A comprehensive solution for intuitive DAO creation: Interview with The Summon Platform’s team
The emergence of Web3 technology offers an opportunity to transform organizational structures toward more collaborative models of governance. Rather than a single individual or small group of people at the top governing an organization, algorithmic protocols can gauge policy sentiment in a given community of participants, serving as an electronic agent to execute consensus decisions. These Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) enable thousands of individuals to work together under a transparent set of guidelines.
The Summon Platform uses the Plutus-Core technology to enable users of any technical level to create their own transparent, on-chain DAOs, and invite others to join by exclusive invitation or permissionless enrollment. The Summon team also offers several valuable enhancements to the generic template available, empowering inexperienced users writing smart contracts to create DAOs of any shape or size, thus facilitating decentralized coordination and governance.
In an interview with Adam Rusch, Ph.D., Summon Association president, Thomas DiMatteo, Summon Labs CEO, Riley Kilgore, Summon Labs CTO, and Matthew Bowen, Esq, Summon Labs’ general counsel, the top officials of The Summon Platform, we discussed the platform’s journey, the emergence of DAOs, the platform’s role in facilitating DAO adoption, and much more.
1. What is the vision behind The Summon Platform?
Thomas DiMatteo, Summon Labs CEO: I think the best way to explain our vision is to quickly review the evolutionary process that created The Summon Platform.
The Summon platform emerged in a way very similar to how ADAO emerged from Cardano. ADAO formed naturally out of a desire to build better systems from first principles and to avoid pitfalls that are inherently removed thanks to the Cardano blockchain.
At first, ADAO was just a small group of people: passionate researchers, academics, and practitioners. A number of us have years of experience doing this research, creating standards on Cardano and other UTXO blockchains.
We started holding general public meetings on Zoom, Discord, and Twitter, and we quickly grew from about eight active and committed members to almost a hundred in the first month. It became clear that this was a lot bigger than just us. We deployed a Plutus contract on-chain and started experimenting with ADAO governance, and that led to us designing a merit-based system to seed this governance out to the people who were bringing value and designing and building these systems.
This work started getting recognized by a lot of passionate and committed development groups, and we partnered with several, such as Liqwid Labs, and built out the foundation of The Summon Platform, which we call Agora. In Cardano, we have on-chain validation code and off-chain computation code. Agora is the on-chain code and contains everything needed to govern a blockchain project, such as an NFT DAO or an investment DAO, all the way to advanced and complex protocols like Liqwid.
The reason this is so important, and why The Summon Platform exists, is because today we see a lot of people referring to voting as DAO governance, but the important part is how the effects of those votes are carried out. The Summon Platform removes the need for a trusted party to carry out these effects. In a DAO created with The Summon Platform, a proposal is submitted with the effects, and upon a successful vote, the effects can be automatically executed. No central authority is needed. While this isn’t the entirety of The Summon Platform’s vision, hopefully, it gives you a strong flavor of our platform’s philosophy and approach.
2. What was your secret to building your dream team?
Adam Rusch, Ph.D., Summon Association president: The Summon Platform has achieved exceptional traction by having four co-founders who each bring a distinctively unique perspective.
As a career academic in information science, I was attracted to the blockchain space and DAOs because I’m fascinated by online communities; how people create organic connections for productive work on a decentralized basis. When ADAO was initially forming, I immediately saw that this was a really special group and wanted to be a part of it myself. I’m honored to be leading our not-for-profit organization, Summon Association.
And then we have Thomas DiMatteo, who has such wide experience in DeFi and how DeFi works on different blockchains, from both commercial and technical perspectives. As such, Tom is the ideal CEO for the project’s commercialization arm, Summon Labs.
Leading the heavy lift of technical architecture and development for The Summon Platform, we have the rockstar Riley Kilgore leading our team of developers as Summon Labs’ CTO. You’d think that the typical 23-year-old developer would still be green, but Riley has built a reputation for technical insight and innovation that rivals late-career developers, and he has an innate drive to help bring out the best in everyone, for the rapid advancement of the project’s technical capabilities.
And last but not least we have Matthew Bowen, who has one of the most interesting legal minds I’ve ever encountered. As a senior attorney who has worked in-house at large banks and fintech startups, Matt studies decentralized systems and communities and proposes new systems for DAOs to navigate the regulatory landscape, which is still in flux in most jurisdictions. Matt’s deep experience in the legal blockchain community is supporting The Summon Platform to build a consistent set of standards for the industry. Having a legal mind in a blockchain product’s founding team is uncommon, and for The Summon Platform’s objectives, having Matt here is extremely enabling.
Riley Kilgore, Summon Labs’ CTO: Beyond the co-founders, I want to say that our approach to forging partnerships is beneficial. Everyone on the founding team is deeply engaged in partnerships, whether technology based like Liqwid and Minswap, or academic, such as Adam’s recent appointment as a Disruption and Innovation Scholar at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business.
3. What role does Summon play in facilitating the transition of organizations from being traditional organizational structures into cooperative models of governance?
Adam Rusch: Obviously, we get a lot of questions in the blockchain community about how The Summon Platform can serve communities, but we’re also seeing wide interest from the general community to see how DAO tools could be transformative. Even colleagues at my university are asking questions about this.
I recently had a colleague in the actuarial sciences program who asked me to help him connect with an expert in blockchain technologies, so I introduced him to our CTO Riley Kilgore. He and Riley hit it off so well that he invited Riley to present his perspectives at a major actuarial research conference at the University of Illinois last week.
Riley Kilgore: Academics, researchers, businesses, and organizations are very interested in exploring the transition from a Web2 world to a Web3 world. Adopting a DAO structure is one key to successful, efficient outcomes in these transitions.
The Summon Platform, along with Plutus core, can leverage the Marlowe language, which is from Cardano but is blockchain-agnostic, to empower non-developers to write smart contracts and have them influenced by the votes that take place within their organization. This is exceptionally impactful.
Matthew Bowen, Esq, Summon Labs’ general counsel: Removing the barrier of entry to smart contracts as a “soup to nuts” governance tool is central to The Summon Platform’s reason for being. Making it seamless for traditional businesses operating in Web2 format to move into a Web3 model of decentralized governance with a product that doesn’t require a deep understanding of blockchain and computer programming. By utilizing The Summon Platform, you don’t have to know anything about blockchain to operate like a DAO.
Ultimately, our vision for The Summon Platform is for a very robust ecosystem of all the tools DAOs will need to function to their greatest potential, such as digital identity, verified credentials, and reputation ranking, all in a zero-knowledge manner.
4. When will we see non-blockchain organizations adopting the DAO format for their governance?
Thomas DiMatteo: I think we’re already starting to see explorations into that. Home-Owner Associations (HOAs) are a great example. The other day we were in a meeting with an HOA board member, as well as a long-term insurance advisor. These community leaders immediately realized how something as simple as a multi-sig wallet has an extraordinary ability to reduce friction because it eliminates issues of human error and greed. Utilizing The Summon Platform, this can be easily deployed into a real-world HOA where all the residents have a voice and the platform carries out their wishes.
Matthew Bowen: Another good example is how traditional legal structures and business models are transitioning into the Web3 era through decentralized DAO-like governance. For instance, there is LexDAO, which is comprised of blockchain attorneys and legal researchers providing Web3 and DAO legal engineering services on the blockchain as a DAO. So, we’re already seeing experimentation in the legal profession of groups starting to organize in this manner.
We believe that’s important for The Summon Platform to gain adoption in the mainstream business community because the private sector wants to conduct business more efficiently and profitably. They want to leverage new technologies like blockchain and smart contracts, but they don’t want to learn a whole new skill set in decentralized computer programming. The Summon Platform makes these Web3 adoptions easy.
5. Could you talk more about new DAO features that will benefit budding startups?
Thomas DiMatteo: I’m approached every day by multiple people in startup mode. With The Summon Platform, you’ll be able to do things like deploy a DAO with one click, mint or generate your governance token, and parametrize your smart contracts. This is going to make it easy for non-developers and development teams from other ecosystems to deploy their DAOs. This allows them to focus on the core protocols they’re building and leverage The Summon Platform for their governance infrastructure.
Riley Kilgore: I can give a sneak peek. The Summon Platform is building its proprietary and open-source yield-bearing mechanisms to allow for groups to earn sustainable, transparent, and high yields directly through the platform.
Adam Rusch: We’re building the tools that we want to use ourselves. We are designing these from a first principles framework because we are long-time blockchain users ourselves. We know what the Cardano blockchain has to offer, and we know where it’s still lacking. We also have a very good idea of what’s on other blockchains and what other blockchains are lacking.
So, we’re excited to release the most advanced DAO operating system possible on Cardano, as well as looking towards the future when we expand and bring this technology to other chains, which is a future plan for our platform.
6. Can you tell us more about how simplifying the creation of smart contract-based DAOs help organizations be more efficient?
Adam Rusch: Currently most DAOs have separate systems for gauging user sentiment and executing votes. On Ethereum, you see this a lot because it’s so expensive to do transactions. On Cardano, it’s only recently that smart contracts became enabled, and we’re the group that’s at the forefront of building the tools that will enable this.
With DAOs, oftentimes you’ll have what’s called a snapshot vote where you gauge the sentiment of your membership, but then you must have individuals like governors or managers of the DAO who carry out the request of the membership, who execute that transaction because they have the keys for the multi-sig that controls all the DAO’s funds.
With The Summon Platform, no managers or governors are needed. This is a trustless system, which makes Summon much more secure. It’s a full governance portal, operating in near real-time where people will be able to put in a proposal for the DAOs that they are members of. They’ll be able to garner support from others, and if they gather enough support, the effect that they have written into their proposal will be carried out by the system. Everyone who’s read or voted on the proposal knows exactly what is going to happen. It’s completely transparent. Nobody has to worry that there is some group of individuals who are tasked with carrying out the action which may decide they don’t want to or to do something else.
Matthew Bowen: The Summon Platform, using sophisticated and simple smart contracts to leverage the DAO model will make business more efficient. They will achieve economies of scale that would not be achievable by a single actor alone. And in addition, it also allows frictionless access to markets globally via the Cardano blockchain.
7. Could you talk more about the platform’s new Community Token Distribution initiative and Initial Stake Pool Offering?
Riley Kilgore: We’re excited to have the ISPO as a way for the community members to delegate their ADA stake to support this project. The ISPO is a very Cardano-specific mechanism because what people can do is delegate their block-producing power to a stake pool operator, and then if they agree to it, the stake pool operator can keep all of the block rewards that would normally go to the delegators. Instead of the delegators receiving rewards for the blocks that are produced, the ISPO will send them tokens from the project – in our case, $SUMMON.
The best part is that the users’ funds are never at risk because the stake pool does not take custody of the funds. The funds stay in the wallet of the staker and are always completely liquid. One of the ADAO members, Rhys Morgan (aka StoicPool), runs the stake pool for us and is doing a great job making sure the infrastructure is in place so that we are ready to produce blocks as they are assigned to us by the network.
We started our stake pool on Wednesday, August 3rd, and we came very close to a million ADA delegated stake on day one. The next day, Thursday, August 4th, we crossed the 1 million ADA mark of stake delegated to the ADAO pool (the stake pool hosting The Summon Platform ISPO). That was exciting because, at 1.5 million, we should start consistently minting blocks and receiving rewards that will help to fund this project. [Editor’s Note: As of Monday, August 8, 2022, the Summon ISPO ADAO stake pool had 1.4 million ADA delegated.]
Thomas DiMatteo: We’ve had an amazing, fast turnout for our ISPO. Cardano, thanks to its novel ouroboros proof of stake mechanism, allows ADA holders to passively support the project. The way ISPOs work is, that any ADA holder can stake their ADA to a network stake pool. Stake pools secure the Cardano network, validate blocks and make sure the blockchain is running. While a regular stake pool has block rewards distributed among all the delegators, an ISPO stake pool sends all the block rewards to the project wallet.
As Riley said, unlike most other proof of stake blockchains, the coins you stake never leave your wallet. They’re always liquid. There’s no lockup. And there’s no slashing, which is usually the norm for proof of stake blockchains. You just get fewer rewards if you remove funds from the wallet delegated to that pool.
So yeah, we’ve been just extremely grateful, overwhelmed, that supporters would give us their block rewards in exchange for SUMMON tokens. Exceeding 1 million ADA delegated to the pool in less than 48 hours is just unbelievable. We’re really grateful for that.
And you know the real community driver behind this project is our early access “Community Token Distribution” event. We wanted to create a whitelist event that acknowledged and gave back to the Cardano community, so we designed this early access event for distributing the SUMMON utility token.
Anybody who holds one token from several highly-supported community projects will be able to access the SUMMON community token distribution event on day one. They’ll be the first to have access to the SUMMON token. And we think it’s important that these real Cardano community members have priority because they have been the ones supporting us since day one. And that’s really, like I said, the ethos of building for Cardano.
Riley Kilgore: We’re using a smart contract system for the SUMMON token distribution, as opposed to using a more traditional “custodial” backend that we see employed for token distribution systems today. This innovation is just one example of The Summon Platform walking our talk, and we plan to open source this system for developers, as well as offer it directly on our platform for any project to utilize. We’re calling this innovative system PubSale. And shout out to lead developer Dominik Zachar, better known as “dzcodes”, who is a contributor to more than 40 repos in the ADAO GitHub, as well as a ton of other Cardano and passion projects. DZ is the brain behind designing this non-custodial system. And following the SUMMON token distribution event, we’re excited to open source it. And, not only that but make it easy for anyone to deploy their own non-custodial sale through The Summon Platform.
8. What lies ahead on Summon Platform’s roadmap? Talk to us about it.
Thomas DiMatteo: From the platform success perspective, our focus is on making sure that we raise awareness of what The Summon Platform offers. We’re placing a lot of focus on consulting, advising, and meeting with other communities who are designing DAOs, who are already working in this DAO-like way to truly understand what it will look like when their human actions are transmitted into blockchain code. My biggest focus lately is learning what these other projects are coming up against, some of the hurdles they’re having, and how The Summon Platform can solve those problems.
Adam Rusch: Very recently we’ve opened the Summon Discord to the public, and it has been awesome to see people flooding in. They’re really excited about being part of the ISPO and getting to be part of the community token distribution. And we’re just as excited to have them as part of the Summon network and the family. So I think that we’re going to see the Summon community grow very quickly.
We’re also grateful for all the traction the platform has achieved across the media. Only yesterday, Thomas was interviewed by Big Pey, one of the great YouTubers in the Cardano community. It was a fantastic interview and we just really loved seeing the two of them and how well they meshed and talked about everything that’s happening at Summon. So if you haven’t had a chance to see that Big Pey interview, I highly suggest you check that out.
Matthew Bowen: From the legal and regulatory perspective, we’ll continue to see traction as well. On behalf of The Summon Platform, I’ve been invited to speak at the Emergent Africa Forum hosted by the Africa Chamber of Digital Commerce, on the topic of the impact emerging blockchain technologies will have on economies in Africa. I’ll be speaking alongside several foreign ministers, including Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ibrahim Pantami, who is leading that country’s quite extraordinary digital transformation.
Adam Rusch: In October, The Summon Platform team will be going to the Rare Bloom conference in Denver, Colorado. It’s an important Cardano community convention and we’ll be setting up a DAO learning center. People can get hands-on education about how to use DAO tools and the philosophy behind decentralized governance and coordination. There might also be some exciting innovations that we have not yet announced, so be sure to stop by and say hello.
Learn more about The Summon Platform:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Summon.Platform and an
Discord: https://discord.gg/EkHDSvjggb (Discord links expire after one week, so reach out to Summon on Twitter if users need a fresh link to join).
Disclaimer: This is a paid post and should not be treated as news/advice.