Baking Bad Founder: How My Team Won Development Grant From Tezos Foundation
In recent years, the blockchain industry has gained increased popularity among developers, with some of them involved in the work on already existing ecosystems. Among a great number of development teams, just a few can claim financial independence, while others start wondering how to attract financial resources.
Several years ago, startups could launch an initial coin offering and get financial support through crowdfunding, but today things have rolled back to the classic venture investment model. As an alternative to this, developers can also take an opportunity of receiving a grant for the building and improvement of an ecosystem.
As the founder of Baking Bad—a startup that provides audit and rating of Tezos (XTZ) bakers, as well as application programming interface (API) for access to public bakers data,—I’d like to share my team’s experience of getting a grant from the Tezos Foundation.
The Idea Behind Baking Bad
In the Tezos ecosystem, any person, who owns 8,000 XTZ and more (around $20,450 at press time), can become a validator. This is possible thanks to a special type of consensus algorithm dubbed Liquid Proof-of-Stake (LPoS).
Validators, or so-called bakers, run a Tezos node and can take delegations from regular users, offering them their own conditions of payment. The distribution of payments by bakers is not an on-chain process, they should do it manually off-chain. This has created a competitive market among delegation services.
Baking Bad’s delegation service launched in the summer of 2018. We decided to develop a universal tool for the audit of Tezos bakers as, by that time, the industry had witnessed numerous cases when bakers appeared to be a scam and simply did not produce payments to their delegators.
The First Application for a Grant
Initially, we didn’t have a complete idea of how to win a grant from the Tezos Foundation. There were very few examples of the projects who received funds, but no details about their background and the application process, while such kind of information could come in very handy for new applicants.
We also didn’t know within what limits to ask for the funding as the Foundation did not provide any particular figures per project, at the time. As such, our team made an effort to establish a clear vision of our project and provide the Foundation with a detailed description of what we were going to do, what time it could take, and what amount of funds we potentially needed based on the aforementioned criteria.
As our project evaluation came to an end, it turned out to be a considerable six-digit sum. After examining previous grantees, which had nothing but an idea, we decided that our chances to be approved were greater as we could propose an operational product.
It was February 2019, when we applied for a grant, followed by the three subsequent months of a tense expectation for a response from the Foundation. During that period, we could check what projects already received funding, which caused our deep doubts about appearing on the list as well.
The Crucial Moment
Our team continued to move forward on the improvement of our project, despite all the concerns, considering that the Tezos ecosystem was at an early stage of development, at the time.
On GitHub, we found the beginnings of a Python library published by Tezos’s founder, Arthur Breitman. We picked up on his progress and filed another grant application in April 2019.
What dramatically changed the grant application system is TQ Tezos, a blockchain technology firm advancing the Tezos project, which subsequently began supporting the grant application processing.
The firm allowed developers to file applications every three months, initially defining the maximum grant amount up to $50,000. The company also specified for which kind of projects the Tezos Foundation aimed to allocate funds.
That made the application process much easier. Moreover, the Foundation releases reports on the ecosystem development on its web site or Twitter account on a weekly basis.
Eventually, the Foundation approved our second application, although it rejected the first one. That was the moment when we began the development of developer tools.
Specific Features of Grants
Awarding project grants doesn’t consider purchasing a share in a company or project or other investment components. The Tezos Foundation acts solely for the development of the Tezos ecosystem.
However, I think that the Foundation reserves the right for any individual agreements with awarded projects. The important point here is that most, or maybe even all, of the projects who win grants, are open source. This is one of the requirements set by the Foundation as it helps greatly in the ecosystem development.
The agreement between an awarded project and the Foundation specifies the terms of the project development and the funds appropriation schedule. We had no projects lasting longer than six months.
Firstly, we provided detailed information about what we were able to accomplish during that period, and then submitted continuation applications. So if you decide to apply, try to clearly identify the tasks for a period of no longer than 3 to 6 months. This would apparently increase the likelihood of the application approval as it makes it easier for the Foundation to evaluate the work and make the outcome more predictable.
When the work is done, the Foundation’s staff examines teams’ progress reports, makes comments, and asks to make changes if needed. After reviewing the progress in meeting the agreed benchmarks, the Foundation makes payment of the last tranche.
This motivates teams to stay in the ecosystem and continue to develop their projects, as well as apply and receive new grants for new projects.
Due to the specific nature of our projects, which are mainly focused on developers, and our experience, we did everything on our own, without resorting to any kind of support like informational or technical.
Baking Bad’s Grants Timeline
Baking Bad’s grants timeline
Better Call Dev 2 Hub is a platform for Tezos smart contracts developers similar to GitHub, while Michelson kernel is a simple interactive programming environment in the native language of the Tezos virtual machine, and Atomex STO Gate is a collection of flexible program modules to provide various atomic swap implementations for digital securities and other Tezos token standards.
So, Is There a Catch?
Our efforts towards this objective have come a long way—from the first encounter with Tezos to becoming one of the most important teams in the ecosystem. So what is the secret, and is there a recipe for receiving a grant?
I’d say it is a combination of factors like the team’s technical background, the existence of the project’s prototype, and its relevance based on the feedback from the community. To achieve this, you should be an active member of the community and set forth your funding expectations wisely. And don’t forget that the project should be open-sourced.
It’s worth noting that in addition to technical fields, teams can also apply for conducting local events, training, meetings, and hackathons, among other things. Yes, they have grants for this, too.
The number of teams applying for grants is massive, despite the relative youth of the ecosystem, and this number continues to grow. Therefore, before applying for a grant, it is essential to make sure there are no other similar projects pending or already existing. If you can do something better than others, it is not a fact that this will be a significant argument when it comes to the application approval.
So, if you are still looking for your place in the blockchain world, the ecosystem of Tezos is very friendly and will definitely welcome you with open arms!
Written by Vladimir Zarechnev, founder of Baking Bad
Edited by Ana Alexandre
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