I’m currently advising an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), or more precisely an Initial Token Offering (ITO), called TeamCoin (TMC). (If you’re wondering what the heck that is, this primer might help you understand this whole newfangled thing better.)
Why? First of all, based on my experience with open source projects, as a contractor working on a temporary team and as a founder running a startup team, I think TeamCoin is something very useful that I wish I would have had in the past. Secondly, it’s founded by a friend of mine, Francis Dierick, an YC startup school alum that I know to be trustworthy and capable from working with him as a team on various other projects in the past.
So let me take a minute to explain what this ICO/ITO called TeamCoin is about from my perspective.
Now, it is important to know that TeamCoin (TMC) is not a new cryptocurrency. It’s a utility token. You use the utility token TMC to validate your identity, contributions, equity split, revenue share and changes thereof to your team graph.
What the heck does that mean?
Think of it as a version control software for teams. Just like Git enables you full transparency of your software development, Teamcoin enables you full transparency and control to attribution, roles and contribution control for your team structure and share or revenue split.
Why would you want that? Well, sometimes you don’t want to go through the hassle of talking with lawyers and setting up paper contracts. It takes time, it costs money, it’s not transparent and for every change you have to repeat the whole or parts of the tedious and expensive process. Well actually, in real life, you most times want to avoid this in the early days of a project and thus most of us do avoid it altogether in lack of a better alternative.
For most teams when starting out, the topic of attribution and contribution is not really something that is top of mind. You have a million other issues to care about. Many people have never been to a lawyer to talk about formalising roles and who gets how much for what before. Many teams are living from day to day when starting out and don’t have the money and resources to do it the old fashioned paper way. For many, it also feels like too much too soon – we can always do it later. Then, more often than not, things change along the way and you end up finding out the hard way that you cannot easily fix these things later, and you find yourself wishing that you had indeed taken the time to get some sort of contract at the outset.
Funny thing is, for tech team, version control of the software being developed is a must. It’s something every developer worth their pay or cred uses on a daily basis. When it comes to the arguably more important aspect of your project – your team – there has been no easy git-like system to manage and control it.
Today, TeamCoin gives you a modern and fully transparent alternative to dealing with he-said-she said drama, paper contracts, lawyers and their legalese (and sometimes obscene costs).
Right now it works through a command line interface (CLI) just like GitHub that it is based on. It will write a tiny file to your git that contains your team structure and full team history as a graph.
To use this version control for your teams, each team member first use the utility token TMC to validate their real life identity through a trusted 3rd party. Each team member then uses TMC to vote for changes to your team graph.
In short, TeamCoin puts your canonical team contract on the blockchain for everybody to see. TMC is then used to claim and verify your identity, used for votes, make a change to the team graph.
So let’s see an example of how TeamCoin could have solved a real world problem.
You might have heard about this little project called twitter. Some guys named Ev, Biz, Noah and Jack built a startup that ended up as a household name. However, Noah was never credited as a co-founder and was miserable because of it. Ev and Biz was slowly pushed out by the investors and the board with the help of Jack working against them behind their back. And the investors teamed up with Jack and decided he was the real founder because he was constantly telling the media and anybody who’d listen that he was – although he had no operating role on the team and did not contribute to the product. (Source: “Hatched” by Nick Bilton)
Had Ev, Biz, Noah and Jack used TeamCoin to validate and vote and confirm their roles when they started out, there would arguably have been much less drama and misery – and a hell of a lot more transparency – quite possibly avoiding the backstabbing altogether.
Now for the question of where do the tokens actually go once used? For the function calls that cost money in the real world (e.g. validating ID, account creation, etc.) they go to the provider of those services. For the function calls that doesn’t incur real world cost (e.g. voting), we are currently considering burning the token on use. Other, more creative variants, are also being considered.
Please keep in mind, this is a new concept. It’s a work in progress. It’s still very early days. This is just the thinking and the concept so far. It now has to be built. That is going to take time and resources. That’s what this ICO/ITO is about; It’s securing the means to build it, to insure it does get built, that it will exist.
You can find a CLI proof of concept on GitHub already, though. In the future, there is of course plans for a more user friendly GUI. Like with most startups, over time the product will become more refined and accessible to the mainstream.
The TeamCoin (TMC) ICO/ITO is now live. You can find more information about it here: http://teamco.in
We’ll also try to be as transparent as possible, so stay tuned for updates.