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Local investors create ATX DAO, where crypto meets community

Members of ATX DAO and others in the Austin crypto scene at a minting party in October. (ATX DAO)

Unlike similar crypto groups, people in the Austin scene aren’t trying to purchase a copy of the U.S. Constitution or an NBA team. But members of a new Austin crypto organization still have high ambitions for investment goals.

“In the future, we want to be able to invest in the community,” said Jon Gregis, a member of the ATX DAO. “If we can invest in Austin and grow Austin, that’s our main goal.”

A DAO, or a decentralized autonomous organization, is a group that pools together capital and goes on to make investments or take on blockchain-based projects. They can act similar to VC firms but have looser structures. With the ATX DAO, there are currently 25 members, all with equal voting rights cemented through a non-fungible token.

The NFT that members received during the first mint. (ATX DAO)

This makes them slightly different from other DAOs, which aren't often governed by NFTs. And because they’re a city DAO, they want to represent Austin as much as possible since their launch two months ago. So they say they’ve engaged with Hope Outdoor Gallery, want to find local artists to design NFTs, and had initial members join at the cost of .512 Ethereum.

“We’re still at that point of growing pains because we don’t have a blueprint to follow as a DAO,” Gregis said. “We’re kind of picking and choosing from all different types of DAOs.”

DAOs have faced some criticism for their operations. In 2016, the first DAO was hacked, resulting in millions of dollars lost. They also wade through a murky legal status.

Members of ATX DAO are conscious of these factors and have established some priorities as they grow, saying they’ll have pillars for engineering, marketing, finance and legal.

“We’re trying to take it very slowly and figure out from the legal aspect what we should and shouldn’t do,” Gregis said. “Even though it’s a super gray area, as of now, there have been problems with other DAOs who have tried to be an investment DAO and are getting hit by some type of government organization for doing something illegal. We’re trying to cross our T’s, dot our I’s before we start doing that.”

Members said the group blossomed after growing a community of “crypto natives.” “Which just means you can talk the lingo and have a little bit more educational conversations and discussions that are not necessarily introducing Bitcoin for the first time,” one member said.

Now that they’ve had their first mint—the process of the NFT being delivered to members' wallets—in October they’re trying to grow. Mason Lynaugh was one of the first people brought on during the group’s genesis round, the minting process that created the DAO.

“You don’t have to be a crypto native or even part of anything to do with crypto,” Lynaugh said. “It’s more of if you’re curious, come join us.”

Lynaugh grew up in Austin and mentioned that he doesn’t work or trade in crypto, but thought he could work well in the DAO given his background in event planning and project management.

“Crypto sometimes gets a bad rep for being exclusive or a not welcoming community, but I would like to dispel that myth,” Lynaugh said. “Everyone is super excited about crypto and excited to share stuff. It’s not the way that some people paint it to be.”

Crypto enthusiasts gather during the genesis mint party in October. (ATX DAO)

Interest in having a role in the DAO is high, members say. Their discord group has over 200 people with more joining every day. New people introducing themselves display varying proficiency in crypto and all kinds of day jobs: professor, Tesla employee, a startup worker.

“Our last event, we had somebody going around asking to buy them (the NFT) from all the members because they wanted to be a member,” Gregis said.

On the ground, there’s a clear interest in appeasing those involved in cryptocurrency. But when it comes to government, the relationship can be more strained, though ATX DAO members say they want to lend their expertise to state and local officials. Member Joseph Fluckiger pointed to initiatives in Singapore and El Salvador to be more crypto-friendly.

“What’s really going to happen is you’re going to get an intellectual drain from talent to other countries and other states if the United States and Texas don’t step up and make policies that are friendly to innovation,” Fluckiger said. “We haven’t really been politically active, but certainly that’s an opportunity that we could do.”

He imagines that banking and government are going to be disrupted with the rise of crypto, the NFT boom and Web3.

“It’s incredibly exciting. It’s incredibly new,” Fluckiger said. “ATX DAO allows us to be at the forefront of that revolution that is just starting, but is going to grow in steam.”

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