The First Cohort of Ecosystem Development Fund Grantees

The full article was originally published by John D. Licciardello on Medium. Read the full article here.

While it took many months (many more than we would have hoped) to establish the legal framework and internal governance model for the IOTA Ecosystem Development Fund (EDF), we are very pleased to put these tasks behind us and finally begin putting these community donated resources towards their intended purpose: fostering a vibrant ecosystem of community development around the IOTA core protocol. Before we unveil the first cohort of grantees, we would like to first update the community on what we have been working on behind the scenes these past many months, and what to expect from the EDF going forward.

Ecosystem Platform Updates

Our dev team has been working on a complete revamp of the IOTA Ecosystem platform. A big part of this was to make the separation between sharing something in the IOTA Ecosystem versus applying to the Ecosystem Development Fund more clear. To clarify the distinction, the IOTA Ecosystem is where our community can share the various projects, tutorials and events they are working on, give updates regarding their efforts and connect with others who have similar interests or who may want to collaborate together. For any open source project like IOTA to be successful, the development must be an inclusive effort and we hope our vast community of developers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and general enthusiasts will use this platform to connect, share new ideas and collaborate on the various educational, business, research and development initiatives they are working on. In addition to having sections to share projects, tutorials, and events, we have added places to share your various articles, blogs and thought pieces, as well as academic research papers. A lot of additional functionality has been added, such as the ability to add skills and interests, search features, etc. so please go check it out, update your projects and profiles, and as always, help us out by reporting any bugs you find or suggestions you have on Discord in the #ecosystem channel or in this Reddit thread.

The EDF is a resource housed within the IOTA Ecosystem to support a subset of these endeavors which will have a clear benefit for the entire community and which could clearly use financial support to advance their development. The differentiation is now made clear by separating the two aspects into the separate subdomains ecosystem.iota.org and fund.iota.org. If you would like to just share a project, event, tutorial, article or research with the IOTA community and invite others to collaborate, you can do this in the IOTA Ecosystem. But if you are looking for financial support, you can submit an application to the EDF.

In the future we hope to add additional resources to be housed within the IOTA Ecosystem. Some of the prospective initiatives to be housed within the IOTA Ecosystem under consideration are (working titles) Smart Labs to support a global network of ideation and incubator labs, Enterprise Alliance to bring companies together to collaborate on standards, Developer Academy to train future generations of IOTA developers, and Environmental Sustainability to build a cleaner and more sustainable world. Each resource will have its own unique focus and will be there to support the various community initiatives in their own way. We believe that providing these various resources with their own unique mandate and focus for the IOTA Ecosystem will help foster the growth and adoption of the IOTA technology. IOTA will only be as successful as the ecosystem around the technology is, and our job is to give the community the tools and resources they need to succeed.

IOTA Ecosystem gGmbH

The IOTA Ecosystem Development Fund has been charted as a German non-profit Limited Liability Company (gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung) wholly owned by the IOTA Foundation (we used a slightly shortened name for the official legal name). The reason for this is that the donations to the EDF were separate and apart from the donations given to endow the IOTA Foundation and thus had a slightly different intent and purpose. The IOTA Foundation’s purpose is to drive the research, development and industry adoption of the open-source IOTA core protocol.

The donations to the EDF, however, had a slightly different mandate which was to be a resource to support community led and developed initiatives. Both organizations ultimately have the same end goal — adoption of the IOTA protocol into the IoT industry and machine economy — but the approach and focus differ slightly and rather than just adding the EDF donations to the pool of resources of the IOTA Foundation, the separate entity is there to reflect the slightly different mandate under which the EDF was founded and make it clear that these funds are there to support the community.

Application Process, Evaluation Criteria and Internal Governance

In parallel to establishing the legal entity under German law, we have been working hard to establish a transparent, fair and accountable process for grant making. It is extremely important to us that these funds are spent wisely and engender the maximum possible benefit for the entire IOTA Ecosystem. To ensure this, we have several specific evaluation criteria and metrics as well as rigorous approval processes and oversight to allow the community, as well as ourselves, to evaluate our performance and to hold the EDF accountable to the results. In the following sections we will carefully detail these processes and oversight.

IOTA Ecosystem Development Fund Application Process

To apply to the EDF, you must first make an account in the IOTA Ecosystem and then head over to fund.iota.org. There are three basic categories which can be considered for grant funding — projects, events and academic research fellowships.

Projects

Projects can be anything from open-source software and educational tools, to new proof of concepts and business ideas in need of seed funding. Open source libraries and educational resources pretty much always have a clear benefit for everyone in the community and so these proposals will be evaluated based on their usefulness, the potential scale of their reach, quality of prior work, and track record of involvement in the IOTA Ecosystem.

When applying for financial support for a project, especially one where there is a commercial interest behind it (such as a new business idea or proof of concept) it is important to carefully consider how it will benefit the broader IOTA Ecosystem beyond the stakeholders in the business and/or idea. For many commercially interested projects it may not make good business sense to publicly share certain aspects which are a key ingredient to their competitive advantage, and are thus not a good fit for an EDF grant. But nearly all businesses will have certain aspects which would benefit from collaborative open-source development.

“[E]very single area of innovation in computing is now dominated by the open source platforms among us. From operating systems, virtualization and containers to big data, cloud management, and mobile computing, chances are good that innovation is happening on an open source platform. So dominant is the breadth of open source ecosystems that virtually the entire world’s economy depends on open source software.” — Building a Business on Open Source

To illustrate this, consider the development of the Linux OS, in particular the open-source LAMP web-service stack (Linux, Apache, MySql and PHP). The open-source development of this web stack played a key role in the growth of the World Wide Web in the 1990’s. Countless companies built their respective business applications using this popular open-source web stack precisely because its open-source and collaborative development made it in highly efficient, reliable, configurable, easily combined with other helpful open-source resources such as for security and monitoring, and free of vendor lock-ins or other restrictions. Today, the number of open source and freely available resources (such as software libraries, educational materials, PoC applications, etc.) in the Linux ecosystem is truly astounding and untold value has been created because these free, community developed resources were available as a foundation for so many businesses.

This is the ecosystem of community development the EDF hopes to foster around the IOTA core protocol. In order for IOTA to achieve its vision as the backbone protocol of the IoT industry and machine economy it needs a vibrant ecosystem of community-developed resources such as educational materials, open source software libraries and PoC applications which can serve as a foundation for thousands of potential real world use-cases the IOTA core technology can make possible.

To apply with a project, the application form will ask for a high-level description, a rough timeline, a total budget estimate, and any external links to additional resources (such as homepages, code repos, slide decks, etc.). It is not necessary to first publish anything in the IOTA Ecosystem to apply to the EDF. We understand that some projects will have a commercial interest and appreciate that sharing a great idea very early in its development may not be a great business decision. However, if your project is already shared in the IOTA Ecosystem, you will have the opportunity to link to it in your EDF application.

Those projects which most clearly show a benefit to the entire community, have a history of IOTA Ecosystem involvement and demonstrate a clear need for funding will be contacted to further detail the proposal and budget using a standardized form. Budgets and timelines will be commensurate with the scope of the project and will be paid out in stages contingent on agreed-upon milestones. While we will very carefully lay out the entire project scope, budgets, milestones and deliverables in advance, we will be flexible to update these if needed as things develop.

Once a month, the best proposals for funding will be presented to an internal EDF Grant Committee (currently consisting of David Sønstebø, Holger Köther and Lewis Freiberg) who will have the final say on whether the projects will be awarded funding or not. Those which are awarded funding will be paid their initial allocation according to the budget to an address they provide in IOTA tokens (based on the IOTA/USD value at time of payment), and the project proposal and budget will be shared online and hashed into the Tangle to provide an immutable record of the agreement (which can be viewed at the EDF Grant and Donation Transparency Tracker).

Events

Another great way to foster a vibrant ecosystem around the IOTA technology is to bring people together in person. Events such as meetups, hackathons and conferences are awesome opportunities to share ideas, educate and get to know other people in the community who share similar interests. The IOTA Ecosystem has already been doing a fantastic job of self-organizing various meetups and other events on their own, but the EDF can be a resource for our community to take these events to the next level.

To apply for EDF support of an event, make sure you have a concrete plan for where it will be hosted, who the target audience is, what you hope to accomplish, how you will generate interest and turnout, and how you plan to make its impact felt beyond those who were able to attend (press coverage, live stream, post-production videos, blog posts, etc.). The EDF can help provide resources for the renting of a space, food and beverage, an AV team, rewards if there is some kind of competition (in a hackathon for example), etc. Proposals which demonstrate a clear and thoughtful plan to make a high-impact event will be contacted to further scope out the plan and budget. Please submit event proposals at least two months in advance of your target date to allow time for proper organization and planning. The approval process and funding will be handled similarly to that of the projects, with the exception that events will typically be funded all at once prior to the event once the budget and plan is finalized.

Academic Research Fellowships

As noted by Serguei Popov in his recent blog post on the Tangle, research on the IOTA protocol is ongoing and it is important to incentivize external researchers to help better our understanding of it. Thus, the EDF has worked with the Research Department to implement a process for considering Academic Research Fellowship grants. There will be four basic categories of Fellowships/Grants based on the researcher’s level:

  1. Masters Student Fellowship
  2. PhD Student Fellowship
  3. Research Associate/Post-doc Fellowship
  4. Professorial Research Grants

The application for an Academic Research Fellowship will ask you to write a brief high-level description, select the category of Fellowship, and submit a research proposal along with your and your adviser’s CV.

The breadth of possible research around IOTA is truly immense. The IOTA technology has many important questions that could be asked in research fields from the hard sciences of computer science, mathematics and physics, to the social sciences of economics, political science and so much more. The IOTA Ecosystem would greatly benefit from further research and analysis related to the IOTA technology in nearly every academic discipline. That being said, there are a few research questions of particular interest to the Research Department at this time:

  1. Agreeing on timestamps: There is only partial event ordering in the DAG of the Tangle, but confidence intervals can be used to determine time order with reasonable accuracy. Further analysis is needed on the incentives related to timestamping, and how the protocol can incentivize honest timestamping.
  2. Pruning the Tangle: A process to handle removal of old and unneeded transactions (such as orphaned subtangle branches) without losing context.
  3. Classifying which kinds of smart contracts can be implemented on a DAG.
  4. Partitioning: What happens when two nodes are very distant from each other? Each will only approve its own transactions (since it’s the heavier branch), and they might never merge.
  5. Simplified tip selection for low RAM/Disk/CPU edge devices using database sharding or other similar techniques.

Successful applicants will have a stellar academic track record, demonstrate genuine interest in the IOTA technology and vision, and prepare a research proposal with clarity, thoughtfulness and rigor with respect to their particular research area. Fellowship applicants will be evaluated and decided on by an internal Research Fellowship Grant Committee. Funding will be provided in IOTA tokens based on the prevailing IOTA/USD exchange rate at time of payment. The grant amounts, timeframes, supervision and other details will be decided on a case by case basis in conjunction with the candidates and their academic institution.

Going Forward

We know many proposals have already been submitted and are still waiting on an answer and we apologize for the delays, but now that we have finally sorted out the legal framework and internal processes for the EDF, we are ready to start rolling out grants on a regular basis. We look forward to reviewing the applications that have already submitted and to reviewing the ones yet to be received.

But without further ado, we are ready extremely proud and excited to announce the first cohort of six grantees who have been awarded a total commitment of nearly a quarter million dollars!

First Cohort of Grantees

Martyn Janes — EDF Grant and Donation Tracking System (USD $12,000)

The IOTA Ecosystem Development Fund strives for complete transparency and accountability to the IOTA community. The Grant Tracking System represents a crucial piece in adhering to this vision by memorializing EDF funding agreements with immutable transactions in the Tangle. With this, a complete and transparent audit trail of EDF grants can be verified by community members and both the EDF and grantees can be held accountable to our commitments.

It is our hope this open-source application can be used as a resource for other types of immutable audit trail use-cases and business applications.

To learn more, check out the EDF Grant Tracker’s Project Page and Tutorial in the IOTA Ecosystem, or the app itself!

Topocare —Smart Flood Protection ($105,000)

Topocare is a startup that has developed custom machinery for smart flood protection. Rather than stacking sandbags to fight floods, they have developed machines which quickly fill giant water-tight tubes with sand or dirt which are placed at strategic locations to redirect water from valuable farmland, housing and construction sites. However, billing records without the need for constant machine supervision poses a challenge. By utilizing IOTA for data integrity and introducing a Pay-on-Production model, they achieve real-time monitoring and invoicing of meters of tube laid, reducing counter-party risk and ensuring the integrity of the flood protection infrastructure and supply chain.

As part of this grant they will develop an open source PoC providing a solution for a machine to factorize a certain amount of money per piece produced by itself which makes for an important step towards a true PoP business model easily ported to other industrial equipment use cases and bring IOTA one step closer to realizing the vision of an on-demand economy.

To learn more, check out Topocare’s company profile and project page in the IOTA Ecosystem!

David Florio — Everything Tangle (USD $16,000)

David Florio’s Everything Tangle YouTube channel creates high-quality, educational YouTube videos about the IOTA project. In the 8 months since the first video, the channel has gained 20,000 subscribers and over 400,000 views, simplifying IOTA’s unique and innovative technology to newcomer and veteran community members alike. Over the course of 2018, Everything Tangle aims to release 10–12 new videos, while also re-releasing all existing videos in Korean, Spanish, and Chinese, making IOTA more readily accessible to the general public.

Anyone who has been around the IOTA community knows that David has been one of the Ecosystem’s most valuable contributors and we are happy to support him to continue to produce great easy-to-understand educational videos about the often complex IOTA topics for a broader audience.

To learn more check out Everything Tangle’s Project Page in the IOTA Ecosystem!

Navindo (USD $83,000)

Indoor mapping is a growing need in our current urban environment. Indoor mapping is the most fundamental need in robotics, augmented reality, virtual reality, mobile AdHoc networks and of Internet of Things. Even though we spend 80% of our time indoors and accessibility is listed among the human rights, there are no location-based services available indoors (e.g., routing, localization, location sharing, etc.). The main reasons are: first, because GPS cannot operate indoors since its signal cannot penetrate through solid objects, such as walls, and second, there is no availability of indoor maps. Navindo aims to enable crowdsourced generation of indoor maps by incentivizing users to earn IOTA as they stream data from their smartphones to the IOTA Data Marketplace.

The team from the Technical University of Munich has created novel technology that can be integrated with smartphones to produce high-quality indoor mappings, and plan to build open source libraries and “landmark mining” tools to be able to crowdsource indoor maps by incentivizing people with micro-payments of IOTA tokens, eventually launching a full-scale pilot on a large campus or municipality.

To learn more, check out NavIndo’s Project Page in the IOTA Ecosystem!

Nuriel Shem-Tov — IRI Playbook (USD $20,800)

The IRI-Playbook is a well-structured Ansible playbook to run IRI client supporting two major Linux distributions: CentOS and Ubuntu. It provides a comprehensive wiki to install an IOTA full node and become part of the IOTA P2P network, and offers an array of tools for the node operators to seamlessly monitor the node’s health, collect and visualize metric, upgrade the software, and take part in periodic snapshots. Additionally, the playbook includes community contributed software such as Nelson, Field and IOTA Prometheus Exporter.

Nuriel’s playbook has helped onboard countless Full Node Operators and has been one of IOTA’s most important community developers. As part of this grant Nuriel will continue to make basic upgrades and address issues as the network develops, as well as develop a solution for load-balancing in a small to mid-sized cluster. We are thrilled to be able to support our community developers bring their helpful open-source tools to the next level.

To learn more, check out the IRI Playbooks Project Page in the IOTA Ecosystem!

Blockchained Mobility Hackathon (USD $8,000)

Finally, we are very happy to award the winners of the recent Blockchain Mobility Hackathon which took place recently in Munich. The first, second and third place teams will be awarded $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000 respectively for their efforts. To read more about the Hackathon and the winning teams, check out this blog post summarizing the event.

The Ecosystem Development Fund is just getting started but we are very excited to begin rolling out these grants on a more regular basis and getting responses to those who have been patiently waiting to know if their projects will be considered for funding. We wish our first cohort the best of luck with their respective projects and we will be updating the community as they develop!

The full article was originally published by John D. Licciardello on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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