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Enter the Startup Societies Landscape 3.0
We’ve just launched version 3 of the rapidly growing Startup Societies Landscape.
Balaji Srinivasan dropped “The Network State” book in June 2022 and received worldwide attention in crypto-affine communities.
This led to the creation of many interesting projects, such as Vitalik Buterin’s co-living experiment called “Zuzalu” - a pop-up village in Montenegro.
Thanks to this powerful meme, I now encounter a new startup every week that aims to transform some layer of the civic or governance stack, ranging from new cultural movements and legal technologies to innovation in architecture and regulations.
With this map, I want to give a one-snapshot view of this ecosystem..
I ended up calling it “startup societies”, not “network states” or “new cities”. There is a longer explanation for it. The short one is: it seems the most descriptive term.
Most projects are quite complex. Prospera, Threefold, or Cabin are deep rabbit holes to understand (check this one about Prospera just to get a sense of it).
They can simultaneously involve community building, digital infrastructure, legal innovation, real estate development, and more.
This map is not doing them justice, it’s necessarily reductionist.
Don’t hold back from criticising it, I want to learn from different viewpoints. It’s just my best shot at a synthesis that encapsulates a lot of information with little.
My goal is to just get you started on this journey and have a sense of magnitude.
So here’s my rationale.
The vertical axis represents the presence or absence of land and real estate development. The horizontal axis represents the level of legal autonomy the project has or aims to achieve (at least it should be explicitly stated).
Projects that focus on physical territories can be classified based on their level of autonomy and legal innovation. Does the project seek to experiment with new forms of regulation, taxation, or governance models? If so, it likely falls somewhere within the Startup Cities Quadrant. Próspera is the most well-known example..
If a startup aims to innovate in lifestyles, ways of living or building on top of existing jurisdictions, you can find it in the Co-living Quadrant. Two notable projects in this segment are Cabin, a co-living network with aligned members centered around technology, creativity, and nature; and Kift, a community embracing the mobility of living in vans.
The Network State quadrant follows Balaji’s strategy: build demand first, then territory second. These startups begin by creating a high-aligned community online and leverage it to crowdfund territory and negotiate with local governments. They aspire to achieve a degree of legal autonomy from host countries. Praxis and Afropolitan are noteworthy examples. The Afropolitan Manifesto is a clear practical articulation of Balaji’s strategy.
What about DAOs, online communities and protocols? They are important and relevant in their own right. I don’t count them as part of the startup societies industry, unless they have the ambition to establish some kind of real-world layer (e.g. living together, jurisdictional autonomy).
Opportunities for the Future
There are two ways of looking at this landscape. One is that it’s growing. The other is, that we are so early and there are so many opportunities.
In the realm of opportunities, the biggest unaddressed problem I see is that of immigration restrictions.
I hope to find more solutions for refugees and potential immigrants from the Global South, where billions of people are trapped with bad governance providers through passports.
An idea in this direction is For-Profit Refugee Cities, proposed by Davis Clute together with SDZ Alliance. The idea is simple yet incredibly powerful: to create special economic zones that can harbour refugees, optimised around getting them into employment.
Passports are also an indirect way to increase mobility and opportunity. Two innovators here are the Afropolitan NFT Citizen Pass and RNS.id, Palau’s digital e-residency ID minted on Ethereum Blockchain.
In addition, In Zuzalu, we discussed a great idea with the Montenegrin government: Visa Issuance Authorization - why not let pre-approved organisations like Zuzalu issue visas on the government behalf? These organisations can be faster to get people to work or provide them with useful services such as medical tourism.
This is just the beginning. Startup societies are disrupting the whole stack of governance, the largest and most important industry in the world.
List of New Projects
In this new version, the following projects have been added:
Eko Atlantic city: is an entire new coastal city being built on Victoria Island adjacent to Lagos, Nigeria. It is a focal point for investors capitalizing on massive demand for development – and a gateway to emerging markets of the continent.
Tatu city: is home to award-winning schools Crawford International and Nova Pioneer, as well as thousands of homes and businesses.
Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC): is a USD $2 billion community-owned sustainable city with 35,000 residents and serves as proof of concept for the development of sustainable smart cities across Africa.
Palestra: a health and fitness network in El Salvador.
Earth.net: is a distributed collective collaborating across art, architecture and technology to build shared tools for new ways of living.
Auravana: is a contribution effort to develop a ‘community-type society’ by means of a set of socio-technical standards for its conception and operation.
Seeds: is a currency that aligns money with value.
Nomad nation: coliving villages for digital nomads.
Yoko village: eco-sustainable communities around the world that allow families and friends to live a more productive yet balanced co-working lifestyle.
Venus Project: a new socio-economic model utilizing science and technology toward social betterment to achieve a sustainable civilization.
Oasa: is a network of regenerative living spaces in nature.
Urbit: is a personal OS designed from scratch to run peer-to-peer applications.
Logos state: Logos is a grassroots movement to create a self-sovereign network state.
Tilata: Decentralized societies and network states building toolkit.
Metropolis: Metropolis is designing new models for governance that support rapid civic and economic development anywhere in the world by combining state-of-the-art legal, technology, and financial systems.
Kong: The world’s first-ever crypto state that brings the metaverse into the real world.
Tipolis: is a Singapore-based company committed to becoming the creator, owner, and operator of a global portfolio of International Cities characterised by a high degree of autonomy.
Gaia net: Gaianet is a worldwide virtual network where heart-led professionals, project leaders, experts, elders, and investors unite in co-creation of a New Earth.
If you are founding a startup society or involved in a project that could be part of this map, just send me a DM on Twitter or comment below.