So far, Pods have mostly served as marketing hubs for the upcoming SAFE beta launch, and for that purpose it would make sense for MaidSafe to support them. However, since the value of Bitcoin is fluctuating widely and there is still uncertainty on the actual launch date, it is of utmost priority that MaidSafe reserves most of the funds to the core engineering work to get the technology right until the network starts generating revenues.
I personally believe it might not be that hard for PODs to become self-funded relatively quickly if they look beyond outreach for the SAFE network and instead focus on solving all technical problems that prevent decentralization of organizations, that will be analogous to the technical working of the network. Each of these problems can be solved using current technology and then migrated over to the SAFE network when it becomes operational.
We need Bitcoin donation support for Tilt/Open (such as was manually done for this campaign). Another crowd-funding campaign could be done and reach way beyond the current crowd interested by SAFE, to fund a few months of development to do it. Once it becomes operational all subsequent campaigns with Bitcoin+US$ will be much less of a hassle to manage. We could get one or two developers on it and a part of the funds raised could be kept to fund the POD itself;
@kirkion suggested to me today that in addition to online lectures, it would be great to have one-on-one tutorials offered as part of the course. I am thinking of adding those as a reward. By doing so, the Montreal pod can become a grad school-level training ground for the next generation of developers. As these tutorial sessions are offered, some money can be reserved to fund the development of online software that will make it easier to bill, record, edit, and distribute the sessions. That software could be used beyond that to offer remote expertise on legal aspects of Bitcoin technologies, and decentralized organizations. It could therefore be the focus of its own crowd-funding campaign and reach beyond programmers, and the SAFE crowd.
If the tools built are made open-source and available on the web, as more and more PODs join in and grow, the easier it will become for the next ones to join. We need no venture capital, only enough funding to have a few developers going at a level slightly higher than subsistence-level. Grad students are probably the best crowd to reach for that since that is basically the level at which they are doing research anyway.
There is ample opportunity here since, as we are building the infrastructure, we dramatically lower the cost of providing services that were served by existing organizations (that’s basically what the whole startup scene is about). I would not be surprised to find out that our own lecture series will be 10-30x cheaper to produce than online courses produced by other organizations. The key is that POD developers should not aim for multi-billion acquisitions, like What’s App, or 200k$ salaries but instead for comfortable living doing open source stuff that everybody can reuse and build upon.
Key areas which I think can be lucrative enough to sustain pods are:
- Payment infrastructure
- Teaching and Training Developers
- Legal aspects, such as incorporation, tax advice
- Financial aspects, such as accounting and collaborative funding
- Technical aspects, such as leveraging idle computing, storage, and bandwidth on the software side and open source and secure hardware and physical networking on the hardware side
- Coordination aspects, such as collective decision making, and resource allocation
These things are coming already with the Web and Internet so PODs can ride on it and accelerate the wave. If we remember to flow money in the whole ecosystem when we become sustainable, rather than hoarding it and trying to extract rent from the rest of society, that could happen really fast.