Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) have been a contentious problem within the blockchain and cryptocurrency world for some time now. 

From their early days as seen within the case of the the German startup that caused The DAO, to present iterations, DAOs have the potential to make or break the crypto and decentralized finance (DeFi) business, and training shall be a deciding issue.

If current developments are something to go by, a misunderstanding of the true nature of the expertise behind most DeFi initiatives could possibly be a contributing issue to the shortage of regulatory readability. Latest dialogue between MakerDAO delegates and Senator Elizabeth Warren proves that regulators do not have a firm grasp of the DeFi space or of how DAOs work.

Within the dialogues, not solely did the senator present lack of curiosity within the group however one of many delegates claimed that a lot of the time was spent convincing the anti-crypto senator that MakerDAO and the defunct 2016 The DAO are completely different entities.

United States Senator Warren, who’s a vocal crypto skeptic, has additionally expressed considerations in regards to the quickly rising stablecoin market, suggesting a ban on United States banks holding reserves that again stablecoins. 

Might a lack of information of how DAOs, corresponding to MakerDAO, work be a contributing issue to how regulators understand the sector? On this article, we check out the assorted DAOs creating within the DeFi area and the way they serve their objective, and supply a primer that can make it easier to get a greater understanding.

So, what’s a DAO?

Merely put, a decentralized autonomous group is an idea for a blockchain-specific entity constructed and collectively owned by its members. For governance, such entities will depend on the decision-making protocols embedded in sensible contracts versus typical organizations that use central management programs. 

Since sensible contracts are impersonal, the group may be ruled by a extra horizontal construction with out an entrenched hierarchy. Members of the DAO can determine to have built-in treasuries that include restricted entry to accepted members who match pre-specified situations. 

And not using a centralized governing physique, members of a DAO could make proposals and collectively determine on what proposals to implement via a voting system. Good contracts might help all through the voting course of and routinely implement modifications primarily based on the votes.

What makes DAOs completely different?

At its core, a DAO is constructed to handle the perpetual principal-agent dilemma. 

This drawback is a typical problem that happens when an agent (a centralized entity or a person) is caught in a scenario the place they should make choices that fulfill the divergent targets, priorities and desires of the group (principal) with out compromising their very own pursuits. 

Whereas this dilemma is prevalent amongst private and non-private entities throughout the globe, DAOs intention to get rid of this problem by changing hierarchical centralized types of decision-making with a trustless system constructed on autonomous sensible contracts.

Good contracts may be programmed such that the incentives of all of the members of the group are aligned in a codified format constructed into the blockchain. 

With a correctly executed DAO, all of the stakeholders of the group will be capable of take part within the governance and decision-making of the group.

How a DAO works

Though the underlying mechanisms of DAOs differ from one platform to the opposite, the final system is one the place a sequence of sensible contracts is deployed. These sensible contracts may be programmed to permit for future modifications in case there’s a want for an incentive program to assist the DAO develop and broaden to new functionalities. 

A DAO may be created for virtually something starting from a freelancer community to a charitable group and even a political authorities. Good contracts make or break the DAO, as they facilitate transparency and allow the group to run autonomously with out intermediaries. 

After the sensible contracts are created, examined and absolutely deployed, the DAO wants funding to incentivize members to handle and preserve the group. Most DAOs will use a token that provides holders voting rights in addition to rewards for taking part within the upkeep of the platform. With audited sensible contracts and a funding process set, the DAO can launch and have its future managed by the members of the group.

Actual-world examples of DAOs

There are numerous examples of DAOs that exist immediately. Technically, Bitcoin may be thought of to be an early model of a DAO, as its community grows through neighborhood agreements amongst its miners and node operators — plus, there isn’t any central governing entity.


The Bitcoin community could possibly be thought of the primary instance of a DAO. It’s run by a community of contributors (miners and node operators) who coordinate their actions for the advantage of the entire group in addition to their very own pursuits. Nevertheless, it lacks a posh governance mechanism, which has develop into a typical attribute of all DAOs, and by immediately’s requirements, wouldn’t really be thought of a DAO.


The Dash cryptocurrency mission could possibly be thought of the primary actual try at a DAO. It’s the first recognized DAO, at the least by immediately’s requirements, as its governance mechanism permits stakeholders to vote on how the treasury is used.

Sprint first launched in 2015 and operates on a community made up of a set of 5,000 grasp nodes distributed all through the world. The Sprint blockchain began as a Bitcoin fork, nonetheless, however has since developed right into a privacy-centric cryptocurrency.


The DAO, a now-defunct decentralized autonomous group on Ethereum, was designed to function as a decentralized enterprise capital fund for decentralized functions (DApp). The DAO was developed as an open-source platform by, a Germany-based startup. Throughout its launch, The DAO managed to crowdfund 12.7 million Ether (ETH) price about $150 million on the time. 

The thought was to have DApp builders pitch their concepts to the neighborhood and obtain funding if accepted. Though The DAO was one of the closely funded crypto initiatives thus far, hackers have been in a position to exploit an error in its sensible contract lower than three months after its launch. You will need to observe that the error or bug within the sensible contract was not on Ethereum’s blockchain however the utility developed by and deployed on Ethereum’s community.

On account of the incident, Ethereum’s neighborhood opted for a tough fork to offset the assault, whereas dissenting voices maintained the previous chain that’s now Ethereum Basic.


Much like The DAO, MakerDAO is a decentralized group constructed on the Ethereum blockchain.

The mission, a DeFi lending protocol steered by the Maker Basis, first turned public in 2015. The mission’s multi-collateral Dai stablecoin was launched in November 2019.

Per the Maker Basis, Dai’s steady worth makes it a helpful digital asset for issuing loans and hedging towards crypto’s volatility. Nevertheless, Dai is completely different from different stablecoins, as its worth is barely softly pegged to the U.S. greenback. Because of this there isn’t any centralized entity with greenback reserves that again Dai tokens. Dai makes use of collateral within the type of Ethereum-based property locked in sensible contracts on the MakerDAO platform. 

With each Dai token generated, the worth of Ethereum-based property locked in sensible contracts should exceed that of Dai issued to debtors. This makes it attainable for anybody to lock extra unstable property and obtain Dai, which is a extra steady asset. 


Uniswap is without doubt one of the newest profitable DAOs within the DeFi area. After a profitable launch of its decentralized automated market-making protocol in 2018, the group moved to launch a governance token that may transition Uniswap right into a decentralized neighborhood governed by its customers. Now, Uniswap customers aren’t solely in a position to provide liquidity to the decentralized alternate but additionally submit governance proposals to the platform.

Dangers of DAOs

DAOs are a novel organizational construction difficult conventional organizations, thus attracting quite a few regulatory, operational and authorized challenges. 

As an illustration, given {that a} DAO can have its members distributed throughout varied jurisdictions, the authorized problems with coping with cross-border contractual agreements and relationships may be fairly the problem. Moreover, on condition that DAOs are ruled with the assistance of sensible contracts, attaining consensus from the DAO’s stakeholders may be time-consuming. 

Additionally, malicious actors can exploit attainable loopholes within the code of the sensible contract to compromise the safety and performance of the DAO as was the case with The DAO in 2016.

The journey forward

Whereas the rules behind a DAO are designed to allow ultimate and fully decentralized organizational buildings, the underlying expertise that DAOs are constructed on is something however excellent. In the intervening time, current DAOs nonetheless depend on a sure diploma of centralization for environment friendly resolution making particularly within the preliminary levels of the DAO’s growth. 

However regardless of the nascent stage of DAO growth, the idea represents a world-changing governance construction that may introduce equity and transparency throughout a number of industries.

When rightly executed, DAOs can even introduce decentralized types of regulation and authorized compliance, thus advancing the ethos of decentralization throughout a number of areas of society.