Here again for another research report. My last report on the Uniswap Grants Program was very well received by the community and I would like to thank all of you that sent me DM’s and commented on my work - very encouraging! I’m still a bit surprised at the response to this bear market project of mine and very much appreciate all of the kind words and support.
In addition to my research reports I have just kicked off a monthly Crypto Grants Wire series, previewing the latest news on the various grants and incentive programs around web3. If you want to keep up with big-league grants and their long term impact on our industry, check out the first edition below:
Today, we’re going to dive head first into the magical world of Polygon and take a look at how their incentive programs have evolved over time - from their Matic origin story to the multi-headed hydra they have become today.
We’ll start with a bit of history on the early days of Matic, breeze through their transformation to Polygon, and finally, highlight the current state of their ecosystem fund, partner funds and the one and only Polygon DAO.
Alright, anon. LFG.
So what is Polygon? Well, in writing this piece I came across a great summary of the Polygon protocol by Messari and thought I would just quote it here since I couldn’t have said it better myself:
“Polygon is a platform designed to support infrastructure development and help Ethereum scale. Its core component is a modular, flexible framework (Polygon SDK) that allows developers to build and connect Layer-2 infrastructures like Plasma, Optimistic Rollups, zkRollups, and Validium and standalone side chains like the project's flagship product, Matic POS (Proof-of-Stake).”
Polygon has evolved over time into a broad and diverse ecosystem that ties into many different “decentralized” networks. It was originally launched as the Matic Network in 2017 and co-founded by some seriously big-brained individuals: Anurag Arjun, Jaynti Kanani, Mihailo Bjelic, and Sandeep Nailwal. The founders recognized the potential of Ethereum scaling solutions and set their sights on addressing that need instead of arguing about the Bitcoin block size or salivating on the plethora of ICO ponzis that some of us (raising my hand high) were enamored with around that time.
When they started on this journey, the Polygon team was very much at the forefront of scaling solutions and primarily focused on Plasma and Proof-of-Stake sidechains as their prerogative. Plasma was initially discussed by Lord Vitalik and Joseph Poon in this late 2017 paper that described a framework for building scalable applications on top of Ethereum. You might recognize Joseph as the guy that also introduced the topic of scaling to Bitcoin (via Lightning Network) circa 2016 along with Thaddeus Dryja.
I’m definitely not the one to ask for deep analysis on Plasma (unless you’re actually looking for a good laugh) so check out this entry on EthHub (gud resource, ngl) if you want to learn more.
In 2017, the Matic network was one of the only players in the scaling game and by far the most prominent, this allowed them to gain quite the head start as the demand for Ethereum rose. On February 9th, 2021, the Matic team decided to rebrand as Polygon, as they felt the name was better suited for global recognition as their popularity started to grow.
… and oh, has it grown. At the time of writing, Polygon is ranked in the top 20 by market capitalization and top 10 by TVL for different blockchains. Even in the bear market they continue to grow their team and strategic partnerships, and tout thousands of different applications and projects now running on top of their network.
Most interesting to me (if you care) is their doubling down on investing in new focus areas rather than just resting on their laurels. With the success they have seen in their ongoing approach to scaling, Polygon’s future plans include adding support for Validium and ZK Technology to their existing architecture, along with building a strong ecosystem of new partnerships.
I also appreciate their commitment to being environmentally conscious at a time when Nobel Prize-winning economists seem fixated on that aspect of our industry - probably since they can no longer push the narrative of all of our tokens going to zero (even though a few high profile coins certainly have as of late!)
Alright, enough ancient history. Let’s dive deep into the current areas of focus for Polygon, then head into the main event: grants and incentive programs!
Read on, anon!
Polygon: Areas of Focus
With the onset of the bear market and many alternative L1/L2’s struggling (don’t take my word for it - check out DefiLlamai), Polygon continues to position itself as the leader in both cross-chain interoperability and scaling innovation. Here’s a (somewhat) recent tweet from the CEO of PolygonStudio, Ryan Wyatt, explaining their current position on hiring, cashflow and their high-level roadmap for the next few years.
As you can see from Ryan’s slides, the Polygon team is doubling down on their initial thesis and sure seem to have the treasury, partnerships and momentum to keep things moving in the right direction. Only time will tell, but it definitely seems the future is bright for Polygon, especially compared to some other high-profile projects we have recently seen fall from grace due to mismanagement, bridge drains, stablecoin depegs and a host of other interesting reasons - each worthy of future zachxbt investigations or spots on the legendary rekt leaderboard.
One area of particular interest to me is Polygon’s investment and development in the fast-growing ZK roll-up space. In fact, Polygon launched a $1B fund last August with a strategic focus on ZK (zero knowledge) technology, and have so far put that money to good use with their acquisition of Hermez in late 2021.
Not only was the Hermez acquisition a huge step forward for Polygon in terms of continued development and growth of their platform, but it also marked the first token merger in the history of crypto. M&A is definitely on the rise across the industry and is a fascinating topic in and of itself, and I predict we will only see more of this kind of activity and consolidation throughout the current bear market.
In addition to their acquisition of Hermez, Polygon’s ZK roadmap also includes their in-house work around Nightfall, Miden and Zero. Just this week they made a huge announcement with the release of zkEVM. Future of France is coming together quite nicely, anon...
In addition to their focus on ZK roll-ups, we are seeing Validium-based solutions like Avail progressing through development. There was also a recent announcement around PolygonID, a scalable blockchain ID solution developed from the ground up using ZK-based privacy. This could have all kinds of interesting implications for DAO Governance and a host of other use cases, and will be exciting to watch as they continue to build out their USP.
If you are interested in exploring the landscape of Identity and Social further, some guy named Sov has a Notion Site where he curates all projects in that niche that he’s found, with links to sites and short descriptions. He definitely needs better hobbies.
To close out the multiple areas of focus across the Polygon portfolio, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the massive premium they put on gaming. As a guy that has been a gamer my whole life and even managed a Gamestop store in another lifetime (circa release of the original Nintendo Wii) this is a topic near and dear to my heart.
This, evidently , is an interest that I (and lots of other blockchain nerds) have in common with Ryan Wyatt. Ryan was the guy that led YouTube’s gaming division for eight years prior to coming on board as CEO of Polygon Studios. There’s a great recent video of Ryan from Radio City Music Hall (linked below) talking about how he thinks Polygon is going to change the game (pun totally intended) in this emerging niche, and why their tech stack provides a robust infrastructure for blockchain gaming.
I hope I have provided enough information here to give you a jumpstart on the areas that Polygon is doubling down in terms of development and growth. There’s plenty more to explore across their ecosystem and you can always head over this site if you want to learn more.
Alright … it’s time for the main event.
Now that we know what Polygon’s all about, let’s take an extensive look at their grants and incentive programs. We’ll start with a bit of history then dive into a deep review of the different programs (and value-added services they offer to Polygon’s partners) currently available via Polygon Village and their Ecosystem funds.
Polygon: Legacy Programs
I did some research and found the first Matic grants program that was launched way back in March of 2019, known as the Matic Developer Support Program (DSP).
This program focused on helping with technical issues (Scaling, UI/UX, Developer Tools), financial sustainability, talent sourcing and brokering relationships with investors once projects made a viable MVP and were ready for the next step. You can read a bit more about the program in this medium post that the Matic team released.
The TL;DR is that $500K was allocated to fund grants for dApps and other DeFi/Ecosystem projects accepted to DSP. Under the DSP, any project being built for the Ethereum ecosystem which directly supported Matic was eligible for a grant.
The governance of the DSP was under the purview of a small group internal to Matic which was responsible for review and approval of all incoming grants requests. This group included some of the original founders along with key stakeholders responsible for business development and protocol governance in those early days.
With the apparent success of this program, Polygon (then still Matic) upped the ante in total funding available in July of 2020. There was a Coindesk article published here that describes some of those updates. In short, the amount of funding was raised significantly along with the focus shifting to dApps building directly on Matic versus projects also building on Ethereum, as was laid out in the initial announcement.
I wasn’t able to find specific details as to the recipients of DSP grants other than various blog posts which mention projects here and there, but nowhere a comprehensive list. I think the evolution of Polygon from 2019 to now is probably testament enough to the success of their early efforts to grow the ecosystem and incentivize developer participation. Seems like things worked out for them, eh anon?
After the initial success of the DSP and the Polygon rebrand, the team kicked things into high gear with their #DeFiForAll (DFA) fund.
The DFA fund was launched in April of 2021 and was one of the first in a long line of these kinds of programs, touting huge amounts and even higher hopes in how it might contribute to continued development and adoption of Polygon. There’s a great infographic from the good folks at Coin98 Insights of the larger funds like DFA and the timeline of their announcements
(You can also check out LlamaoGrants for a list that I curate myself and try to keep current with all the open grants and incentive programs I have found throughout my research and network of sources. Some more details on that below in a thread I sent out on the bird app a few months back.)
DFA was initially launched with 2% of the total $MATIC supply (roughly $150M based on value of $MATIC at time of launch) with the mission to bring the next million users to DeFi. The fund included both a grant component and an incentive program.
I find these two terms get interchanged quite a bit in crypto so I took a stab at separating their definitions, as I think they are two different things (though the funds to support both may come from a single source). You can also find my definition of these and other related terms on LlamaoGrants (sorry, shameless plug again). Anyway, here’s how I see the difference between the two:
Grants: Grants are defined as “an award, usually financial, given by one entity to an individual or an organization to facilitate a goal or incentivize performance. Grants are essentially gifts that do not have to be paid back, under most conditions.
Incentive Program: Incentive programs are defined as any collection of funds that are awarded based on development of new ecosystem projects, current project ports, or weighted performance (usually measured by TVL). Incentive programs typically have an expectation that there is some kind of return on investment or equity given as part of the funds being disbursed.
For the grants portion of DFA there were numerous projects that were granted. I did create a notion list that you can find here listing all of the projects that received grants that I was able to find through various sources. This list is by no means complete and amounts, dates grants were given or other specifics were not available based on the information I had. This is the best you get anon.
The governance of DFA functioned much the same as its DSP predecessor, with decisions being made by a group internal to Polygon that was responsible for review and approval of all submissions.
In addition to their own internal programs, Polygon has been an active participant of the legendary Gitcoin Grants since 2019.
Polygon has also been a regular contributor to the matching funds pool and has participated in multiple Ecosystem Rounds alongside the likes of ENS, Radicle, Open Gaming and various ZK Technologies.
Now that we’ve covered Polygon’s previous grants and incentive programs, let’s review their status quo, including funds under the direct purview of Polygon and their various partnership funds.
Polygon DAO (sometimes referred to as “EcoDAO”) was first announced in August of 2021 and was formed using some of the funds and resources from the DFA fund. The main driver for the creation of Polygon DAO was the desire to decentralize and drive the ecosystem to be more builder-centric. I think Polygon also wanted to move from a more marketing centric approach as seen with many of these grants programs at the time to a more sustainable model that could be around for the long term and focus on quality over quantity.
The program rationale is described in further detail in an October 2021 forum Post by the current DAO Lead, Marco Grendel, outlining many of the core goals and objectives along with early processes for engagement in terms of grant submissions.
These goals and objectives (or “growth steps”) include:
Form a heterogeneous team capable of founding a new DAO and managing it from different angles
Create increasingly decentralized procedures for the analysis, approval and issuance of grants
Progressively open up to projects and to all communities
Create the dynamics of value creation within the DAO, building meeting points between creators and projects
Progressively evolve the concept of governance, decentralizing it more and more and using new support tools
Become one of the most important poles for the organic development of the crypto ecosystem
Areas of Focus
Polygon DAO’s initial areas of focus - based on the initial forum post mentioned above - are listed below:
DeFi and NFT projects on Polygon PoS, SDK and Hermez chains. This now also includes PolygonID.
Tools for DeFi protocols on Polygon.
Tools for data analysis on Polygon.
Educational projects related to the world of DeFi present on Polygon - in line with the #DeFiForAll vision.
Decentralized editorial projects that have an informative and educational function related to the world of DeFi on Polygon.
Frameworks,development and support tools for DAOs on Polygon.
Tools for managing and reporting treasury funds from projects and DAOs on Polygon.
In addition to the areas mentioned above, Polygon DAO will continue to offer the support for builders and developers in areas such as IT development, branding, marketing and community, as Polygon had been providing prior to the launch of Polygon DAO.
Next, we’ll dive in a bit to the various programs that Polygon DAO has launched for builders, developers and creators. They have a very intuitive website called Polygon Village, that can help guide the interested parties in all the different ways they can engage with and request support from the DAO.
These different types of support that Polygon DAO provides include:
This is a concept that I found quite interesting. Vouchers are very similar to AWS Credits (minus the drab corporate overlord) and allow access to preferred Polygon partners for services including hosting, auditing, marketing, liquidity, hiring, API services, education and their job board, to name a few. These Welcome Vouchers will be free and available to projects based on certain criteria. There is a google doc available here that explains the concept and mechanism of Vouchers in more detail.
A topic near and dear to Sov’s heart (I know, I need better hobbies). This includes grants given directly from Polygon DAO as well as any shared grants like the ones they have done with mStable and Idle DAO.
Currently, the grants are given month-to-month and have averaged around $50K available for disbursement over the last few months. I was able to obtain a list of all the recipients through June and have created a simple notion site listing all grant recipients as well as which month they were granted funds for their project.
The amounts given to individual projects are not publicly available but grants average anywhere from $5K-$10K depending on the size and scope, according to the Polygon DAO Team.
Grants are managed via the Questbook platform (a seriously interesting project unto itself, anon) where potential grantees can view and select grants that they may be interested in and apply directly.
You can check out Polygon DAO’s grants profile on Questbook here to see what grants are available, or head over to their Discord and find the #grants channel where you can ask questions and interact with the team responsible for this program.
The term ‘accelerator’ is used quite a bit in our space and describes an organization or program that helps early-stage tech projects develop their product, hone their business model, and connect with users or investors. You might also be familiar with the term ‘incubator’ and wonder about the difference between the two. Incubators usually help projects refine business ideas and build their company from the ground up.
In comparison, Polygon is forming up something called Village Wonders that acts as a pre-accelerator providing a limited number of projects that already have a minimum viable product (MVP) with support like education, resources and mentorship needed to grow and promote their work. Polygon will be presenting more on this in the week ahead along with some really exciting announcements that have already been teased a bit on Twitter so you’ll want to stay tuned to official channels to learn more.
As it relates to Polygon DAO, they have already been providing projects with help in the form of educational calls & Discord AMAs with various web3 experts, along with a forum to pitch their offerings to the wider Polygon community and receive feedback.
Of note on this topic is the fact that Polygon itself was recently added to an exclusive accelerator program with the one and only Disney. This was a pretty big announcement and validates their investments in areas like gaming and NFT’s where Disney has a keen focus on.
It doesn’t take much time on CT (that’s Crypto Twitter for those of you that are NGMI) to see that basically everyone claims to be hiring. The “always hiring” tagline is a bit misleading in most cases, as many of these projects only want temporary work or freelancers or really just want to look like they are hiring.
Aside from this narrative you are starting to see more anons, projects and DAOs host their own hiring boards via platforms like Pallet and Notion, along with HR Telegram alert channels (LobsterDAO and Daily Ape HR I’m looking at you). Some guy named Sov even took the time to list all job boards he could find on his compendium if you want to see a comprehensive list.
While many talk about hiring, the folks at Polygon are pretty serious about it. You can look no further than messaging from the top down by Polygon Studios CEO Ryan Wyatt in the thread below to see they mean business, with 100+ open roles across their portfolio.
Polygon DAO has built a robust jobs board that details all the open opportunities across Polygon and their partners, and has even partnered directly with Devfolio to launch WAGMI JobDrops and host virtual job fairs. You can check out more on this in the thread below or head over to the jobs board directly here.
Whether it be Sov’s Compendium or WAGMI Jobs, if you’re looking to opt out of your boring day job and go all in on the future of France , these are some good places to start looking. The grass is not always greener and honestly it’s mostly weeds, so at least be in the weeds that you love.
Like I mentioned before there’s actual jobs (full time / part time) and then there’s freelance work and tasks that are honestly better termed as “bounties”. Polygon has (thankfully) separated these two categories and partnered with Dework (one of Sov’s Favorite DAO Tools!) to host open bounties that are available for anyone to pick up and run with. You can check out the board here and see if any of these might be things you want to help with, anon.
Today, Polygon has a diverse ecosystem of funding channels that are both managed directly - like the Ecosystem Fund and Polygon DAO - along with partnerships with Wintermute, 776, Outlier Ventures and Stable Node.
From here, we’ll take a look at the funds that are managed directly by Polygon first and round out this section with some high-level deets on relevant partnerships.
According to PitchBook, the Polygon Ecosystem Fund is a venture capital fund managed by Polygon and headquartered in Bangalore, India. The fund is dedicated to growing and supporting the shared Ethereum and Polygon Ecosystems with a focus on DeFi, Web3, infrastructure, NFT’s, metaverse, and gaming.
The Ecosystem fund is quite active in investing through much of their portfolio and investments are not public (as typical with many funds of this kind). One area related to the fund that is quite public has been Polygon’s In addition to the size and scope of the fund it is growing in terms and has multiple job opportunities open
In addition to the core Ecosystem Fund, Polygon has four other partnership funds that are focused on specific areas of the wider ecosystem. They have partnered up with some pretty heavy hitters including Wintermute, Stable Node, Outlier Ventures, and 776.
Not many details for these programs are available but I have provided a brief explanation below (mostly copypasta from the Polygon Funds page) to give you an idea of what they are all about.
$20M fund targeted at helping to build web3 native dApps on Polygon. This includes support for development, liquidity provisioning, exchanges and business development. Wintermute is one of the leading algorithmic market makers and has also partnered with other major protocols like Ethereum, zksync, and Optimism. You can read more about them here.
Amount not disclosed. This fund is aimed at early-stage ventures and offers a range of value-add services like fundraising, token design, liquidity provisioning, marketing and governance. Stable Node is primarily a node validator service that has partnerships with Ronin, Hashport, and Klaytn (to name a few) in addition to their relationship with Polygon. They provide a broad range of value-add services next to their core offering. You can read more about them here.
Amount not disclosed. This fund aids in fundraising, community growth, token design, business development, and governance, along with offering access to Outlier’s network of mentors and leading web3 founders. Outlier’s website looks like a Nascar jacket with the number of partnerships they have in their portfolio (sorry, it’s true), and they offer accelerators and scaling programs in addition to their partnerships with various other organizations.
$200M joint fund focused on boosting support for web3 technology, social media and blockchain compatibility. One of 776’s founding partners is Alexis Ohanian who also founded a small site none of you have probably heard of called Reddit. They too have an array of partnerships listed on their website spanning all kinds of different organizations. You can read a bit about Alexis’ perspective on why he started 776 on this recent blog post here.
While Alexis isn’t leading Reddit these days and sold it for much less than its current valuation, the platform has been making some moves related to crypto hires and recently announced they would be launching an NFT marketplace (and guess where it’s landing?)
Alright anon, that’s all I got (for now…)
Hope that you found this report informative and mildly entertaining. I try to inject my terrible sense of humor here and there so I don’t bore you to death too much with my weird hobbyist writings.
I’ve got a few more research reports that I’m starting to look into t so you’ll want to make sure to stay tuned to Sovereign Signal for these as well as my new monthly Crypto Grants Wire series.
Aside from my newsletter you can always stop by LlamaoGrants to see the latest list of grants available (and updated, like, all the time) or follow me on Twitter to keep up with new things I am doing or find interesting. I promise not to tweet too much or fill your feed up with bull/bear musings or charts. This is mostly because I really have no idea what I am doing there and I still can’t draw a line.