We set out to raise 250 ETH to produce a documentary movie to mobilize people for the climate emergency but we ended up only raising 30 ETH, what happened? This is the story of our first crowdfunding using crypto on mirror.xyz.
In one of our calls back in July 2021, Frederic Laloux shared that he had a hard time raising money for his documentary series "The Week". It’s a 3 episode series to process - rather than avoid - the intense emotions that arise when we confront the topic of the climate emergency head on. It offers a different playbook to activate citizens and inspire them to do something in their community. He had already raised $1.2M by then but he needed at least another $1M.
Just a few weeks before, the project of a documentary movie about Ethereum “The Infinite Garden”, successfully raised $2M in 2 days:
So I suggested to Fred: why not raising funds using crypto?
We put a small team together with Primavera De Filippi and we started weekly calls on Thursdays to work on this project.
While we were both not really new to crypto (Primavera got me in The DAO back in 2016), it was the first time we tried fundraising in crypto. Our idea was to keep it simple and copy the recipe of the Infinite Garden. If they were able to raise $2M in 2 days, surely we would be able to raise $1M (or not).
We thought that NFTs were really important. Pplpleasr did some great ones for the Infinite Garden. We wanted to have something nice that people would be proud to showcase in their NFT collection. We tried multiple artists on Fiverr but we weren’t excited about the results. Primavera then thought of Iannis (Tautologos Ταυτολόγος). We first tried to do a 3D animation with multiple scenes to walk through the rewildening process of The Week, but we totally underestimated the time it would take to produce such artwork. After weeks, we decided to simplify to one animated shot that would represent the movie poster. It still took 2 months to finally have something ready but we were really happy with the end result:
But of course, this is not only about the NFTs. Turns out it’s very different to raise money for a movie about Ethereum in July than for a movie about the climate emergency in December…
First the gas fees, the cost to make a donation, skyrocketed. Back in July, the average gas price was 30 gwei and ETH was at $2k. December 4th, it was 5x that and ETH was at $4.2k. Which basically defeats the purpose on any transactions lower than 1 ETH. Compare this first transaction for the Infinite Garden crowdfunding (gas price 55 gwei ~ $22) and the first one for The Week (114 gwei ~ $99).
Only 5% committed before launch
It would be too easy to only put the blame on the gas fees. It’s a well known advice in any crowdfunding campaign that we should get at least 20-30% committed before going live. We knew that, so how come we missed it?
We didn’t really know how to reach out to people. It’s not easy to ask for money in our culture (in Belgium it is frowned upon to ask for money, you are expected to ask the government for subsidies). We had great conversations with many people in the weeks before the campaign, but we never asked the hard question: "Would you donate money for this? Can we count on you?".
So we thought: maybe we should already set up the mirror crowdfunding page and just not share it publicly. That way, when we reach out to people, we can already give them a page where they can donate.
That’s what we did on November 18th. Unfortunately Mirror requires us to set a deadline for the podium when we publish the page. So we put 500 hours, which would be December 10th. We thought this would give us enough time.
But one week before, we only had 5% committed (12.8 ETH). What to do? Cancel or go for it? We decided to go for it, arguing that even if we fail, any amount would help the production of the movie. To be honest, we also thought that Fred’s reputation in the DAO space would help get the support we need.
To capitalize on that, we organized a Twitter Space with him and Anna-Marie Swan from Popcorn DAO. It was the very first Twitter Space we did and we loved it. You can find the summary here on YouTube or on Soundcloud, or here is a twitter thread about it.
We covered a lot of ground: The Week, what are DAOs, how they can help coordinate a global movement for climate, how blockchain can be used not only for finance but also for doing good, how can we free ourselves from old hierarchies without falling into the naive optimism that we can avoid the human messiness, and how voting is a terrible mechanism for decision making. Go listen to it, it’s worth the time.
While it helped get more visibility for the crowdfunding and get a couple of more donations, it wasn’t enough. What we really needed to get us closer to our goal is the support of some whales. But we weren’t able to reach out to them, or at least not in the right way.
How we should have done it
If we had to do it again, here is what we would do:
- Before creating a mirror page and commissioning a digital artist, we would reach out to the people at the intersection of crypto and (in this case) climate and gauge their appetite for running such crowdfunding. Because without their commitment for the first 30%, it cannot possibly work.
- We would use another platform on Polygon or zkSync (hopefully mirror will work with those L2 or side chains in the near future) because gas fees totally defeat the purpose of such crowdfunding.
- We would reach out ahead of time to DAOs in the space (e.g. KlimaDAO) and offer AMA sessions or co-organize Twitter Spaces together. It’s all about starting with the community, not the product (or in this case, the crowdfunding).
- We would also reach out to mClub that is helping creators with their fundraising on mirror (we did but way too late in the process).
(ain’t funny how we are always smarter after?)
Is crowdfunding the right model for Web3?
Here is another feedback we got: "I got excited because the actual project and people look good. I expected basically a simple crowdfunding model. So then adding potentially 2x gas fees is really off putting. Then I learn its not even a conditional commitment model like kickstarter so I'm left a bit clueless about what the target is for, what the tokens are for, feels complicated and unclear and too hard for me to get so learning about it doesn't make it to the top of my over full todo list.”
All of this got me thinking. Aren’t we making the mistake of copying the old web2 mechanism of crowdfunding to web3, the way we used to copy paste the frontpage of the newspaper to web1?
It’s of course natural to do that, we first apply what we know to a new medium. It’s a way to learn. But there is of course more to it. And it’s only by doing more experiments that we will learn as a community new and better ways of doing things. It is great to see the Mirror community continuously reflecting on this and running different experiments. Let’s continue to explore, try, fail, then try again.
Crowdfunding worked for the Infinite Garden because it’s literally a project about Ethereum. It will showcase people who played a big role (and who therefore have a lot of ETH and influence in the community). In our case, it’s a philanthropic project. It’s about showcasing other people that are not in the crypto community but who can help us open our eyes to the reality of the climate emergency. Not the same appeal.
In the end, while we have some regrets, we are grateful for the experience and all the new connections and friendships that we made along the way. It was an amazing learning experience and while we weren’t able to reach the goal, $120k is not an insignificant amount to help the production of the movie. So thank you all who did participate. We (and the blockchain) will remember that you were there at the very beginning of this. If you have $THEWEEK tokens, you can jump into the discord and already access some exclusive shots. We will share more as the production team makes progress.
We will keep the mirror crowdfunding open till the end of the year. You can still collect one of those limited edition NFTs.
Fred is up to do more AMA on Teal Organizations and on THE WEEK in various DAOs as long as it can help raise funds for the production of the documentary series. If you are interested in organizing such AMA in your DAO, please reach out.
Leen is up to organize Deep Democracy trainings for DAOs also as a way to raise more funds.
We will look into creating a $THEWEEK token on L2 or a side chain to offer a cheaper way for people to join. If you can help us with that, please join our discord: https://discord.theweekdao.earth
Finally, we also invite you to organize a watch party of the prototype of The Week. It’s 3 episodes of 60 minutes followed by a 30 minutes conversation. It’s a great shared experience and bonding exercise to do with fellow members of your DAO. Just join our discord and let’s chat to figure out the details.
I’m still convinced more than ever that this is a great opportunity for the crypto community to take a front seat at the creation of a new decentralized movement for the climate. We need this. The house is on fire and our current coordination mechanism made of Nation States meeting at the COP26 is unable put down that fire. At the speed of one iteration per year, we are doomed for failure. If only we had another way to coordinate at the global level…
I believe that a well made documentary series, distributed in a decentralized way, coordinated by a DAO, could achieve to mobilize people beyond what we have been able to do today.
It will not only help change the narrative around crypto, but it will also bring millions of people to the web3 community. Millions who want to work on solving the climate emergency and who, to this day, have stayed away from crypto.
Denis Nazarov & @patrickxrivera (mirror.xyz) Linda Xie, (@EthereumFilm) Scott Moore (@gitcoin) Bryan Petes (@BanklessDAO) Donnie Benjamin (Sobol) David Phelps (@ecodao) Josh Cornelius (@seedclub) Richard Bartlett Thoralf Gutierrez (@all4climateDAO) Leen Schelfhout (@all4climateDAO) Duc Da Hong Phil H Anna-Marie Swan (@popcornDAO)
for their precious time and advice 🙏
And thank you to the first 38 supporters on the mirror crowdfund (momus.eth, eberle.eth, @playermetaverse, zakku.eth, @thegrifft, @metahands, @thorgutierrez, @offyvn, mariew.eth, @phil_h, kris.eth, @regencryptos, @nanhai2022, @acehu329, @NancySung8, @kumsluna, @black19921984, jeffemmett.eth, synnyleen.eth, @lmmests, @honeycashmoney)