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NEAR Foundation

The NEAR Foundation (launched in April 2020) is a Switzerland-based independent non-profit foundation (Stiftung) that utilizes its financial and operational resources to support the mission of the . [1]

Overview

The NEAR Foundation  (“NF”) is led by NEAR Co-founder and AI innovator,  who was appointed the CEO in November 2023. He oversees the growth of the NEAR Open Web Ecosystem and guides the constellation of teams that leverage NEAR as a platform for building. [2]

“I’m honored and excited to officially join the NEAR Foundation and continue working together with the ecosystem to build towards our shared vision of an open web,” said Illia Polosukhin about his new role.
“Effectively coordinating a decentralized ecosystem involves a lot of iteration and experimentation and I’m proud that NEAR has committed to refining this process since the very beginning. I believe this next step in our shared evolution will help us build our respective verticals faster and work together more efficiently.” - Illia said during his appointment[2]

One of the core areas of focus for the NEAR foundation is the ecosystem, which includes a fully operational decentralized blockchain-based platform for building decentralized applications. It supports the same mission as the NEAR Collective which is:

…to accelerate the world’s transition to open technologies by growing and enabling a community of developers and creators. [3]

The Vision of the NF

While it shares a mission with the entirety of the NEAR Collective, the Foundation’s role in this is to realize a more specific vision:

…a self-sufficient ecosystem of creators, developers, entrepreneurs, community members and tokenholders whose collaborative efforts make the NEAR ecosystem the best place to build massively impactful projects in the Open Web. [3]

Its vision focuses on making NEAR the leading ecosystem in several key areas:

  1. Ecosystem Clarity: Ensuring all participants understand the platform's capabilities, ongoing developments, and available resources. Major decisions, like resource allocations and technical governance, are made with community input.
  2. Onboarding Experience: Prospective builders quickly understand NEAR's unique offerings and are promptly connected with support and relevant communities to assist them.
  3. Founder Experience: Providing easy access to essential information for building organizations, including hiring, legal, and financial guidance, along with a competent talent pool.
  4. Developer Experience: Offering reliable technology, clear documentation, and support tools. Developers receive guidance from idea to launch, aided by an inclusive community and project integrations.
  5. Go-to-Market Support: Facilitating product testing with engaged early adopters, access to best practices, and ongoing support post-launch, including customer access, secondary markets, and partnership opportunities.

The Near Foundation aims to achieve these goals indirectly by empowering community members to implement this vision sustainably and independently. [3]

NEAR Foundation: Non-VC Entity

The Near Foundation's mandate is to support the ecosystem without directly operating it, similar to a full-service venture capital firm like . Its "portfolio" includes all applications and companies within the NEAR ecosystem. The Foundation allocates resources and provides support to ensure their success in a fast-paced, tech-driven, and competitive environment. [1]

Areas where the NF differs from a full-service VC include:

  1. Return on Investment: Unlike a VC, the NF's primary return is the adoption of the protocol by key stakeholder groups, prioritizing this over financial returns.
  2. Level of Abstraction: The NF operates similarly to a fund-of-funds, making broad allocation decisions across asset categories (e.g., other VC funds, , grants) rather than investing in individual companies. This approach allows the NF to focus on high-level ecosystem support rather than day-to-day capital allocation.
  3. Scale of Operations: The NF supports a much larger scale than typical VCs, assisting hundreds or thousands of developers, founders, and integrators. Consequently, its support efforts need to be scalable, open, and community-driven.
  4. Venture Accelerator Role: The NF also acts as an incubator, developing and spinning out essential components or businesses that the ecosystem lacks until they are self-sufficient. [3]

Responsibilities of the NEAR Foundation

As the "portfolio manager" of the NEAR ecosystem, the NEAR Foundation (NF) is responsible for ensuring the success of ecosystem applications through 4 main activities:

Awareness

Increase awareness of NEAR technology, platform, and ecosystem to attract more developers, community members, enterprises, and entrepreneurs. This involves education, evangelism, communications, public relations, tokenholder relations, and analytics.

Allocation

Utilize both discretionary (100M NEAR token endowment) and advisory tokens to fund the best initiatives within the ecosystem. This is done primarily at a fund-of-funds level, allocating resources to other entities for deployment. The Grants Program is the only granular allocation tool, providing small grants for various ecosystem-supportive activities.

Support

Provide maximum value to ecosystem projects without direct operation. This includes creating an operating framework and coordination to ensure the NEAR community is well-organized and capable of directing people, answers, and resources to the teams that need them most.

Operational Advisory

Develop self-serve resources, best practices, and events to help projects address hiring, HR, legal, regulatory, financial, and operational challenges. [3]

The NEAR Foundation Council (NFC)

The NEAR Foundation Council (NFC) is the governing body of NF (similar to a board of directors) which is responsible for ultimate control and oversight of NF and taking significant decisions for the organization. [4]

The NFC is separate from the NF’s executive team, which is empowered by the NFC to manage NF’s day-to-day operations and reports back to the NFC (and seeks NFC approval where necessary for significant decisions). [4]

Members of the NFC

wiki

Diogo Monica

 is a Portuguese-American Entrepreneur and Engineer who co-founded Anchorage Digital, a  and digital asset platform headquartered in the United States. He serves as the Chairman of the NEAR Foundation and has three degrees - a BSc in Communication Networks Engineering, an MSc in Communication Networks Engineering, and a PhD, in Computer Science, Network Security from Instituto Superior Técnico. [8]

Illia Polosukhin

 is an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher and software engineer, best known as the founder of . He is the CEO of the NEAR Foundation and he holds a Master’s degree in Applied Math and Computer Science from the National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”, an institution where he also had his undergraduate studies. [9]

Sheila Warren

 is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Crypto Council for Innovation and a Member of the . She attended Havard University for an A.B., magna cum laude, in Economics and also attended the Havard Law School for a J.D., Bar Admission: California and New York. [10]

Chris Donovan

 is a Chief Operating Officer (COO) and General Council at the NEAR Foundation. He attended the University of Cambridge where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Natural Sciences (BA (Hons), M.Sci) in Natural Sciences. Before that, he attended BPP Law School for a Legal Practitioner's Course, Law. [11]

Richard Muirhead

is a Member of the Council of the . He is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Fabric Ventures, an organization that backs the founders of the Open Economy, investing in  builders, businesses, and digital assets since 2012. Muirhead attended the Westminster School in London where he studied Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Russian from 1985 to 1990. In 1991, he was accepted into the University of Cambridge for an MA in Engineering and graduated in 1994. [12]

NF Governance

Given the nature of its role, NF (and the NFC) deal with governance considerations at two different levels/scales:

Internal governance considerations in respect of NF itself and its core activities (similar to governance in other corporate/non-profit contexts). Because the NEAR network is decentralized, NF does not (and in any case could not) control or directly intervene in the operation of the network. [4]

External governance considerations in respect of the NEAR ecosystem writ large as it continues on its path to decentralization. These ecosystem governance considerations, given the scale and number of stakeholders involved, are an order of magnitude more complex than typical corporation/nonprofit internal governance considerations. [4]

Team Restructure

On January 11, 2024, the NEAR Foundation announced a reduction of its team by approximately 40%, impacting 35 colleagues, primarily across the marketing, business development, and community teams. This followed the review conducted with the NEAR Foundation Council (NFC) to discover that the Foundation was not as effective as expected. [5]

"Following this review, we have decided to significantly consolidate the core Foundation team to focus on a narrower and higher-impact set of activities. Over time, Foundation’s footprint will continue to contract as the ecosystem further decentralizes and various nodes drive more activity in the network and across the ecosystem" - the update added[5]

Projects

Infrastructure Committee

On April 8, 2024, the NEAR Foundation launched the Infrastructure Committee, a new initiative aimed at strengthening NEAR’s Key Infrastructure. With $4 million earmarked for infrastructure projects, the initiative is meant to support the success of NEAR projects while distributing funds and sourcing projects in an open, transparent way. The Key Infrastructure includes RPC nodes, relayers, indexers, bridges, wallets, load balancers, and oracles. [6]

Key Infrastructure includes RPC nodes, relayers, indexers, bridges, wallets, load balancers, and . [6]

The committee is made up of ecosystem leaders and NEAR partners from across core NEAR organizations. Its goals are to: decentralize decision-making, enhance critical infrastructure, and streamline efforts for greater clarity and decentralization. The committee primarily focuses on proposals, with multiple Requests For Proposals (RFPs) planned to meet important ecosystem needs. [6]

Nuffle Labs

On June 14, 2024, The NEAR Foundation announced the launch of Nuffle Labs, a venture spinning out from Pagoda and the NEAR Foundation. [7]

Founded by the core contributors to the NEAR Data Availability Layer (NEAR DA) and the NEAR Fast Finality Layer (NFFL), the NEAR Modular product suite spun out into an independent entity dedicated to improving and amplifying NEAR’s modularity offerings. [7]

"The spinout of Nuffle Labs reflects not only the strength of the core team and the products they are building, but also illustrates the Foundation’s commitment to decentralization by turning core functions over to proven teams in the ecosystem. As an independent team, Nuffle Labs will be better positioned to operate at the forefront of modular blockchain design, nurture its own decentralized community, and forge more partnerships across the Web3 ecosystem."[7]

Nuffle Labs secured $13 million in funding to support their growth. It includes a strategic grant from NEAR Foundation and external investment led by and joined by Canonical Crypto, Fabric Ventures, Robot Ventures, Caladan, and Lyrik Ventures. Notable angel investors include Jordi Alexander (Selini), Blackdragon VC, Bowen Wang (NEAR), Sreeram Kannan (), (), (), DeFi Dad (4RC), Dovey Wan (Primitive Ventures), and Mert Mumtaz (Helius). [7]

“We’re proud to support the growth of Nuffle Labs as an independent company in the NEAR ecosystem. These 4 excellent co-founders have built first-rate modularity products that showcase the best of NEAR’s technology with NEAR DA and NFFL, providing cost-effective and performant solutions to projects across Web3,” said , Co-Founder of NEAR Protocol and CEO of NEAR Foundation.
“We look forward to continued collaboration with the NEAR Foundation as they expand and evolve.”

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NEAR Foundation

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Edited On

July 16, 2024

Reason for edit:

added more info & videos + minor edits

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