Interview with Luis Cuende of Aragon

Building a digital jurisdiction on the blockchain

Michael Karnjanaprakorn

Luis Cuende is the co-founder and Project Lead of Aragon, a project for disintermediating the creation and maintenance of companies and other organizational structures. Aragon believes that blockchain and the Internet are changing the incentives for companies to exist, and they are building tools for the next generation of companies that will take advantage of these changes. Previously, he cofounded the blockchain startup Stampery, and created the world’s first Linux distribution with facelogin.

What's your story? Tell me about the first time you learned about the blockchain.

I first knew about Bitcoin in 2009. Looked at it for like a minute, thought it was a scam and totally impossible, and forgot about it. I read the whitepaper at 2011, and then everything made sense. It blew my mind. I’ve been following and involved in the Bitcoin community since then, seeing it’s ups and downs. Kept following it from the sidelines while working on other projects.

I met my current cofounder Jorge Izquierdo when I was 15 and he was 14, like six years ago too. We worked on a few interesting things, like a crypto-powered mesh network to replace the centrally-controlled Internet.

Last year, Jorge and me were working on another product but eventually decided to pivot to what later became the Aragon project. That has probably been the best decision in my life.

What does your project do? How did you come up with the idea? 

Our goal is to provide a way for people to easily and securely run their organizations in a decentralized manner. Disintermediating human trade  is the first step towards a more fair, efficient world. By giving everyone the chance to be in control of their financial lives and the ability to run any kind of organization, we look to solve many of the issues people, especially in the developing countries, are facing by not having access to banks and other infrastructural things we easily take for granted. We are also looking to enable organizations with totally new structures that are not possible in the traditional world.

We came up with the idea on Nov 2016, after multiple things happened to us and to the world in general, such as Donald Trump winning the elections in the US, or seeing how there didn’t exist a way to organize people in a decentralized manner. Both Jorge and me were working on a different product back then, and as a way for me to be a better CEO I read Ronald Coase’s The Nature of the Firm, which explains why companies exist in the first place. That paper got some background process started in my mind, and pieces of the puzzle started coming together in the next months, until one day the vision for Aragon was clear.

What's your vision for the future of the project/company?

Technology now allows people to organize without rent-seeking and corrupt intermediaries that not only extract monetary value, but also restrict freedom and sovereignty. Therefore, our thesis is that decentralized organizations can solve the world’s worst problems. We are building everything that is needed for decentralized organizations to be widespread. That includes building the world’s first fully decentralized jurisdiction, the Aragon Network, where some of these decentralized organizations will live.

How does token network effects work?

We see this as an emerging new technology stack. By leveraging the existing protocols and projects and working together with others in the ecosystem, we can all benefit from the network effects that form as a result of collaboration. As projects start to build on top of each other, they will automatically also be contributing to each other and boost the communities around each other. We’re helping Ethereum succeed by building on top of it, same that district0x is helping us succeed by building on top of us.

Who's on the team?

Currently our team consists of seven people. You can find interviews with all our team members in our blog with insights on their thoughts about the blockchain space. We’re all working hard together to solve the obstacles we’re facing and bringing Aragon to the mainnet. We’re all very excited and looking forward to the Q4 of this year when we will probably be releasing v0.5 with a new UI and starting to on-board first organizations to the mainnet.

How can people get involved in building out the project?

We’re an open source project, so we’re always looking to have contributors taking part! There’s stuff for technical people and non-technical alike at our Github. Our community is a driving force for us so we’re always happy to see new people join the discussion at our community chat or at our subreddit. And of course if people are just interested in following our progress, our blog is where we post all our updates about the project. We also have regular public calls and discussions, so get involved!

What article or book have you shared the most recently?

This one about how to signal voting for district proposals on district0x. It also comes with a handy drawing of how multiple projects like Aragon, district0x and Decentraland work together. It’s exciting!

What other projects are you excited about in the space? Or, what are your predictions for the next 12 months in the space?

I’m forgetting some for sure, but I’m very excited about:

district0x: Disintermediating markets is a huge market by itself, and I’m sick of seeing centralized models where a company like Airbnb or Uber has all the power

Decentraland: I love the sci-fi implications of it

Status: Such an important piece of infrastructure

0x: Same as above. We cannot live in a world of tokens without a way of programmatically exchanging them!

Melonport: One of the best teams out there It’s almost a fully deployed futarchy scheme, and I love futarchy

My predictions is that a lot of those projects will work in the mainnet, and that will make the space grow way faster. I also think scam projects will decrease as the market matures, and I look forward to that.

How can people find you?

Since we’re a part of the great Ethereum community, many people first hear about us through our news on the project, at discussions about Ethereum and DAOs and of course through other projects that are starting to build on the Aragon platform, projects like district0x and Decentraland. As we believe that working together with other projects is extremely important in this moment where a lot of infrastructure needs to be built, we also have partnerships with projects like the 0xproject and Status.

Our Twitter account has over 18,000 followers and we use it actively to engage with the community, our LinkedIn page has gained some attention recently and our public Meetings in Youtube have a steady stream of viewers.

We are working hard on the product, there’s still a lot of work to be done, at this point we’ve been happy with the growth of our community and look forward to new people finding out and becoming excited about the project!

What are the details of your token sale (if there is one)?

Our token sale for the Aragon Network Tokens took place on the 17th of May 2017 and was the second largest token sale (being left only in the shadow of TheDAO) and fourth largest crowdfunding event in history at the time. The sale lasted for 15 minutes where participants contributed a total of 275,000 Ether to the project. You can find a more detailed description in The Aragon Token Sale: The Numbers blog post.

What is something you believe to be true that most people disagree with you on?

That banks, governments, armies, etc. are timeless and will stay with humans until the rest of our lives. In history, things come, things go, and nothing is timeless. We just think those institutions are timeless because we have lived with them for a lot of generations, but they were created out of certain needs at points in time where they made sense. That doesn’t mean they make sense now, in this point in time. For those that don’t make sense in the world we live in, the market will take care of eliminating them. The process can be slower or faster, but it will happen.