About the Variant Network

A peer network for the user-owned web

Thick fog. As an early crypto founder, that was the daily visibility on best practices when I started Mediachain in 2014. I often got the most clarity from my peers, other early crypto founders who, like me, learned by doing. For example, the idea of “app coins” was relatively new on the scene in 2015. Ethereum had just launched, and soon after, Augur became one of the first applications to create its own token. Talking to other founders about the uncertainties and opportunities of this approach was a way to bring a new idea maze into sharper focus and build a network to foster my own continual learning.

Today, best practices in crypto are evolving at a rapid pace. Nobody has all the answers. During this period of rapid experimentation, new learnings emerge. Variant works closely alongside our founders on strategy and go-to-market to help them find product-market fit. But we also recognize — just as I learned in 2014 — that one of the best ways to support early-stage crypto teams is to connect them with peers who are working through similar challenges. 

We call this approach to portfolio support the Variant Network. In 2023, we will be scaling up our programming and expanding participation from founders to other leaders in the portfolio. Here’s a deeper look at how the Network operates.

The Variant Network is a community of startup peers within the Variant portfolio. The goal is to help people do their jobs better by tapping directly into the brainpower of dozens of founders and leaders across the portfolio, who each operate at the bleeding edge of their domains. 

Through founder-led peer discussions, function-specific workshops (e.g., mechanism design, HR, product, legal, etc.), and group chats to keep in touch, Variant teams can lean on each other to gut-check strategies, stay up to date on emerging ideas, and crowdsource resources. Here are two examples: 

    1. Hiring is notoriously difficult for early-stage teams. In late 2022, we hosted a few sessions for our founders to discuss best practices for hiring and retaining executives. Our strategic advisor, Calder Zwerling, head of recruiting at OpenSea, led the dialogue. As a result of these sessions, we now have a bank of shared documentation on hiring best practices, including a question template for new roles, tips on working with recruiters, and an active list of agencies crowdsourced and referenced from our portfolio companies. 
    2. Recently, at ETHDenver, we hosted a developer relations workshop for over 20 DevRel leads from our portfolio. One attendee said they learned how to leverage community feedback better. Another noted that they plan to change their approach to incentivizing developers with hackathons. Following the session, we created a Telegram group, and we’re already working on more programming focused on DevRel so that we can continue the conversations. As another attendee shared:

“It’s still early days for DevRel, especially in the crypto world, so sharing ideas, frameworks, and success stories is something I can bring back to my organization and start making an immediate impact. I was really happy to have been a part of it all and I’m looking forward to staying in touch with my cohort as a great source of inspiration and support. It’s events like these that remind me of the power of collaboration and innovation in driving real-world impact.”

What’s next for the Variant Network? This year, we’re building out more opportunities for cohort-based learning and crowdsourced resources. We’re starting by focusing on some of the areas that are top of mind for our current portfolio: product design and usability, developer adoption, hiring and recruiting, token design, and marketing. For example, our next session is an in-person workshop focused on token design that will include case studies, peer review, and small discussion groups. 

We will also launch a program to bring talent who are earlier in their startup journey into the network, so they can learn alongside some of the strongest experts in the space, and figure out whether they’d like to start something new or join a team. Stay tuned!

If you work for a Variant portfolio company, we’re grateful to have you as part of the network and are excited to accelerate the learnings this year.

If you’d like to join the Variant Network, you can share your project with us here or check out over 200 open roles across our portfolio here.


Disclaimer: This post is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investment and should not be used in the evaluation of the merits of making any investment decision. It should not be relied upon for accounting, legal or tax advice or investment recommendations. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by Variant. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, Variant has not independently verified such information. Variant makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. This post reflects the current opinions of the authors and is not made on behalf of Variant or its Clients and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Variant, its General Partners, its affiliates, advisors or individuals associated with Variant. The opinions reflected herein are subject to change without being updated.