In the first quarter of 2022, the NEAR Foundation saw an explosion of activity in the ecosystem.
The NEAR Town Hall is a great place for the growing global NEAR community to see these new projects in action, as well as meet, learn, teach, and push the Web3 movement and NEAR adoption forward.
The March NEAR Town Hall explored ecosystem updates, MetaBUILD 2 winners, DAOs, and more. Here is the highlights from the NEAR Town Hall, which can be seen on NEAR’s YouTube channel or below.
NEAR in the news amid strong ecosystem growth
In her opening remarks, NEAR Foundation CEO Marieke Flament gave an update on the NEAR community’s Ukrainian members. As Flament explained, many of them have settled in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the NEAR ecosystem’s major European hubs.
Flament reiterated the Foundation’s commitment to raising platform awareness, supporting projects with grants, and creating a safe path to decentralization via engagement with policymaking and regulation. She also showed some updated numbers from the NEAR community.
Through March, the NEAR community has onboarded 40,000 students and 120 NEAR-certified teachers, while grants grew to $124 million in funds spread across 509 recipients. The ecosystem also grew from 300 to 429 projects and DAOs, 110 million transactions (up from 95 million in February), and 5.2 million wallets—a growth of 1 million wallets in a single month.
Flament also highlighted recent news coverage on the Ukrainian fundraising effort Unchain Fund. This included a Cointelegraph feature, NEAR Co-founder Illia Polosukhin’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, and Sail GP’s NEAR announcement.
New brand partnerships: SailGP, Unchain Fund, and more
Chris Ghent, NEAR Foundation’s Global Head of Brand Strategy and Partnerships, went into greater detail on the SailGP announcement, and Unchain Fund.
“Sail GP is one of the most exciting and rapidly growing sports,” said Ghent. “The goal here is to look at the property as something we can drive really deep integrations with. The league is looking to announce a DAO, so we’re looking to see that evolve over the coming weeks and months as Season 3 approaches in May. From ticketing to NFTs, this is very much a deep tech integration as much as it is a global go-to-market.”
Ghent also detailed NEAR’s ongoing partnership with privacy-preserving browser Brave—specifically, the homepage takeover for Unchain Fund and NEAR’s education initiatives. He also highlighted NEAR’s support of “Play Magnus,” a charity chess event that benefitted Unchain Fund’s humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Ghent’s segment also features “Marketing by the Numbers”, with talk of 700,000,000 global impressions and explosive social media engagement.
MetaBUILD 2: the largest hackathon in NEAR history
Pagoda’s Maria Yarotska, MetaBUILD 2’s Hackathon Coordinator, announced winners of the MetaBUILD 2 at the NEAR Town Hall.
“I’m happy to tell you that we just wrapped up the largest hackathon in NEAR’s history with a $1 million prize fund and almost 4,000 participants,” said Yarotska. “I was managing the judging process while fleeing the war in Ukraine, and I’m really proud of the community that made it happen and delivered some really exciting projects.”
“Congratulations to Voog, MetaAds, and NEAR Playground,” she added. “Enjoy your bounties and don’t forget to respond to all the potential investors.”
Yarotska also encouraged teams who didn’t win this time to get involved in the next MetaBUILD hackathon. For full details on the results, read “MetaBUILD 2 Hackathon Winners” on the NEAR blog.
Paris Blockchain Week Summit and other upcoming NEAR events
Yadira Blocker, Experiential Marketing Lead at NEAR Foundation, spoke on NEAR’s involvement at Paris Blockchain Week Summit. NEAR speakers will be at PBWS (April 12-14th), so be sure to find them at the summit’s Discovery Stage.
“[Consensus] is very big for the NEAR ecosystem,” said Blocker. “We’re coming on as a Block 4 partner, and we’ll have more information to share soon.”
Global NEAR Education and NEAR Grants updates
Sherif Abushadi said NEAR Education continues to onboard new teachers through its global education initiatives. While 5,000 individuals registered for programs in the last week of March alone, Abushadi noted that only 120 people have become NEAR-certified.
“Certifications are still low—it’s not easy to get NEAR-certified,” said Abushadi. “You have to build an original project. We want to maintain a high bar but also make this program more accessible. So, you’ll see some new innovations from the education team in the coming weeks and months.”
Abushadi also spotlighted considerable growth in education fellowships in India, Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, and other c.
Next, Josh Daniels, Head of Funding at NEAR Foundation, spoke on the Grants team’s core funding vision and statistics. To date, the Foundation has issued 234 direct grants committed for $15.4 million in 2022. Additionally, 8 projects have raised ~$70 million, with 84 currently fundraising for a total of $350 million.
Daniels also noted how NEAR Grants is currently exploring grant pools for select projects as part of the ecosystem fund.
“This is something that we announced at NEARCON in October of last year,” said Daniels. “We’re very much committed to continuing to move this forward.”
Daniels also spoke on the expansion of the NEAR Regional Hub effort. Funding has been provided to four hubs to support local initiatives and projects in Kenya, the Balkans, Latin America, and Ukraine.
Open Web Collective on latest accelerator batch
Mildred Idada, Head of Open Web Collective, had several updates at the NEAR Town Hall, including an announcement for OWC Accelerator’s Batch 4.
“This is going to be our biggest batch yet,” said Idada. “Just like other batches before, we want to see projects from all industries and sectors. So, if you’re focused on DeFi, NFTs, dev tooling—we want to see it all.”
She also noted how every project in the accelerator gets up to $650,000 after Demo Day.
“That means when you join Day 1 of the program you’ll have $150,000,” Idada said. “At the close of Demo Day you’ll get another $500,000. Really, this allows you all to focus and build.”
Panel on NEAR’s growing DAO ecosystem
The March Town Hall also featured a panel on NEAR DAOs, moderated by sports business analyst and ESPN alum Darren Rovell. The panel featured Ben Johnson (Strategy & Commercial, SailGP), Don Ho (Founder, Orange DAO), Rev Miller (Unchain Fund), and Julian Weisser, ConstitutionDAO).
After Rovell’s smooth introduction, SailGP’s Ben Johnson kicked things off with background on how SailGP partnered with NEAR to help create a groundbreaking sports team DAO. Unchain Funds’s Rev Miller talked about creating Unchain Fund DAO using Astro DAO, a NEAR-based DAO launchpad, to create the Unchain Fund DAO for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Next, Julian Weisser explained why Constitution DAO was important in demonstrating what is possible when people assemble around a shared goal.
“This wasn’t about saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to buy a copy of the Constitution, then we’re going to try and flip it 5 years from now, or we’re going to have a token and have the token appreciate in value,” he said. “The reason people were participating in this, including people who had never created a crypto wallet before, is that they wanted to be part of something that had emotional resonance to them. The constitution, like many artifacts, has significant cultural resonance to a lot of people—some positive, some negative.”
“There is also the fact that it’s funny,” he added. “There’s this meme component to it. You combine that with a 7-day deadline. If we had started 90 days out we wouldn’t have had the traction.”
Don Ho, Managing Director at Quantstamp, talked about why the DAO is an important structure to Orange DAO, a crypto collective formed by Y Combinator alums.
“I think DAOs are interesting, specifically in the context of Orange DAO, because it allows the community to actually own the community’s efforts,” Ho said. “What is Orange DAO? It’s the largest collective of builders in web3. To start, we have over 1,200 YC founders who are all part of this DAO, all who want to build in web3—that represents 20% of all YC founders.”
“The craziest thing, though, is the YC community itself doesn’t have an inherent mechanism to capture the value it creates,” he added. “So, at Orange we want to create a community-owned fund and body of things that can promote this advancement of web3.”