In our new blog series "3xcalibur: L3SSONS" we take our community of Insurgents under the hood and give them deeper insight into how we as a project are approaching problems, building, growth/marketing, community building, and more. We hope to share with you what we have learned along the way, and give you closer access to our project.
In our first article, we will be talking about building.
In this bear market, it’s difficult to build in Open Finance when capital and users begin to dissipate, especially when looking back to the wild summer of 2020. Back then, the market was swinging between wild projects like food tokens and YAM, and building modular financial primitives that birthed the first sophisticated on-chain products. Knowing where we came from, it’s important to recognize that a constantly changing industry presents itself with new challenges and opportunities to solve. Without a doubt, bear markets are for building.
When we came together to build 3six9, we identified the key opportunities where we could add value and build a high-caliber project in this space.
Those key opportunities were:
- Branding and creative design
- Assembling a world-class team
- Improvements on sound protocol designs
- Being truly a community-first project
- Putting a lot of time and effort into the internal project processes and organization procedures
- Exploring new verticals and new financial primitives
With the open nature of this space - it is easy to deploy a contract and spin up a Dapp. Boom! You’re live! You launched a product. This is why crypto as a whole is experiencing such a period of innovation and growth. It’s easier than ever to launch something and start to create new value for your users.
At the same time, the rush to throw up a product in this industry has come at a cost to the company behind the product. Longevity is fleeting, and when your Dapp starts to accumulate TVL it’s easy to ignore the basics: building a company of high performers that can flex to the needs of the market and support teams that operate in the roller-coaster of market conditions here in crypto.
We believe that projects that take the time to build a company and not just deploy a Dapp will have the highest chance of survival through the downturns and success in the long-term.
There are two focal points that are indeed crucial for any Open Finance team's success: code and community. But it’s not enough: founders ask themselves “How do I actually build and scale the company itself?”
Because it’s so important to us that we join the Open Finance community in building a vibrant and sustainable digital economy, we wanted to share some of our building philosophy/frameworks and journey, as well as the tools we are using to optimize workflow and agility.
On Frameworks: Agility
It's an old framework, but tried and tested. Many in our space view it as a relic of web2 startups, however, there is still not a more efficient software development process than Agile.
Being agile for any team should be the goal. However, true agility is not actually practical, nor is it attainable. This is because to truly implement what the founders of agile methodologies dictated in their manifesto, remains near to impossible in reality.
Nevertheless, the principles espoused are very helpful and create a strong framework for workflow and shipping products efficiently. Therefore, it's up to each project to see how agility can work for them, and how they can best apply it within the context of their specific project.
Each team is different. Differences in composition, culture, product, and size all factor in, thus the goal is to figure out how best these principles can be applied and recognize their shortcomings while implementing the best value add principles.
It’s more efficient and easier to work in vertical slices rather than horizontal when scaling a team. As such, our team is split into multiple ‘Pods’ and they are each responsible for a product/core features. We have BE and FE devs in each pod and they also work cross-functionally across each product and with our design and marketing team.
Standard Agile practices:
- Each new feature or product starts with User Stories
- As a user, I want X, so that Y
- User Stories -> Backlog of tasks
- Track in Kanban board (Backlog, To Do, Doing, Done)
- Sprint Planning. Choose which Tasks from backlog will be worked on during the course of a 2 week sprint
- Daily Stand-Ups:
- What I worked on yesterday
- What I will work on today
- Sprint Retrospective
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- How can we optimize for next sprint
7. User interviews + feedback test and iterate (dominantly on FE after testnet is deployed)
Principles of Strong Product Teams
Crypto/Open Finance is shaking up many of the traditional practices deployed by the previous cohort of web2 tech start-ups. As an industry, we tend to scoff at much of what they built and the internet they created. It’s often said we are building the new internet. However, it would be remiss to completely negate all of their efforts.
The principles of building a strong product team still are applicable to building in crypto/Open Finance, even if the process, people, and output are starkly different. In Maty Cagan’s book Inspired, he eloquently laid out principles for building a great product team which in turn build products users love.
At 3six9 our core ethos is:
The 3six9 Collective’s mission is to create a suite of Open Finance (OpFi) products for the community that they value and love. We are entirely impact-driven and product-focused.
While techniques change constantly, underlying principles endure. Consider the principles and apply them within scope and your own project’s context.
A product team is a group of people who bring together different specialized skills and responsibilities and feel real ownership for a product. In crypto/Open Finance this sense of ownership is certainly greater due to the tokenization of ownership and formation of DAOs around products.
Team of Missionaries
“We need teams of Missionaries, not teams of mercenaries”’ - John Doerr, Venture Capitalist.
One of the goals for a product team can easily be captured by the above quote. The distinction is that mercenaries build whatever they are told to build. Whereas missionaries are the true believers in the vision and are highly committed to solving problems for users.
In crypto/OpFi this is especially prevalent because we are all here because of our belief in Satoshi Nakamoto and our resolution for building a more open and decentralized financial system. We know we're living in the wild west age of crypto, but despite all the faults prevalent in this nascent industry, we are committed to seeing it through.
In OpFi product teams are usually comprised of backend, frontend, product marketing manager, product manager, product designer, policy Team. It was our goal to build out a proper product team and not try to double up on ownership. Each team member has their role and ownership for their workflow. We are also an anon team.
Team Empowerment & Accountability
A key philosophy for product teams is that they are here to solve complex problems and deliver value to users. Objectives for the team is clear, and they hold ownership for delivering on those objectives. The team is empowered to figure out the most optimal way to meet core objectives and are accountable for the results.
Product teams should have a flat organizational structure and it's not about who reports to whom. Everyone on the team is a valued contributor, and there are no people managers, only processes and functional management of specific elements of workflow. To be clear, the product manager is not the boss of anyone on the team.
Muh Buzzword. Boring. We know. The important thing here is the best product teams operate with true collaboration. There is no hierarchy. It’s about a team of highly skilled individuals that come together to solve problems and deliver value. The nature of the relationship of the product team is about true collaboration.
It’s always difficult to figure out the best way to slice the pie. Optimizing for one thing usually will come at the expense of another thing. It’s crucial to decide what you as a team feel is important to optimize for. It’s possible to break the workflow up by users or user journey.
One way to do it is by architecture, as the architecture will inform the tech stack, which requires different types of engineering expertise. Whatever works best, alignment is the key.
We decided to set a structure of pods based on product.
Product teams need to be durable. Even more so than web2. This is because we are still in the wild west; you can have the best intentions and try to do everything right but still end up rekt by a hack.
The nature of Open Finance is also more important because of the importance of community. Once you launch there is really no barrier between you and the community. There is the feeling of being in the trenches with them while building. Which can be great at times. Being able to be closer to your users talking in the Discord and getting to know each other is something special about this space.
But let’s not gloss over the increased strain and pressure put on teams to deliver.
Wen launch, wen token, wen wen wen.
Building takes time. Things go wrong.
Once members of the team get to know each other and learn how to work well together, it's honestly a very powerful and beautiful thing. It’s important to know that through the ups and downs - your homies that you work with have your back, and you have theirs.
Autonomy is highly important. Team members should always be given the leeway to solve the problem in the way that they best see fit. The other part of autonomy is to minimize dependencies across teams, it's hard to eliminate at scale. However, the goal is to continuously optimize and minimize.
Why it Works
The foundation is based on mutual trust built on strong relationships that form a stronger product team as a whole. Autonomy, collaboration and scope help to nurture relationships creating a durable team foundation.
Next, in order to truly innovate the team needs expertise, team members will already have this, but the structure allows individuals to go deep enough to increase expertise. Instead of building something that other determine, product team fully understands the objectives and context.
There is a feeling of ownership and responsibility for the outcome. The product team also does not stop once deployed, they don't rest until what they shipped is working and giving value to users as well as the business.
The 3six9 collective is very dedicated to our building philosophy. We really hope that you will join us on this journey.
Semper Ad Meliora
If you have any questions/feedback/ideas - feel free to raise them on any one of our social channels and we will happily engage.
Thank you for reading Insurgent!
🗡 ABOUT 3XCALIBUR
The 3xcalibur Protocol is a permissionless, liquidationless, oracleless liquidity marketplace, powered by Tri-AMM architecture to facilitate stableswaps, variable swaps and borrowing/lending.
The Tri-AMM architecture makes 3xcalibur a highly-capable and modular automated market maker.
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