One of the things that unites many purpose-driven startup founders is a strong motivation built on a deeply personal experience.
Brian Magierski’s story is exactly that. “I haven’t had a real job since 1998”, said Brian as he described a career of serial tech entrepreneurialism.
Impact Tech Leader Interview With:
In 2017, at the age of just seven years, his youngest daughter started to show the first signs of an auto-immune disorder which is a complication of her Down syndrome condition, with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism followed by type-1 diabetes a year later.
Brian explained to me that Down syndrome is effectively an accelerated form of aging. People with Down syndrome have a 90% chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by the age of 55, as compared to 12% for the general population.
It was through this deeply emotional experience that Brian decided he must turn his skills to helping find new ways to fund better clinical research in Down syndrome. Brian knew that there were many other conditions, disabilities and diseases that would also benefit from alternate research funding.
Crypto is developing fast, but it’s still in a stage that can be likened to the Internet in the early ‘90s. Back then [...] only a relatively small number of people understood it and had the capabilities needed to make the most of it. To everyone else it sounded like a whole bunch of nonsense.”.
During our conversation, he shared that there are many promising research pathways that could lead to cures or treatments for a wide variety of ailments, including PTSD and autism to name just a couple, but the funding was simply not forthcoming from traditional, centralised sources.
To help address this, Brian established a new organisation with the purpose of exploring new techniques to solve our global challenges through the mechanism of tech startups. Founded in 2019, his venture development company, Cherubim Labs, seeks to find new ways to bring communities and capital together to solve global issues that are disenfranchised by other, more traditional funding sources.
The first such venture, is a “$30bn moonshot for brain health and longevity” called Cherubs Brain Health DAO that aims to leverage emerging crypto economic systems, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAO).
I’ve talked about crypto technology a few times on this website, so asked Brian, “Crypto seems like it is still too complex and risky. How are you going to overcome that to get the traction you need to succeed?”
“Crypto is developing fast, but it’s still in a stage that can be likened to the Internet in the early ‘90s.”, said Brian. “Back then, the fundamental technology existed and worked, but only a relatively small number of people understood it and had the capabilities needed to make the most of it. To everyone else it sounded like a whole bunch of nonsense.”.
I do have a personal memory of receiving my very first Netscape browser on floppy disks and having to painstaking load them on to my Windows 95 machine, only to wait for “ages” for images to load, raster line by raster line.
Being quite forward thinking, I remember a realisation that the tedious, clunky experience would give way to something more compelling and useful - I even had shares in a fledgling internet service provider - but could never have imagined how powerful, pervasive, and successful a bunch of connected computers would ultimately become in the not-too-distant future.
Brian said Crypto is following the same path, with pioneers breaking ground on something that, under the nomenclature of Web3, is already destined for much bigger things.
What is a DAO & NFT?
Without going into any kind of specifics, let me just cover these two important concepts.
What is a DAO?
A DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) is a digital business structure, where the control of that business is spread out, rather than unequally held in a hierarchical structure.
Whilst there are many more traditional businesses seeking new distributed architectures in a post-COVID era, when it comes to Crypto DAO, the control of the organisation is managed and orchestrated across the organisation’s participants using smart contracts and tokens that allow voting rights within the business’ operations.
What is an NFT?
The NF of NFT means non-fungible, which itself doesn’t mean much to most people. However, you, dear reader, are an example of non-fungibility. Each and everyone of you is beautifully unique and can’t be exchanged for something similar (no, not even identical twins). Non-fungible things are simple unique things, that are verifiably one of a kind.
Recently Vodafone auctioned something that was truly one of a kind. In December 2021, Vodafone raised $150,000 by auctioning off the very first SMS text message ever sent. (All proceeds went to the United Nations Refugee Agency).
But how do you auction of a bunch of bits-and-bites? What stops someone copying those digital assets? Well, this is where the NFT comes into play. Trying to keep it simple, and without jargon, the original digital asset, the SMS, was packaged up into a special container and labelled with a tamper-proof marker. That tamper-proof marker was then recorded in a tamper-proof, publicly verifiable record, or ledger.
An NFT is a lot like your lunchbox...
Imagine putting you lunch in a plastic box, and writing your name on the top of it in permanent ink that couldn’t be overwritten, modified or erased. Then, before putting that into the communal workplace refrigerator, you made an indelible note on the log book attached to the side of the fridge that proved you both owned it, had deposited it, and its state at the time you deposited it.
Well, in this case the SMS is your sandwich and the box-label-fridge-ledger combo is the NFT.
Ok, so how does this help clinical research…?
Back to Crypto and Clinical Research..
The mission of this venture is to create DAOs through the auction of NFTs. The NFTs are unique, digital Cherubs with which the holder is able to cast votes within the DAO.
In other words, the auction of the digital assets, Cherubs, creates stored wealth within the digital organisation, and the owners of the Cherubs get to vote on how that wealth should be spent.
With the purpose of this to fund impact investments in promising projects and clinical research, the DAO’s wealth, or treasury, will be allocated to ownership in promising solutions and grant requests for clinical research.
I asked what kind of research would be on the list. “Community members [Cherub owners] can propose causes that they support. But it goes beyond that, too. Non-community members can put forward proposal ideas, via Discord or Twitter, that community members can then choose to sponsor into the DAO”, explained Brian, “We don't want to be too prescriptive, the community will critique and provide checks and bounds. Additionally the community will check for follow up for impact and results, too.”
Continuing the line of questioning about the nascency of crypto, I asked Brian how much public appeal he hoped to achieve with public awareness of NFTs and DAOs still quite low. “There’s a lot of wealth held in crypto today, and much of that is held by individuals with profound or difficult personal experiences. Many of these people are looking for trustworthy, impactful ways to use their acquired wealth to make a difference to the causes they feel passionately about. Importantly, many of these people want to give in the same way they acquired - crypto-natively, open source and decentralised.”
Cherubim Labs is a venture development vehicle, meaning it is a way to experiment with ideas through the mechanisms of creating startup ventures and seeing which succeed.
This is Brian’s’ first venture through the lab, and whilst he hopes it will be a home-run, he thoroughly expects to launch other ventures using crypto to solve some of our global problems. Curing disease is high up the list, but so too is climate action, education, inclusion, equality, poverty and hunger.
To find out more head over to cherubimlabs.com
Cherubs DAO Test Net is live on Ethereum Rinkeby Test Net here testnet.cherubsdao.com
Be the difference for the causes you believe in. One Cherub at a time. The Cherubs DAO is an NFT-governed community of everyday extraordinary people seeking to initiate change across causes that matter to them.
I find crypto cryptically exciting - by that I mean, it intrigues me and excites me, but I don’t think I understand it well enough know why. I know it is much more than the Bitcoin and crypto-currency hype, and I also know that a lot of what we hear about blockchain is fanciful marketing hype.
However, with that, I know that trying to predict the impact of crypto within a Web3 world would be like trying to predict Uber after installing Netscape from my 3.5” floppy disks.
Discussions like this one with Brian give me a brief glimpse into the future, and I can tell you, I am still none the wiser, but slightly more excited.