Gitcoin Year in Review

Saying that 2020 has been a chaotic year would be an understatement, but it’s also been a year of hope for creators and for the open internet. 

With so many of us in the Gitcoin community stuck at home, we’ve started to see real potential for a future where anyone can work with people they love, on projects they care about, for currencies that align with their values. The pandemic hasn’t stopped us, and in some cases it’s enabled more creativity.

As always with Gitcoin, the year was full of experiments, some successful and some not. We’re proud of what we accomplished and excited to take what we learned into 2021.

First, here are some top line stats:

Over $10MM paid (cumulatively) to open source software developers in Ethereum and beyond (over $5k per “business hour” in Q4)

5 grants rounds with a total of over 1k grantees getting paid nearly $3M in 2020 ($4.8M total) from over 10k unique contributors

41 hackathons with 100+ sponsors, almost 8k hackers and over $1M in prizes distributed 

Nearly 2k bounties posted on the main explorer applied to by over 10k developers

3 major fellowships including the next-level experience provided by KERNEL


None of this could be possible without all of the support from our community, including all of you reading this now – thank you.

The Gitcoin Community

Though we’re really proud of the numbers above, what we found really special about this year can’t be captured by the numbers alone. It’s been incredible to see the diversity and impact of the projects the community has been working on. So, in that spirit, each of the sections below also highlights some of the amazing people, projects, and events we think really stood out this year.

The Grantees

It’s seldom said but grants are the lifeblood of our ecosystem, whether they’re funded by us, by the Ethereum Foundation’s Ecosystem Support Program, by MetaCartel, or more recently by Fair Launch or CLR Fund. Many of the projects we know and love today started out as grants back when they didn’t have the same clout or traction they have today (including some of the above public goods funding mechanisms). Here are a few grants success stories we want to highlight from 2020.

  • In DeFi, 1inch, Uniswap, Zapper and more went from successful early Gitcoin Grantees to billion dollar projects.
  • Prysmatic, Lighthouse, and others successfully enabled the launch of the eth2 beacon chain.
  • samczsun became one of the first quadratic freelancers (after Austin Griffith in 2019).
  • Evan Van Ness continued to get much deserved recognition in the media rounds with his crucial ecosystem summaries via Week in Ethereum (curation is creation).
  • The introduction of the infrastructure category allowed projects like DAppNode, Turbo-Geth, and WalletConnect to raise sustainable amounts of funding for the first time.
  • EIP 1559, after much community debate, was successfully funded.
  • Coincenter raised over $300,000 in Grants Round 8 to advocate for reasonable crypto regulation.
  • With the help of Coindesk and others we raised over $200,000 for public health and social justice causes.

These are of course a few of many. If your project is missing from this list, send us a note at founders@gitcoin.co and we’ll make sure it’s included.

The Citadel

2020 saw the reemergence of the Funders League, a group of projects and individuals dedicated to funding Ethereum public goods in a decentralized fashion, investing over $3MM in public goods. The idea was actually put together by James Duncan, Ken Ng, and Scott Moore as early as 2018 outside the context of Gitcoin Grants, but the power of quadratic funding really allowed it to take off.

At first, it started with the Ethereum Foundation and shortly after Jinglan Wang and the Optimism team (then Plasma Group) joined in (and we can’t thank them enough for being the first company to step up). Then like many things, after starting slowly it happened all at once. Specifically, with this tweet from Andre at YFI:

For the remainder of the year, support continued to pour in leading to the current members we have today including: Ethereum Foundation, Optimism, Balancer Labs, Synthetix, YFI, Matic, Three Arrows Capital, Chainlink, YAM Finance, 1337 working group, MEME, 1kx, 1inch, Binance, Kraken, Harvest Finance, Badger.Finance, and many more individual donors including Eric Conner, Mariano Conti, and Robert Leshner.

And the interest in joining the Funders League, being part of The Citadel, continues to pour in. If you want to be a matching funder in some of our 2021 rounds, please reach out or fund the matching round directly here.

Hackers and Hunters

In 2017, Gitcoin started as a bounties platform in order to allow developers to focus on participation in crypto networks, not speculation. But although our original vision was to allow devs to build features or fix bugs for existing projects, it slowly evolved into a way to grow ecosystems by allowing devs to create their own. Hunters became hackers and started building new dapps that would become mainstays of our ecosystem over the next couple of years. Here are just a few of our favourite hackathon moments from 2020:

  • Arweave’s Open Web Fellowship brought their ecosystem to life and gave devs a chance to pitch to funds like a16z and USV. DeFi projects like Verto showed us what the future of decentralized exchanges might look like while social crypto projects like Outpost showed us what was possible with token permissioned newsletters (crypto Substack) before anyone else. In total, winners raised nearly $2MM in seed funding.
  • Sia’s combined 4 hackathons ended up giving over 100 prizes to top teams building on SkyNet, and apps like SkyID and SkySpaces got significant praise from Dan Robinson and other investors.
  • Zcash, Tor, and others showed us that privacy isn’t dead during Protect Privacy, an important reminder this year in particular. 
  • RxC showed us that hackathons can help produce robust public goods.
  • Unite, Catalog, and others from Seed Club Hacks helped take social crypto on Ethereum to the next level with the help of projects like Zora. 
  • DAO Hack Month projects like Facebook Fly showed us that onboarding to DAOs could be as easy as offboarding from traditional social media.
  • Polkadot managed to bring in over 1k registrations to a single hackathon introducing developers to the basics of building on their network.
  • The GR8 hackathon, our first event alongside Gitcoin Grants, brought together nearly 600 hackers to help Ethereum projects (and Gitcoin Grantees) buidl and grow.

Overall, we’re continuously amazed by all of the hackers who attended our events to help build the web3 vision. Special shout out to projects like Idle Finance from our 2019 hackathons who have now gone on to become key community members, and to our team, especially Connor O’Day, for helping all of our hackers find their place in our community. 

KERNEL Fellows

In summer 2020, we announced KERNEL, an 8 week fellowship program. The Genesis Block had over 200 fellows from 48 countries representing all walks of web3 life. Unlike hackathons which can feel like they’re over in an instant, we wanted to allow more time to foster intimate peer-to-peer experiences and allow fellows to build long-term projects and relationships.

A select group of KERNEL Fellows can be found below, but you can learn more on how KERNEL works here

The KERNEL program was a huge success with student and mentor reviews praising the experience of coming together to learn about open-source distributed values. Investors also saw some significant benefits in terms of deal flow as over 15 projects raised over $5M in total after the block came to an end. Here are some of the ones that stood out across various stages and levels of funding:

  • ZapperFi – $1.5MM
  • Defi Hedge – $1.15MM
  • EPNS – $750K
  • Pods Finance – $700K
  • SuperFuture – $300K
  • Charged Particles – $300K
  • DFAME  – $100K
  • Parcel – $100K

We’re excited to see further relationships forged, products built, and diverse viewpoints brought together in our next blocks, most notably in Block II starting on January 12th. We’ve expanded to 4 Build Tracks (DeFi, Fairlaunch, Security, and Gaming) led by partners at DeFi Alliance, Fair Launch Capital, Status + YFI, and OP Games. These tracks aim to deliver a more focused KERNEL Fellow journey. 

We’ll be running three KERNEL Blocks in 2021, beginning with Block II in January. The goal of each block is broader than building any company, and has deep roots in open source and peer-to-peer cultures of the past, both inside and outside of technology. It is a true community effort, with support from peer mentors and sponsors from across the ecosystem. 

By connecting KERNEL Fellows with the best minds we know to teach us practical thinking skills, combined with effective patterns for using innovative tools and creating decentralized solutions, we aim to live alongside KERNEL Fellows as we explore new ways of living, building, and connecting in Web 3, day by digital day. 

A huge shoutout to Andy Tudhope, author of the KERNEL Syllabus, our KERNEL Mentors, and of course, the KERNEL Fellows themselves. This is just the beginning. 

What We’ve Learned 

2020 has been a year of learning for web3 in general. Both for the grantees and donors, hackers and sponsors, mentors and fellows in our community, and for us. Here are just some of our key takeaways from working with the amazing people above:

  • Especially in web3, user experience matters. Most web3 projects including Gitcoin have had hurdles with UX whether because of gas fees, transaction signing, or finding good ways to onboard people to the new world we live in. We’re committed to leveling up UX in 2021 with the help of the community.
  • Quality over quantity. We ran a lot of events in 2020, and while most were outstanding there were some that we just didn’t have the time to give our full attention to. In 2021, we’ll be running more large-scale events and less one-offs. If you’re interested in more tailored programs that means you might need to let us know sooner than later.
  • It’s all about community (not audience). KERNEL did something very special this year, it took 200 people who barely knew each other, and helped build lifelong projects and connections. Similarly, our first stacked event in December brought together hackers, sponsors, grantees, and donors from multiple ecosystems all in one room, many of whom might not have ever met each other. In 2021, we’ll be experimenting much more with bridging communities.
  • Layer 2 is here. Gitcoin was the largest dapp, measured by active users, that integrated rollup technology called zkSync, sending over 10k transactions p2p between users of Gitcoin Grants. Rollups allow users to send transactions with near-L1 security guarantees with much much much lower gas costs and very quickly too.
  • Curation is creation. Grants collections helped separate the signal from the noise through community curation. Expect more experimentation with grants discovery this year.
  • We can decentralize funding of public goods. This was the first year that Gitcoin Grants was funded by a party other than the Ethereum Foundation, with dozens of DeFi projects pledging millions of dollars of funding to public goods. Even better, we’ve made significant progress in creating a robust sybil resistance system for quadratic funding which we hope will be useful for other public goods mechanisms too. We’re excited to see all of this grow in 2021.

We’ve been really proud to be able to call web3 home for the last 3 years, and we’re excited to make it our home for well over 3 more. Crypto enables anyone to work for the open internet, including you, so if you haven’t already, we hope you’ll join us in 2021.

– Scott, Kevin, Vivek, Kyle, Alisa, Aditya, Connor, Joe, Sachin, Zach, Richard, Octavio, Octavian, Guist, Angela, Rachid, Chibie, Abdul, and the rest of the Gitcoin community — Our mission is to help you work for the open internet.

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