Project Catalyst Challenge and Proposal Guide
Project Catalyst is underway and we’re seeing some incredible participation from a wide spectrum of individuals. This is a collaborative process to create a worldwide community innovation project. The problem statement, solution, relevant experience, and funds requested will be displayed in the voting application. This will allow everyone to learn about the initiatives before voting on them.
The proposal plans and attachments can be viewed on our innovation platform, hosted by Ideascale, in order to gain an understanding of the details. This all means that we want everyone to feel confident in contributing to the discussion as a whole.
The quality of the output is dependent on the community’s ability to create and engage with new ideas. To that end, we would like to share a quick guide to writing successful proposals:
The proposal name should give an indication of the innovation that you are trying to achieve while also grabbing people’s attention. But we want to avoid any slick marketing speak. Just tell your audience what it does and who it is for as clearly as possible. Keep it simple and informative and keep your audience in mind.
Example Title: Stake pool operator vlog network
Each fund will have a specific challenge which proposals will attempt to solve. Challenges will originally be set by the Project Catalyst team and then opportunities will arise for the community to develop their own. It is crucial that proposals address the challenge directly. Here is an example of a challenge and some problem statements which address it.
How can we encourage developers and entrepreneurs to build Dapps and businesses on top of Cardano in the next 6 months?
Builders don’t want to deal with the red tape\time cost of securing funding. How do we help Cardano builders streamline proposals?
I am trying to solve the problem of bootstrapping decentralized\open finance movement on Cardano before Plutus and Marlowe hit mainnet.
In both of these examples the relationship between the problem statements and the challenge is apparent. This is what voters will be looking for. However, while the content of the problem statements is clear and effective, these problem statements can be improved.
The problem statement identifies the issue related to the challenge, and offers a solution. It is important to focus on common problems, urgent problems, expensive problems, and frequent problems. Explaining your problem in these terms is crucial to a good proposal so it should be the first thing seen by voters. A good problem statement has four components: the desired outcome, blocking problem, costs of the problem, and the evidence.
Desired outcome: This paints a picture of the ideal set of circumstances once your solution is accepted.
Blocking problem: A concise explanation of the problem preventing this set of circumstances from occurring.
Costs of the problem: A summation of both the opportunity and financial costs of the problem to key stakeholders. This helps voters assess how much impact the problem has.
Evidence: Support for your position laid out in a detailed plan.
Here’s an example:
We want to make it affordable to transfer money to workers living in the Philippines.
11% of the population of the Philippines lose money on transaction fees.
Costs of the problem
Around $1 billion is paid in transfer fees annually.
Link (s) to data which proves this.
Here’s the complete problem statement which condenses the information above:
- State your desired outcome and the problem blocking it
- Define the cost of the problem
- Give evidence for your findings
So, you only have 140 characters to give a lot of important information. When every character counts, it is important that you address the prompt exactly.
It may sound obvious, but your solution must be based on a known problem. It has to actually solve the problem laid out in the problem statement. A solution in search of a problem is rarely an attractive option because it is less efficient than filling a distinct need. So remember: start with solving a problem and then lay out the vision of your solution in the ‘Plan in Detail’ section. Your 140 characters should address the problem, solve it, and give some insight into how your solution is different from others.
Example solution statement: Create a stakepool operator-run digital magazine maintained on the blockchain to expose Cardano to new audiences outside of current users.
- Address the problem directly to ensure that your solution rises to the challenge
- Make your project stand out through differentiation
- Create a solution that solves a problem instead of one looking for a problem.
Find your ‘competitive edge’ and ensure you drive it home. We can break down your competitive edge into a couple of different categories. Your solution should include an explanation of as many of these competitive edges as possible. Remember, the people voting on these proposals want to see yours as a ‘sure thing’. If you can clearly explain why you are different from any of the other projects in the blockchain space, then you have a significant competitive advantage.
Founders: The people who are working on your proposal can lend their personal expertise and work history to the project.
Example: John Doe completed his PhD with a focus on incentive schemes for blockchain treasury systems.
- Find your competitive edge and make sure that it is well known
- This might look different for different kinds of projects
- Remember that your audience is other people on the innovation platform
Now that we have outlined the problem and given a solid solution, let’s talk about execution.
Different problems require different solutions. We are looking for a wide variety of project ideas from marketing campaigns and educational resources to developer infrastructure improvements and business development..
You should look at your plan as a roadmap and a need analysis. First of all, Why does your solution work? While you may have been the first to identify your problem it is important that you explain why your solution will be the most successful in a field of possible options.
Market: The market you have identified has not been previously accessed or prioritized. Markets should be identified that have 20 percent growth a year.
Example: Our hardware solution works with all proof-of-work blockchains.
Product: Your solution works in the market in a particularly impactful way.
Example: This hardware addition reduces energy consumption of mining rigs by 20 percent.
Acquisition: Your route to user and platform acquisition is clear and well thought out.
Example: Access to network information drives user acquisition for no cost
Monopoly: As you grow in the field your company actually gets stronger.
Example: Using the Ouroboros protocol allows our system to become more secure as decentralization increases.
Complex problems often need sufficient funding to be solved. This is understood by the community at Project Catalyst. However, anyone voting on these proposals should be able to know how the funding is being spent. Giving a detailed breakdown of how the budget will be spent. This can come in a variety of ways but distilling your budget into a series of line items is a clear way to show voters that you have considered how major funding initiatives will be spent.
It is also important to remember that your budget should meet the requirements of the project you’re setting out to accomplish. If you are trying to gain funding for a small meetup then a couple hundred dollars should be sufficient. If you are coordinating the development of critical infrastructure then you will need more resources. Make sure to pair the vision with the appropriate funding.
Example: Creating a developer focused podcast will take $5k in the initial 6 months.
When building your proposal, you should write as if you will be receiving funding. But it’s important that anyone reading your proposal understands that you will be able to hit the ground running. This is where your roadmap comes in. Your roadmap should break down all of the key milestones you intend to hit once funding is received. This can be done in a couple of different ways, but a good roadmap details your one month, three month, and six month goals.
In the roadmap it is also important to identify your key performance indicators (KPIs). These are the goals that you hit which demonstrate that you have been successful. Here are some examples of KPIs:
- Users acquired
- Product capability built
- Performance benchmark reached
- Network stability achieved for x amount of time
The important thing to remember about KPIs is that they should have a number attached to them. Acquiring an initial 15 users is an achievable goal. Acquiring ‘a lot’ of users is pretty vague and difficult for anyone to adjudicate. Remember, you are presenting these ideas to the community, the clearer you make your intentions and the easier it is to verify that you have achieved your goals, the more likely it is that you will be seen as a great bet.
Please share with reviewers what is your IP policy (Patents, trademarks, copyright, licensing etc’) so they can assess if that is a good fit for the treasury.
What does success look like for this particular project? While it might not be entirely complete after one round of funding, your proposal should give us an idea of what an end state looks like. This, like your KPIs should be an easily understood number that can be verified by anyone.
- Suit the budget and the roadmap to the needs of your project.
- Establish reachable key performance indicators that show good progress towards your goal.
- Establish intellectual property rights so that everyone knows who owns what.
- Define success for your project.
It is important for everyone to be able to share additional necessary information. That is why PDFs, images and additional URLs can be sent through the Ideascale where they can be viewed by everyone.
In order to make each individual proposal as strong as possible we encourage everyone to use the innovation platform to discuss each idea. In fact, we’ve created reviewer guidelines to help you direct your critique. For a productive and informative conversation we encourage everyone to focus their feedback on the following areas:
Auditability: What details are missing from the proposal to help reviewers accurately assess the project?
Impact: How can the proposal better address the challenge? How can we encourage people to build dApps on Cardano in the next 6 months?
Feasibility: What are ways that the proposal’s budget, plan, and scope can be modified in order to make it more achievable.
Example: If your marketing initiative gave the exact number of users it was attempting to onboard as a KPI then it would be much easier to track its success.
- Make other proposals stronger by giving good feedback
- Incorporate useful feedback into your own proposal
- Participate actively in the innovation process to make sure it continues to grow
The purpose of having the Project Catalyst community write their own challenge is to emancipate the platform from the Project Catalyst team. Eventually, the Cardano community will control the innovation and collaboration process from inception to delivery. With that in mind, it is crucial that we understand what an impactful challenge looks like.
The challenge is a question which helps the community focus its creativity on advancing the Cardano ecosystem. Of course, ‘advancement’ means different things to different people. The key to writing an impactful challenge question is balance. It must be broad enough to be addressed in multiple ways, but specific enough to enhance the value of Cardano for everyone.
Below are a couple examples of challenge questions:
How can stake pool operators based in southern Europe make their pool more attractive delegators in the next 2 months?
This challenge question addresses only stake pool operators in Southern Europe. Cardano is a global ecosystem which allows participation in many different ways. The challenge question should help everyone.
How can we make Cardano more useful?
Of course, we want Cardano to be more useful but this challenge doesn’t give the participants any parameters to spark their creativity. Constraints are necessary to help the community address the direct needs of the ecosystem.
How can we encourage entrepreneurs to develop businesses on Cardano in the next six months?
This challenge has a time frame and addresses a community which is important to the entire Cardano community. Furthemore, it can be addressed in many different ways through both technical and non-technical contributions. However, writing challenge questions is only one important part of Project Catalyst. Addressing those challenges in a clear and concise manner is also necessary to identifying the most impactful ideas for Project Catalyst.
Please add tags to your proposal if you are looking for collaborators/advice/implementers.