[Approved] Cypherpunk Guild - 100K $NEAR seed funding for 18 months

TLDR of the proposal:

(Posting this on behalf of @Arto and his crew behind Cypherpunk Guild)

We have formed the Cypherpunk Guild, with its Council consisting of Arto, Eugene, Frank, and Yulian, plus Ozymandius of the 4NTS Guild and Jon Matonis of Cypherpunk Holdings ($HODL).

The Guild’s vision is directly aligned with NEAR’s vision, and the Guild’s mission is to establish an effective, ownership-driven grants program to fund cypherpunk initiatives supporting NEAR’s mission. We are requesting a 100K NEAR token endowment for 2021 through the NEAR Guilds Program.

Detailed proposal - max 450 words, if more info is needed link to docs:

Cypherpunks are advocates for the widespread use of strong cryptography and technologies that enhance privacy and self-sovereignty. Cypherpunks invented/created the EFF, PGP, SSL, SSH, BitTorrent, Tor, WikiLeaks, Bitcoin, smart contracts, Zcash, and Signal, among other notable achievements.

Accordingly, we plan to solicit, evaluate, and fund projects that increase and promote individuals’ privacy, security, and self-sovereignty with regards to their data and their funds, warmly welcoming cypherpunks and privacy-first initiatives into the NEAR community and ecosystem.

The future direction for the Guild is aimed towards becoming a full-fledged incubator for privacy ventures, in partnership with parties such as Cypherpunk Holdings. Let’s get the Guild off the ground first, though.

Potential ROI/impact on the NEAR Ecosystem:

  • Put money where our mouth is: the NEAR vision & mission require a strong commitment to privacy, and funding this Guild will unequivocally demonstrate that.
  • Send a strong message and stand out from the rest of the pack, which will undoubtedly result in industry headlines and open doors for strategic partnerships—as we already now have in the works with established big players such as Cypherpunk Holdings, the 9th largest public BTC holder in the world.
  • Take ownership of getting private transactions delivered, as the guild’s first overarching top priority. Every NEAR investor wants this feature delivered.
  • Establish NEAR as a credible platform for privacy-first projects, bringing interest from current users of chains such as Zcash and Monero. There aren’t L1 smart-contract platforms with good privacy, affording NEAR a current first-mover opportunity here.
  • Raise the visibility and credibility of NEAR in the cryptocurrency realm overall. Already, a number of influential digital cash pioneers and cryptocurrency OGs have begun paying attention to NEAR after the hiring of Arto and Frank.

Amount of funding:

  • We request an initial 100K NEAR token endowment (allocation) for 18 months (Q1 2021/Q2 2022).
  • We would request fund transfers from the NF from this endowment monthly (or quarterly, going forward) based on planned expenditures.
  • To get us off the ground, we would request a $10K (in NEAR) transfer the first month.
  • We’d plan to request all fund tranfers in NEAR tokens, no fiat whatsoever.

Project lead (internal/external):

  • Internal project lead: Yulian.
  • External project lead: Steve Cobb (one of the founders of the Free State Project), retained as a contractor (initially half-time).

Launch timeline:

Community Council Poll
  • Yes
  • No
  • Abstain

0 voters

Open Community Poll (min trust_level_1 required)
  • Yes
  • No
  • Abstain

0 voters

Voting and quorum thresholds:

<2K$ - 1X Yes - no minimum quorum (* quorum defined as min number of members needed for the vote to be valid)
2-10K$ - 2X Yes - no min quorum
10-30K$ - 3X Yes - min quorum 4 of 7 - 4X members should vote in either direction
Above 30K$ requires Erik or Illia’s additional approval (Head of NF/Chairman of NFC)
Above 100K$ requires NEAR Foundation Council approval


@Community_Council we have our first major Guild seed funding proposal from @Arto & his crew at Cypherpunk Guild.

They already have the support of The Cypherpunk Holding (9th largest BTC holder and publicly listed group!)


What is the policy on conflicts of interest between existing grant recipients / contractors (Arto, Yulian, Frank, depends-which-Eugene)?

And how does this fit into the broader framework of high level guild funding and the associated accountability? Can any guild apply at exactly these numbers? Basically, what’s the framework into which this fit?

1 Like

I like the philosophy and ideals behind this project. I see that’s it’s been officially started and has 8 followers on twitter.

However, I’m also interested in learning more about the conflicts of interest, as well as more information on the metrics/accountability mechanisms. Not just for this proposal, but for future ones.

Additionally, IMHO all ideas like this should start as grassroots groups. Once they pick up traction they can receive a budget the way Createbase first had a very small slush fund and eventually received a $5k budget/month. Once they have proven themselves to be successful/collaborative aka have gained a high number of high quality active users and activations (again, Mintbase is a great example), THEN they can apply for additional funding at different tiers. A tiered model would make sense in a scenario where grantees have high autonomy over the allocation of funds, especially in terms of keeping the NEAR Foundation’s role as a steward in mind.


Neither of grant recipients / contractors are taking any salary from the requested allocation. We are contracting day-to-day operations to Steve (who’s not related to NEAR org). Small portion of the allocation will be given to Steve as a salary (depending on hourly commitment) and the rest of the funds will go to sponsor bounties and grants to support the mission of the Cypherpunk Guild.


As far as I understand, allocation will not be given as a lump sum and will be distributed on Quarterly or Monthly basis. It is fair to set an initial goal of bringing private transactions to NEAR and establishing an initial timeline (and specific budget?) for that.

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I’d say it depends. In our case, we already secured a strong partnership with established players in the space (Cypherpunk Holdings) and 4NTS will be helping us with marketing. We believe desired allocation should serve as a strong signal to the market showing NEAR’s interest and commitment to delivering adoption of privacy-enhancing technologies

What is the policy on conflicts of interest between existing grant recipients / contractors (Arto, Yulian, Frank, depends-which-Eugene)?

To clarify, this is Eugene “The Dream” :slight_smile:

1 Like

IMHO all ideas like this should start as grassroots groups. Once they pick up traction they can receive a budget the way Createbase first had a very small slush fund and eventually received a $5k budget/month.

To add to what @yulian said, our in-the-works partnerships (of which 4NTS and Cypherpunk Holdings are public so far) are absolutely contingent on a serious enough and credible enough commitment on NEAR’s part.

Nobody will pay attention to this Guild at a $5K commitment level, nor should they. We could not have gotten top leadership at Cypherpunk Holdings, a publicly traded company, on the phone with that, nor would they be interested in a press release in such a case.

And this Guild certainly cannot (and therefore will not) take ownership of delivering private transactions without the committed resources to see that effort through, whatever it takes. Go big, or go home, I say.

In just the few short weeks during which this Guild organically emerged from a previous Privacy, Censorship, and Philosophy group that some of us at NEAR had been participating in, we’ve been executing like MFs: witness our lined-up launch schedule, the partnerships already (pre-)announced, and our retaining an extremely experienced, capable, and credible grants/project manager.

And, of course, not everything we have in the works could as yet be included in this public proposal. We would like to continue executing, with the blessing and backing of the NEAR Foundation.

So, as we wrote in the guild proposal, this is a great opportunity and decision point for the NEAR Collective to deliberate–and publicly message–how much it does value privacy and self-sovereignty. I suggest that the Collective ought to wish to embrace these values, given the vision, mission, and values expressed (most recently) in the 2021 brand strategy; and that, indeed, NEAR’s ultimate ends cannot be achieved sans these means.


Thanks @nima on posting the proposal, and even properly sanitized to strip out as yet nonpublic information. Here’s some more information on the partnerships already in the works that can be disclosed at this stage:

4NTS Guild

4NTS are actively and explicitly supporting the launch of the Cypherpunk Guild and wish to closely collaborate with us going forward, effectively acting as the Guild’s marketing department.

4NTS have gone above and beyond in working tirelessly to edit and publish their first Humans of NEAR interviews with Arto and Frank this week so as to have them ready to be quoted and linked into the Guild announcement blog post next week:

Screen Shot 2021-02-20 at 06.35.20

As mentioned in our launch schedule, we have also agreed with @Ozymandius to record a new NEAR Without the Noise episode about the Guild in the week after the public announcement. That episode will be a novelty for the series in multiple regards: it will feature both Arto and Frank, it will be livestreamed, and it will be open-ended, i.e., no time limit. (Joe Rogan style.)

@Ozymandius has expressed the strong belief that 4NTS and the Cypherpunk Guild jointly will help set the example and influence the whole NEAR ecosystem to adopt respect for privacy and self-determination as core values going forward. He considers the formation of the Guild the most exciting development in the time he’s been involved with NEAR.

Cypherpunk Holdings

Cypherpunk Holdings (CoinDesk) has–preliminarily, contingent on credible NEAR Foundation backing–agreed to be listed as a Guild advisor and to help us with strategy and publicity, including an eventual joint press release. Jon Matonis, Director and Chief Economist at Cypherpunk Holdings, will join the Cypherpunk Guild’s council (board), making time in his busy calendar for our regular council meetings.

Jon is a well-known digital cash pioneer (from long before Bitcoin) and cryptocurrency OG, formerly a founding director at the Bitcoin Foundation:

Screen Shot 2021-02-20 at 06.34.22

Cypherpunk Holdings ($HODL, publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange) is the 9th largest public BTC holder in the world, and a strategic investor in high-profile cypherpunk projects such as Samourai Wallet and Wasabi Wallet.

Their seed investments of $100K into Samourai and $338K into Wasabi helped get both these privacy-first Bitcoin wallet projects off the ground, and the projects have since proceeded to become two of the most popular Bitcoin wallets overall, establishing coin control and coin privacy as baseline features that any future competition will need to match.


By the way, via Jon Matonis, an example of what privacy-compatible DeFi might look like: see Aztec, a privacy-centric L2 venture for Ethereum.


To add to this:

4NTS will not be taking a salary from the requested allocation, nor any compensation for serving on the council.

We see this as a rare opportunity in the crypto space to align stakeholders that actually care about privacy, with funding and support to create sustainable feedback loops for privacy solutions on NEAR into the future.

With Cypherpunk Guild, my personal hope is that it is able to:

(1) To create leading Web3 privacy solutions on NEAR.

(2) To incubate a hub for privacy oriented entrepreneurs and developers (similar to how Createbase has done the same for Artists).

(3) To start an industry wide conversation on the importance of privacy in the context of the rampant surveillance we all - for the most part - live beneath today.

As Arto mentioned above, CP Guild, for me, is the most exciting development on NEAR to date.

I accepted Arto’s invite onto the council because I firmly believe that (1) The founding individuals have demonstrated consistent action over the last decade+ towards Cypherpunk ideals, and (2) There are few things that are more urgent to incubate and develop at scale.

In my mind @waverlymaven this has been a grassroots group for a very long time - we only now have the rare opportunity of helping them continue to grow on NEAR into the future. The fact that they have Jon Matonis signed on is an indicator that people from outside of NEAR understand the value of a Guild like this, and are willing to put time and effort into managing it and seeing it develop. Funding this guild will create a snowball effect among privacy adovcates in crypto, bringing them onto NEAR quickly while also jumpstarting development on early solutions.

As Arto said above, Let’s go big.


Really like this initiative. Privacy is a very important part of blockchain. As a user, I think about it every time I make a transaction on a blockchain, and that just always brings in extra step of caution and complexity when making transactions. In the end, it would just continue building more barriers of entry for folks to engage more with the already difficult to use blockchain.

On the other hand, I’ve been in conversation with many businesses over the years (on behalf of NEAR and others), a lot of which are corporate/enterprises looking into blockchain solutions. The biggest concern has always been privacy. Even after private shard is implemented on NEAR, from my understanding, there still need to be privacy enhancement on the public shards to satisfy the enterprises use cases.

I think the potential benefits to the ecosystem is far greater than the risks. For those who are concerned about irresponsible use of funds (which are fair concerns given we are still new at this process), we can perhaps set some OKR/KPI or even just some high level deliverable to make sure NF/the council can stop the funding if needed.

I also want to point out that @erik.near 's question about framework is a valid one. I dont have strong opinion nor the bandwidth to really contribute to building the framework itself…but having such framework to give better guidelines to other guilds would be helpful to the ecosystem in the longer term.

I think some high level rough estimate of potential benefits vs cost would justify for now?


It doesn’t have to be as specific as “bringing in X transactions” – in fact, I hope that the reach and results of a group like this would be more big picture :slight_smile:

If most of the work will be done around distributing $$ for Grants & Bounties then creating a transparent decision making framework on how you do this, what the ranges/rails are, as well as developing scorecards would probably make a lot of sense in terms of accountability. After that, we can have meta reviews with the group to understand the decisions taken and the resulting ROI, any learnings, etc.


Thanks Arto, that’s helpful additional information to have. :slight_smile: I’m a big supporter of privacy as a principle and agree that it’s one of the biggest challenges around public blockchains.

I am indeed very familiar with Aztec Protocol, it’s one of my favorite projects in the blockchain space and I know both founders quite well.

Speaking on interesting privacy projects, have you guys connected with the founders of Zero Pool already? This is an early privacy project that Illia and @mattlockyer have worked closely with. They delivered the first private transactions on Ethereum in May 2020. Their tech is better than Tornado (which is a mixer) and this is a black box. They’re going to launch cross chain for Ethereum, NEAR, and 2 more. Zero Pool will enable private transactions on NEAR :slight_smile:

Matt and I have had several calls with the Zero Pool founders and the NEAR integration is going to be ready in early Q2. So perfect timing/alignment with this Guild. They have a small grassroots community that’s emerged, but could use a lot of help blowing it out of the water— as well as finding use cases/partnerships to implement their technology. Do you think that this is a scenario where there could be synergies with the Cypherpunk Guild?


The 100K NEAR fund distributed by Cypherpunk DAO will be perfect!


Thanks for all the comments and feedback here! I’ll try to respond to a few of them in this post:

This proposal and series of other proposals fall under a new strategy for Community Fund to position ourselves as a FoFs (fund of funds) for various smaller focused funding programs run by our community and the wider open web ecosystem. This is based on our learnings in the first 6 months of operating CF and our Guild program. Accountability for funds (or generally incubators and funding programs) will have to follow a different model than funding individual projects with clear milestones and OKRs. Aggregate ROI (impact measured in various ways, not just financial return) is the way to go here!

CPG (Cypherpunk Guild) will be the first of about 10 high profile Guilds that are ready and qualified to deploy their own funding. Domain expertise, existing reach/community and strong network are among the main criteria for funding-guilds. Innovation happens at the edges of most networks.

The core assumption behind this FoFs model for Community Fund and Guilds is that our community members will be more effective at distributing funding through their own existing networks than any centralised effort by NEAR Foundation (e.g. our grants program or an eventual venture fund). We should however continue running both our NF-governed/operated grants and decentralised funding programs like Createbase grants, Cypherpunk Guild, AngelDAO(s), … (eventually also Gitcoin CLRs for the NEAR ecosystem).

That’s generally how we operate, however for trusted high profile already-established groups (like Cypherpunk holdings, Arto & Frank) we decided to offer them the option to send us a more comprehensive proposal (like this one :point_up: ) to fast track their progress. We have about 10-12 more high profile Guilds that are ready to apply. Expect to see their proposals in the coming weeks. (Small note: Createbase started with 5K$ per month from day zero and later had more support in other ways. Their primary target audience was artists and creators doing cute side projects. CPG needs significantly more funding -~ 5X CB - to be able to do anything serious.)

Very important to note: funds requested here (at least for now) are funds committed not wired to the group/DAO in lump sum. Yessin, Gus, myself and the future ops lead of Community Fund will check/review monthly/quarterly funding requests from each guild for compliance and alignment with their proposed scope/mission.

This is not YOLO funding. It’s decentralised funding through our most trusted and qualified community members. Case in point, this Guild already has more privacy experts than our entire centralised internal grants committee and this will only get better with time as the crew at CPG will recruit more badass Cypherpunks :sunglasses: Same applies to Createbase. They have ~10-100X more domain experts and networked individuals than any centralised committee that we could assemble.

Re overlap or synergies with ^ this project: again, this is one :point_up: project. CPG is a funding program and in future an incubator for many projects like this. The fact that we have some commitment from “a” project is in no way in conflict with starting an exploratory group that will focus on building and supporting NEAR’s privacy-focused community. Apples :apple: and Orange :tangerine:gardens :wink:

In sum, proposals for funding DAOs/Guilds like CPG are more than just one-off funding programs. In addition to their impact on our privacy-focused ecosystem, CPG will also act as a governance and resource allocation experiment. The entire budget for all 10 potential funding DAOs/Guilds (if each go for the max 100K $NEAR) is less than 0.3% of funds under management of NF.

There’s a reason we chose Cypherpunk Guild (CPG) as the first to apply for seed funding. IMHO, it is one of our purest and baddest guilds ever. Will it pass the purity test or not? :fire: I think it will and it will set an example for all other guilds …

- NiMA


Thanks @Arto @yulian for taking initiative on pushing this!

To re-affirm (as everyone else on this thread did :)) - privacy is one of the most basic human right that have been forgotten in the pursue of personalization and value extraction. It’s even more important in the world of blockchain which is more designed around transparency and privacy must be built on top.

I do find that discussion got derailed here a bit, so let me try to re-align it.

We are figuring out a process for funding next generation of efforts in the larger ecosystem. I completely agree that there is no way for NF to fund everything directly, a set of specialized funding efforts should be spun up with experts and fund allocators in charge. This is a great example of such effort and it make sense to figure out how it will work. We need a set of guidelines for the community that can be followed for next efforts like this to come.

Discussion and questions are a normal in the process of figuring out, especially for the first few proposals of such type. Especially, in the case of async discussion like this one. It should not be considered as negative for the idea or on the plans you already made, but more about refining template and filling missing pieces.

The specific question that Erik have surfaced which I do think is important is still missing in the discussion is how this guild will surface its progress to the community (aka “accountability”) and evaluate if it’s working well and should receive more funding or doesn’t work and something else should be tried.

This can be as simple to start as:

  • the guild’s council calls are public
  • monthly post with allocated resources and update on the involved efforts
  • quarterly report to NF council and to other guilds in the public format, which includes achievements and the plan for the quarter to come.

I also want to emphasize for people who feel uncomfortable doing or reading this discussion in public - this is what sticking with transparency means, one of ours and blockchain’s in general main values. Transparency will not always be comfortable, but it’s important to actually get to better results and keep ecosystem informed. Through this process ecosystem can figure out what to do better next time.


Thanks for putting this together, team! I’m really excited about the Cypherpunk guild. Overall, I feel like everyone is looking forward to seeing this in action.

I think this is key! Agree that given the involvement of legit partners like Cypherpunk Holdings, and hopefully many more, this commitment makes sense.

Also agree on these steps to start with. I feel like these are fairly low hanging items that we can definitely do to not only increase transparency and accountability, but also act as a driver for recruiting and growth of this guild.

Logistics and ops aside, I’m excited to explore the content and narrative side of this with @Ozymandius and team. What the Cypherpunk guild stands for, really resonates with me and I’d imagine there would be a lot of people in this space who are excited about this. There also might be ways in which we can involve traditional organizations around the whole privacy angle, and have the tech focus on building solutions through NEAR(where feasible).