible that any one particular adventure doesn’t lead to anything in particular.

The brain’s reward circuit tends to initially generate good feelings as a result of good outcomes. Habits are formed when triggers generate the good feelings in anticipation of the behavior that leads to the good outcomes, but this takes a streak of triggers leading to behavior that produces desired (and usually, predictable) outcomes.

The difficulty in reinforcing the desired behavior when outcomes are random is why developing a practice of showing up can be so hard. On the other hand, the positive externalities of doing things we believe we ought to be doing are immense: every time you engage in the practice of being yourself, you expose yourself to a positive-skew distribution of outcomes that might make your life substantially better.

Modern social products like Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, MeetUp, Facebook, Instagram and others are a double-edged sword when it comes to the optionality — neurobiology tradeoff.

On the one hand, the internet-connected subset of the human population has more ideas, practical guidance, opportunity, connectivity, and preservation capacity than we ever have. For the first time, we have access to the kind of technology that allows us to engineer good luck if we use it well, expanding the horizons of the possible to an incredible extent.

On the other hand, these products are so reliable at delivering reinforcement for the behaviors they’re designed to enable (as opposed to the ones that create value in our lives), that they are vastly more habit-forming to engage with than the real world is. They dampen the bias to action by providing a far more consistent reward profile for outcomes that do nothing for us.

As a product, POAP turns this dynamic on its heels by providing an instant, tangible reward for engaging with your interests, communities you’re close to, causes you’re passionate about, and brands you believe in. Collecting POAPs creates positive externalities by hacking human neurobiology to reinforce behavior that creates the positive skew outcome distribution we’re unconsciously after when we practice showing up.

In the process of collecting POAPs, you find friendships, unexpected opportunities, community, and make truly remarkable memories. POAPs are a guaranteed reward for doing something you wanted to do because it would probably be good for you, and the process of collecting them is one of fundamentally increasing your bias to action.

POAP collectors ultimately become more vibrant versions of themselves.

Formally introducing POAP inc.

Every Big Tech company to come out of Silicon Valley believed it was changing the world for the better.

To date, this took the form primarily of breaking down the barriers to transferring information, attention, and social capital through time and space. Transforming these relational primitives into group cohesion, however, requires a different mechanism.

Group cohesion gives meaning to our lives. As social animals, human neurobiology requires us to find a sense of belonging in order to feel higher satisfaction, and to reduce our levels of tension and anxiety. Our communities are systems that protect us, nurture us, and give us what we need to thrive.

In order to benefit from these support systems, we need to invest in them. By mobilizing our attention to create value for a group, we find a greater sense of belonging, while getting clearer on who we are as humans. This feedback loop ultimately creates healthier, happier, and more productive human beings with a rich tapestry of shared experiences.

The experiences that are created are as spontaneous and unique as the individuals creating them, making the memories irreplaceable. A reliable record of these shared experiences empowers humanity to accrue intrapersonal equity more efficiently, and to have its value recognized across various contexts. By arming people with the tools to come together, get invested, and drive value for their communities, we should begin to see a marked increase in humanity’s quality of life. This is the essence of where we’re going with POAP.

Living in a world where POAP is a fully adopted social technology means living in a world where:

  1. Our social contexts are a more nurturing, cohesive, and deeply embedded part of who we are; and
  2. Everyone has the opportunity to instantly see a high-definition image of everyone they run into; and
  3. Every human has a mechanism for developing agency, and the intrinsic motivation to do what she is meant to do.

The global adoption of the Proof of Attendance Protocol will increase human potential and the rate of value creation by several orders of magnitude. We are building a world where people are clearer and more transparent about the best versions of who they are, more passionate about the conditions of the things they care about, and able to find others who are working on the same problems.

The immense potential to improve the overall human condition ultimately inspired the formation of POAP inc: a Delaware Corporation founded on September 9th, 2021 by @worthalter@toms0x, and @izgnzlz.

POAP inc. is dedicated entirely to the realization of the vision made possible by the Proof of Attendance Protocol; an endeavor which will require global adoption of the protocol at individual and institutional levels, a fully developed platform and application layer, and an ecosystem of implementation specialists, dispatchers, managed service providers, and other organizations offering key support roles around POAP.

Celebrating 4 months of POAP inc.

For a company not yet 6 months old, POAP inc. has a lot under the belt.

  • We made it through two major hurdles in the industry events season — NFT NYC and Art Basel Miami.
  • We executed legendary drops with the likes of XCOPY, Adidas, Budweiser, Coach, the US Open, and other household names.
  • We doubled (and nearly tripled) the size of the POAP team, dramatically increasing the capacity we have in operations. Want to come work with us? Check the job board here!
  • We shipped a beta of a digital check-in system; prototyped products for Twitter and other para-social platforms; and have several product launches we’re sitting on quietly.
  • We made strides in establishing the independence of the Proof of Attendance Protocol by establishing the POAP Curation Body, and creating a first take at the minimal infrastructure we need to support our community.

We did all this while manually reviewing approximately 17,000 events, supporting infrastructure for minting over 2M NFTs, and roughly doubling the number of passionate collectors in the POAP ecosystem.

We also had some hard lessons:

  • Some of our ambitious plans were made impossible to execute on by our incessant battle with POAP farmers;
  • Two cybersecurity incidents taught us hard lessons in incident response;
  • Other standard growing pains related to explosive growth.

We’re proud to have ultimately come out on the other side stronger as a company, team, and group of people on a mission.

Throughout the process, we’ve gained a lot of clarity on what the world we want to build looks like, and what it might take to get there. Nobody said it would be easy, but the unique blend of scrappy entrepreneurial disposition, nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, and humanist philosophy that constitutes POAP inc. DNA has about three quarters of what’s needed to get the job done.

It’s with great pleasure that we welcome the last quarter — operational expertise with industry roots — to the POAP ecosystem, as part of the closing of our $10M Series Seed round, co-led by Archetype and Sapphire Sport LLC, with participation from web3 native funds (Collab Currency1KXLibertus CapitalRed Beard Ventures6th Man VenturesDelphi Digital, A Capital), funds with strong ties to media and entertainment (including Sound VenturesAdvancit Capital, and The Chernin Group), as well as around 50 strategic angels (the counsel and support of which without, POAP wouldn’t be the amazing ecosystem it is today). The structure of the round is deeply representative of the unique position we occupy at the intersection of web3, media and culture, and infrastructure developed as a public good.

We intend for this raise to be the first along the road to our building a better POAP, with substantial allocations carved out for the kickstarting and development of the POAP issuer support ecosystem; investment into the platform and application layer; and the formal establishment of the POAP Foundation, an entity solely dedicated to preserving the spirit and ethos of the Proof of Attendance Protocol.