Dan Roberts on Crypto

Posted on Oct 05, 2023Read on Mirror.xyz

Our founder fellows graduate

For the last three months, everyone at Variant had the pleasure of working closely with a special group of early-stage crypto founders as part of our first ever Variant Founder Fellowship (VFF). We wrapped the program in September with two incredible Demo Days, and we’re putting the spotlight on our ‘graduates’ in this issue.

Read on to learn more about the fellowship, meet the fellows and their exciting projects, hear some of the wisdom they received from our stacked speaker lineup, and see the special graduation NFT by artist Ix Shells.

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Dan Roberts, Editor in Chief

Meet our first VFF cohort

Li JinMedha KothariAlli Pope

Variant is always looking for ways to catalyze more innovation and exploration in crypto at the early stages.

While there are many startup accelerator programs out there, we felt early-stage web3 founders needed a tailored curriculum that deals with topics unique to them, including incentive design, community building, and protocol architecture.

Thus, the Variant Founder Fellowship (VFF) was born: a 12-week, cohort-based educational program for early-stage founders in crypto.

From nearly 400 applications, we welcomed just 24 projects. These founders spent the summer putting their business plans through the paces, from crafting go-to-market strategies to mapping out back-end infrastructure.

Our extensive Variant Network meant the fellows had access to exclusive guest lectures and firesides from some of the top players in the space: Uniswap founder Hayden Adams went in-depth about building at the product and protocol levels; former Polygon president Ryan Wyatt spoke candidly about business development tactics; former Eventbrite chief product officer Casey Winters unpacked best practices from web2 growth and onboarding; and half a dozen prominent founders dove into emerging infrastructure considerations.

VFF fellows brainstormed with each other, the Variant investment team, and our portfolio founders, receiving feedback that helped them reevaluate and strengthen their projects.

The experience culminated in our first-ever VFF Demo Days on September 6 and 7. Below, you can watch each project’s demo and learn more about what they’re building.

If you’re interested in applying to join our next VFF cohort, stay updated here.

Congrats again to our 2023 fellows! 📣 Roll call: Capsule (Stephanie CarrollFrankie Li); Chroma (Jack LongarzoTim van ScherpenzeelAaron Xie); Clave (Doğan Alpaslan); Dawn (Isaac RodriguezTom Waite); Digito (Amhed Herrera); Doormat (Trevor Aron); Forum (Peter FergusonJames McComish); Future Primitive (Benny Giang); Hashcurve (Jack KimKristof LommersBoris SkidanViktor Smits); Heimdall Labs (Nikhil RaghuveeraJesse Sawa); Mezzanine (Graham Novak); Neynar (Rish MukherjiManan Patel); Nosh (Gleidson GouveiaMike Perhats); Pathfinder (Cody BornIsaac Wooden); Ponder (Kevin Koste); Poolshark (alphakΞY); Probably Something (Natalie MeurerBeth Nakamura); Rocko (Jason CampThomas Harrison); Seam (Katy AtherholtNick Confrey); Shield (Emmanuel UdotongIsaiah Udotong); Studio X (Pooja Nagpal); Troops (Nico GallardoKevin Tjiam); Turbo (Josiah Savary).

Watch this playlist of all their Demo Day presentations:


And check out the cryptonative graduation gift our fellows received: this custom NFT by the artist Ix Shells.

A special Q&A with the artist is coming soon here on our Mirror.


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Actionable advice from our VFF speaker sessions

Uniswap Founder Hayden Adams: Product vs Protocol

Uniswap founder Hayden Adams on why protocol builders should tackle UI themselves, when to add new features, and how to release an “anti-hype” project.

Applying Lessons from Web2 to Unlock Web3 Product Growth: Casey Winters

Pinterest, Grubhub, and Eventbrite alum Casey Winters discusses product-market fit, growth loops, and onboarding—and how to apply them in web3.

What Brand Marketing Can and Can’t Do in Web3: Ryan Wyatt

Former Polygon Labs President Ryan Wyatt speaks candidly about the advantages and pitfalls of brand marketing partnerships in web3.

Rethinking Decentralized Trust: EigenLayer’s Sreeram Kannan

EigenLayer's Sreeram Kannan talks about creating infrastructure around decentralized trust, what it takes to hyperscale, and why new L1s don’t solve every problem.

Denis Nazarov Holds Up a Mirror to Onchain Brands

Mirror CEO Denis Nazarov explains how web3 brands can use NFTs to turn passive audiences into active communities.

Shane Mac Has a Message to Deliver (via Your Blockchain Wallet)

XMTP co-founder Shane Mac shares his vision for the web3 wallet as a messaging hub.

Recruiting and Hiring for Early-Stage Web3 Startups: OpenSea’s Calder Zwerling

OpenSea's Calder Zwerling shares how to take your recruiting and hiring process from stressful to strategic.

Case Studies in Psychological Ownership: Li Jin

Variant's Li Jin argues that web3 apps must make their earliest users feel like owners—not just tokenholders.

Watch more speaker sessions here.

Thinking in public

We welcome your input and replies on Twitter.

Jesse is pondering how protocols can share revenue with users:


Alana is thinking aloud about the Nouns fork and potential challenges:


Mason is categorizing the creator economy:


Thanks for reading and subscribing, and see you next issue.

Disclaimer: This post is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investment and should not be used in the evaluation of the merits of making any investment decision. It should not be relied upon for accounting, legal or tax advice or investment recommendations. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by Variant. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, Variant has not independently verified such information. Variant makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. This post reflects the current opinions of the authors and is not made on behalf of Variant or its Clients and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Variant, its General Partners, its affiliates, advisors or individuals associated with Variant. The opinions reflected herein are subject to change without being updated.