Decentralized Futures: Moondance Labs - Business Development for Polkadot

Moondance Labs - one of the core contributors of Tanssi Network, presents a proposal to lead Polkadot’s business development efforts, with the overarching goal to accelerate the adoption of Polkadot through strategic expansion initiatives including deployment of new parachains and smart contract based applications.

The proposal outlines a multifaceted approach to address key challenges facing the Polkadot ecosystem, led by Moondance Labs’ dedicated Business Development (BD) team. This team will replicate the successful growth strategy executed in Tanssi and spearhead efforts to engage with developers worldwide, introducing them to the features and benefits of Polkadot while gathering valuable market intelligence.

Central to Moondance Labs’ strategy is a proposed referral and grants program to attract inbound leads to the ecosystem, which Moondance Labs will then vet before presenting it a committee of polkadot contributors.The formation of the ecosystem grants Assessment Committee will be composed of esteemed long-term contributors to the Polkadot ecosystem.

Key achievements to date underscore Moondance Labs’ capabilities and commitment to the Polkadot ecosystem. With over 360 high-quality leads acquired since March 2023 and over 500 appchains deployed to the Tanssi Testnet, the team has demonstrated its effectiveness in attracting and supporting project teams. Moreover, collaborative working relationships with other parachain ecosystems such as Moonbeam, Phala, Ajuna, Acala, Kilt, and others, further reinforce Moondance Labs’ role as a catalyst for Polkadot’s ecosystem growth.

Looking ahead, Moondance Labs seeks funding from the Decentralised Futures Programme for its initial operations. Through these efforts, Moondance Labs aims to play a pivotal role in advancing Polkadot’s evolution as a leading blockchain ecosystem.

Problem Statement

A tremendous amount of time and resources have been invested by Parity and Web3 Foundation in the last years to promote and develop Polkadot’s ecosystem. After the decentralization strategy was executed, Parity’s Business Development team was let go and currently there is no one in charge of managing all the deal flow generated by this investment made over many years.

A significant consideration within the context of decentralization is that projects interested in developing on Polkadot, either in the process of negotiations or with agreements already finalized by the Parity Business Development (BD) team, now find themselves without a dedicated business development team to turn to for inquiries, support, or problem resolution.

In addition, Polkadot’s Agile Coretime is set to be a revolutionary technology for the crypto industry, and it will be a strategically important component of Polkadot’s transition to Polkadot 2.0. This novel technology is expected to bring the following major benefits to the Polkadot ecosystem:

  1. Efficient blockspace resource management
  2. Substantial reduction of entry barrier to build on Polkadot
  3. Transition from a chain-centric to an application-centric ecosystem

Despite various undeniable technical advancements, a pressing challenge still persists: there is a void in Polkadot’s current business development workflow to effectively communicate Polkadot 2.0’s potential in accelerating web3 project development and creating the appropriate initiatives to accelerate adoption of its technology. Although various marketing efforts have been made in the context of Agile Coretime, tailored and in-person business development engagement is also crucial to articulate on each individual project case:

  1. How the features of Agile Coretime would translate to tangible development benefits, and
  2. What ecosystem projects/toolings that have been built by the community could be leveraged to take advantage of these new technical benefits.

Furthermore, ever since Parity has sunset its go-to-market functions in Q4 2023, many business leads that were in its original business development pipeline, as well as new leads to the Polkadot ecosystem, have been left largely unattended.

For all the reasons stated above, there is currently an immediate need to set up a systematic structure to continue on Polkadot’s BD efforts.

Proposed Solution

Moondance Labs proposes to replicate the successful BD strategy executed in Tanssi and Moonbeam to lead Polkadot’s ecosystem growth. Specifically, the team will aim to create and manage the following lead generation channels:

  1. Cold Outreach via a Referral Program

Cold outreach will always be a valid channel to source new teams. However, if done alone, uncoupled with complementary initiatives it can be very time consuming without yielding proportionate results to that time spent. We suggest creating and managing a referral program through which anyone who is part of the Polkadot ecosystem, or even outside, can contribute to. The concept is simple - bring leads to the top of the funnel so that the Moondance Labs BD team can process and look to close them. The key question becomes how do you qualify for a payout - we recommend that if the lead ends up meeting a key milestone such as deploying on mainnet, getting a grant, or joining the Substrate builders program, the person bringing the referral gets paid. In other words, the referral is only paid out if that lead ends in a positive outcome for the ecosystem. A referral program is a sustainable way to outsource cold outreach and to manage limited BD resources in a capital efficient way.

  1. Distribution Channels

Part of Tanssi’s successful growth strategy relies on creating powerful distribution channels. In Tanssi, we partnered with software houses, blockchain integrators, universities, investor’s network and venture builders in order to access very early stage deal flow and attract them to the ecosystem. The concept behind distribution channels is actually simple:

Since Tanssi is one limited team, what if instead of chasing teams individually, we build relationships with companies that can bring not one, but many projects. By cutting such deals, we multiply our sales force and, therefore, our penetration in the market.

a. Software houses and Integrators: these companies are constantly approached by web2 companies or entrepreneurs with business ideas and they are the ones advising on the tech stack to be used on each project. This is why it is very strategic to create and maintain partnerships with these companies, we want them to choose Polkadot to build all these projects.

b. Universities: every semester dozens of master and undergrad thesis are produced. Many of these thesis may turn out to be projects/businesses. By creating good relationships with key professors and student associations, it is possible to access these business ideas and lead them to be developed in the Polkadot ecosystem at a relatively low cost of acquisition. Tanssi has already established relationships with universities in the US, Brazil and China, and has been very successful in this strategy. If this proposal gets approved, Moondance Labs BD team will replicate and amplify it for the broader Polkadot ecosystem.

c. Investor’s Network: investors are heavily incentivized to cross reference their portfolio companies and explore synergies with them. Tanssi has a comprehensive network of VCs (investors and not investors in Tanssi) and we are constantly asking for warm intros to other portfolio companies of our network. Many leads have been created by those intros. On the other hand, Moondancelab’s BD team can also leverage this network to get teams introduced to potential investors, which adds another layer of value for both investors (who are accessing deal flow) and projects (who are looking for funding). This approach is also part of the team’s broader strategy for the Polkadot ecosystem.

d. Venture Builders: venture building studios usually get access to a big deal flow of super early stage projects that, at some point, should also decide the technology stack/blockchain ecosystem they will use. Some of these projects even ask for their advisory to choose the blockchain where they will build on. By maintaining close relationships with these studios, Moondance Labs BD team can capture part of this deal flow too.

e. Although all these channels are showing to be very effective for deal sourcing, there is much more blockchain infrastructure in the market than blockchain projects. This is why subsidies may play a key role for closing deals, especially in the case of higher quality teams, which leads us to the next item.

  1. Grants Program / Ecosystem Pioneer Program

We believe having a public facing grants program focused on bringing teams into the ecosystem is essential to accelerate adoption for the ecosystem. In addition to the grants program that is live via the W3F (that is oriented towards public tooling for the ecosystem), this consists in creating a formal program to get high quality teams to deploy on Polkadot. More importantly, this is one of the most effective channels to create inbound leads which require less time and energy than cold outreach.

We recommend creating a grants committee for the program that could be composed of key ecosystem agents from the ecosystem such as the Web3 Foundation, Parity and other contributors to the ecosystem.

Moondance Labs would commit to filtering all applications and only involve the committee once the teams have gone through several filters, along with creating weekly/monthly reports summarizing the funnel stats, verticals and other key stats about the program.

Operational Processes
The proposed procedures on Moondance Labs BD team will operate are listed as follows:

  1. Deal Flow Management:

Moondance Labs BD team will take over all the Parity’s pipeline that is currently unassisted. This means the team will not only be the point of contact between the already existing leads and Polkadot’s broader community, but also they will be in charge to keep developing leads and closing deals. This will entail either directing teams to deploy a chain of their own or deploying on existing parachains where it makes sense.

  1. First point of contact:

BD members will serve as the primary contact point for leads obtained through outreach activities and inbound inquiries. They will endeavor to gather information regarding the project’s business models, development stage, and support requirements. Additionally, the BD team will provide detailed explanations and support to direct leads to ecosystem projects and parachains teams as needed.

  1. Due Diligence:

For leads expressing interest in the Polkadot ecosystem, their applications will undergo thorough review and assessment by the Assessment Committee. Comprising long-term contributors to the Polkadot ecosystem, the Committee will evaluate projects based on criteria such as the team’s expertise, project innovation, maturity, relevance to Polkadot 2.0, and commercial viability. Proposed members of the Assessment Committee will be listed below.

  1. Resource Allocation:

Upon approval of an application, BD team members will be responsible for coordinating resource allocation, including introductions to appropriate marketing channels such as Distractive, technical resources such as the Developer Relationship team, and ecosystem development support such as introductions to other teams in the ecosystem and investors.

  1. Ongoing Engagement:

BD members will maintain regular communication with leads in the ecosystem to ensure ongoing engagement and support.

Future Plans

Our initial funding for the first year’s operations will come from the Decentralised Futures Programme. As we establish a strong track record, we plan to secure additional funding from the Polkadot Treasury.

The ongoing support of the Polkadot community will be essential for the sustained success of the Moondance Labs BD team in its ecosystem development endeavors. To ensure the long-term sustainability of this initiative, our goal is to generate gas fees for the treasury through Moondance Labs’ efforts that exceed the grants received by the team.

Moondance Labs Business Development Track record

Moondance Labs has demonstrated a robust track record in business development, with a notable focus on enhancing the developer experience and lowering entry barriers for teams entering the Polkadot ecosystem. Many of the core members of Moondance Labs began their experience with building Moonbeam which ultimately became the most active parachain on Polkadot in terms of unique monthly addresses, amount of projects deployed to it, and TVL. Our expertise is also exemplified by the ongoing development of Tanssi, an appchain infrastructure protocol leveraging the Polkadot SDK.

The team commenced its growth efforts for Tanssi in March 2023, aiming to attract more developers to the platform. In the realm of business development, the team has achieved the following milestones:

  • As of the end of March 2024, the team has accumulated over 360 high-quality leads since March 2023, with 233 being appchain deals, and approximately 65% representing projects new to Polkadot.
  • Witnessed the deployment of around 500+ appchains since the launch of the testnet in September 2023, encompassing deployments by project teams and curious individual developers.
  • Formally onboarded more than 80 individual project teams as appchain projects within the Polkadot ecosystem, all of which demonstrate significant potential to become active users of Polkadot’s forthcoming Agile Coretime release.
  • Among the 80+ project teams, 34% are focused on DeFi and RWA projects, 28% on gaming, NFTs, Web3 social, and metaverse projects, with the remainder distributed across AI, DePIN, infrastructure & tooling, and other verticals.
  • Secured commitments from 42 projects to participate in Tanssi’s Incentivized Testnet Campaign, aimed at bolstering Polkadot’s visibility within the appchain-related industry vertical.