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Software Collaboration & Decentralized Communities
A future of peer-to-peer code collaboration with Radicle, five funding rounds, tax incentives for angels, 670 jobs, Community Led Growth, news and more
👋 Happy Friday! Welcome to Hunting Greek Unicorns #26. I’m Alex, a product guy turned VC, and every two weeks I send out a newsletter with everything you need to know about the Greek startup industry.
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🌱 A future of peer-to-peer code collaboration, decentralized communities and creating new value flows for developers with Eleftherios Diakomichalis, founder of Radicle
This week I’m really excited to have Eleftherios Diakomichalis, founder of Radicle, on Hunting Greek Unicorns and discuss about crypto networks, decentralised autonomous organizations (DAOs), peer-to-peer code collaboration without relying on trusted intermediaries, as well as re-imagining how developers work and get paid in the future.
Radicle is a new kind of code collaboration network built entirely on open protocols, started in 2017 and supported by some of the most prominent investors in the crypto space. Our conversation was super insightful and really a great introduction into how a future of code collaboration (and by extension other facets of work as well) might look like.
Let’s get right to it!
What is your story before Radicle and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up in Athens, Greece and my background is in statistics & network/computer science. In 2011, I moved to Berlin to join SoundCloud, where I led their Data Science and Data Engineering teams for 6 ½ years. My primary motivation for joining SoundCloud was the promise of “disintermediation”, a concept that is quite relevant to the Radicle story. What was appealing to me with regards to SoundCloud was the vision of enabling creators to own more of their creative process, as well as the spaces they engage in. Looking back, I believe what we did with SoundCloud had a massive cultural impact, specifically for normalizing derivative pieces of work (mixtapes, covers, mashups, etc), but I personally don’t believe that we accomplished the core part of our mission. Fast forward to 2021 and musicians are still “customers” of a new class of middle-men (ie intermediaries) that are, in my opinion, still deeply misaligned with most musicians.
Around 2016, while still at SoundCloud, I started feeling a bit bored with the state of the internet, specifically with how incremental most products/visions felt, so I started to look more into crypto networks. A few Greek friends were already big believers of crypto, while Ethereum was getting a lot of attention within hacker cultures in Berlin, as Vitalik and Gavin were spending quite a lot of time in the city. Without realizing it, I started spending most of my weekends nerding out on crypto networks, together with my best friend and co-founder Alexis. Crypto was very refreshing as it was putting incentives at the core of every design, while also leveraging peer-to-peer infrastructures instead of the typical client-server model (and the trust model that usually comes with it). We quickly realized that the next wave of collaboration networks will be built as free and open source networks that are self-sustaining and community owned.
Around the spring of 2017, we eventually had the idea of Radicle, which is a new kind of code collaboration network built entirely on open protocols. There were two main insights that led to the Radicle idea: a) code was becoming the new frontier for freedom and b) crypto networks offered a new design space for sustaining open-source developers. So we started Radicle with two objectives:
Develop resilient collaboration infrastructure that respects users freedoms, without a reliance on trusted gatekeepers nor on corporate or state overlords.
Use the newly developed sovereign financial infrastructure (Bitcoin, Ethereum, DeFi) in order to create new value flows for developers and grow our digital commons.
What potential does Radicle have to change code collaboration and the relationship people have with work in general?
Most people think of Radicle as a decentralized alternative to Github which is partly true, although the term “decentralization” is very loaded and means different things to different people, so I would prefer to avoid it. Instead, I think it’s more important to say a few words on how Radicle differs from Github/Gitlab, what concerns it prioritizes and what it enables.
Radicle has been designed with the principles of security, sovereignty and trust minimization at the core. At the center of its architecture, there is a peer-to-peer storage network (not blockchain) that extends Git in a number of ways. Instead of one central server you have a gossip network of peers replicating data locally. Instead of login credentials to a remote server, identity and authority over code artefacts work based on public/private key cryptography. Furthermore, rather than trusting a corporation with your data, all artefacts within Radicle are by design cryptographically signed, verifiable and attestable by their authors, so no one can’t tamper with them. From a user standpoint, peers join the network by downloading a client locally (see radicle.xyz), follow other peers or repos and start to replicate data of interest locally.
While the project is already seeing adoption from a wide range of communities, the main audience is decentralized communities. The reason is that decentralized communities value the properties that Radicle optimizes for, not only for ideological reasons, but also because they manage significant amounts of $$$ on the internet and they tend to think a lot more about security and sovereignty. This post from Bitcoin-core provides a great perspective on how decentralized developers think about security and platform risks.
Concerning the second part of our question about developers and their relationship with work: the trend in my opinion is quite clear, more and more devs seek to contribute to the commons and do open-source work instead of joining a corporation for their living. I believe that the term that is being used in Silicon Valley is “passion economy” and this trend in my opinion applies equally to developers. In addition, if you have been paying close attention to crypto networks you will see that over the last year, we also had an exponential increase in the amount of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations that developers start. DAOs have moved beyond product market fit and see more adoption every day. These are internet based entities, usually organized around a token (or many) where a number of participants work together to accomplish a goal. For instance, Uniswap, Compound, Radicle and many other projects operate now fully as DAOs on the internet, where control has moved away from a set of equity stakeholders to a group of token holders, who programmatically on the internet control the project’s code and asset using economic incentives, completely in the open.
These are the two trends that Radicle is looking to leverage and build upon. Radicle aims to enable more developers to start DAOs, monetize their FOSS work and sustain their living through internet based organizations. All in one experience, built on sovereign, peer-to-peer infrastructure.
Is there a case to be made for web2.0 open source projects — like Wikipedia, Apache, etc — to migrate to Radicle and other decentralised infrastructure?
Security and censorship resistance are the two reasons that come to mind, as Radicle comes with better guarantees in those two areas. Radicle is far more secure than the centralized forge model, for the reasons I explained above, as well as more censorship resistant because of its peer-to-peer nature.
We are already collaborating with individuals in organizations such as the Linux Foundation and Wikipedia, that have been shaping the project since 2019 through an advisory working group that we established. In fact, the Radicle peer-to-peer design was heavily influenced by a member of the Linux Foundation that proposed this idea to our mailing list back in 2019.
So the interest is there. Having said that, it’s still early for them to move to Radicle fully, as Radicle is currently in beta and as a result is still unstable and lacks functionality these teams expect today. But our ambition is to have them use Radicle in the near future.
You recently launched an integration with the Ethereum blockchain along with the creation of the RAD governance token. What does this integration enable?
Radicle comes with an opt-in Ethereum integration that leverages Ethereum for three reasons:
1. A global namespace. This is something that peer-to-peer networks lack and in my opinion is very important because of network effects. It’s very easy for a developer today to say find me at github.com / developer, so we need a way to be able to do this on decentralized infrastructure. Ethereum provides that through a service called ENS (Ethereum Name Service).
2. Radicle Orgs. This is one of Radicle’s main differentiators. Think Github orgs, but running on truly sovereign & uncensorable infrastructure where the admin of the org is replaced by any smart contract on Ethereum (any program or coordination scheme). This is probably the most requested feature in Radicle today, as most DAOs using Radicle want to be able to control their repos trustlessly, without having to delegate trust to one individual (admin).
3. Funding protocols that enable maintainers to monetize their work. Here, there are a lot of exciting things in the works that will be shared with the world later this year. I think that every social network in the future will have a DeFi component, so we are very keen to bring value flows closer to the collaboration experience (e.g. merge requests, issues with funds).
Concerning the RAD token: this is the governance token of the Radicle network. RAD token holders control Radicle's Ethereum smart contracts fully (extreme decentralization) including the networks’ code and treasury, a smart contract that currently holds ~750 million dollars.
What does a day in the life of a developer using a fully decentralised stack look like 5 years from now? Where does Radicle fit in this future?
Chris Dixon used to say that “if you want to figure out the future of technology, you have to see what the nerds are working on the weekend”. My twist to his quote is the following “if you want to figure out the future of work, you have to see how the nerds are working on the weekend.”
I believe that work will start to look a lot more like your open-source work. Small group of maintainers/decision makers (2-3 devs max), many contributors globally, high degree of composability, high degree of fork-ability (remixing of existing work) and new ways of monetization and employment through crypto.
How the software stack will look like is really hard to say, but I start to be quite confident that Ethereum will be there. I hope Radicle too 😉
Who else is behind the project?
There are around 15 people that have been contributing heavily to the project over the last three years. Many of us worked together at SoundCloud while a few team members worked previously at Google, Contenful and Cosmos/Tendermint.
Radicle is also supported by a number of mission aligned supporters such as: Naval Ravikant, Balaji Srinivasan, Meltem Demirors, Placeholder, Galaxy Digital, Blueyard, Coinbase Ventures, as well as the founders of PolkaDot, TheGraph, Aave and more.
If you want to learn more about Radicle and how the future of code collaboration (and work in general - remember, software is eating the world!) might look like, check out Radicle’s website here.
🦄 Startup Jobs
Greek startups are hiring! Here are some of the latest job opportunities:
Apifon - Digital Marketing Specialist (Remote) - Apply here
Avrio - Senior Software Engineer, Frontend (Remote) - Apply here
Balena - Product Engineer (Remote) - Apply here
Behavioral Signals - Machine Learning Engineer (Remote) - Apply here
BibeCoffee - Quality Assurance Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
Douleutaras - Operations Specialist (Athens) - Apply here
Ex Machina - Blockchain Software Engineer (Athens) - Apply here
MarineTraffic - Junior IT Administrator (Athens) - Apply here
Vivante Health - VP Client Success (Remote) - Apply here
Welcome - Junior Financial Controller (Athens) - Apply here
Augmenta, a next gen precision agriculture startup that automates farming operations using computer vision and AI, raised a $8M Series A round led by CNH Industrial with participation from Marathon Venture Capital and other investors.
Manual, a go-to platform for men's health and wellbeing founded in 2018 by George Pallis and Michalis Gkontas, raised a $30M Series A round from US and EU investors.
Action IQ, an enterprise customer data startup founded by Tasso Argyros, announced a Series C extension, bringing the round to a total size of $100M. The company is growing revenues 100% YoY and its list of investors include Sequoia Capital and a16z.
Terra, an API that makes it easy for developers to access fitness & health data from wearables & sensors, is part of the latest batch of Y Combinator YC W21. Its founder, Kyriakos Eleftheriou, is the first Greek Cypriot to make it into YC! More details here.
Yollty, a team focused on loyalty solutions, announced a €1M funding round from a group of private and public investors.
Xrysi Eukairia, a classified ads company in Greece, acquired the online jobs platform of MyJobNow for around €500K. MyJobNow had previously exited its courier business (SendX) to Skroutz some months ago.
More details have been announced regarding AccelerateTT, a new fund of funds with €60M to be deployed in Greek startups through VC funds.
Egg – enter•grow•go, was selected from the Ministry of Development & Investments to support the first cluster for tech startups in culture and tourism. The teams that are already part of the cluster are: Greeking.me, Keeano, Mentor, Moptil, SaMMy, Simpleapps, TEKMON and Triparound.
Magos and RTsafe are two of the winning teams of STARTUP3 Accelerator Programme for deep-tech startups.
A vibrant startup scene needs an active community of angel investors. Some interesting steps towards that direction, as there are now tax incentives for angels to invest in startups registered through Elevate Greece here.
💭 Reading or listening
Some thoughts I wrote on the rise of Community Led Growth. Why a thriving community can become a company's best moat, community as a natural continuation of how enterprise software is distributed and Community Led Growth as a multiplier on top of Product Led Growth turning your users into advocates.
Not your typical VC podcast with John Vrionis, Partner at Unusual Ventures, on imposter syndrome, similarities between athletes and founders, success through focus, changes in the venture space throughout the years and more.
If you’re about to start user testing, you might find useful this curated list of 20+ tools from Jim Zarkadas, UX Coach and indie maker.
A podcast with Michael Petychakis, CTO at Orfium, on the company’s journey, big data in the music industry, bootstrapped vs. VC-funded, and more.
Bill Gianoukos, founder & CEO of GoodPath, talking about integrative care, a wave of enterprises offering personalised, self-care programs to employees and the future of HR health and wellness.
Nikos Drandakis, founder & CEO of Sync, discussing about tech entrepreneurship in Greece, upskilling the unskilled workers of the digital world and launching Sync.
Stay safe and sane,
Greek Startup Pirate 👋