Last week, we teased the DAO that’s trying to ‘democratize the country club membership experience’ but come on. That fever dream of a TFM-sketch-turned-a16z-elevator-pitch deserves more than just an offhanded mention and a stray link. So here goes.
LinksDAO has traded roughly 2800eth in digital membership cards for the purpose of buying a golf course. Well. Actually. Not exactly. The ~$10m raised so far constitutes a sort of ‘friends and family’ round of funding, put toward DAO operating fees (read: setting up a Discord channel and lining the pockets of the founding team) with plans for an additional raise to buy the actual course.
‘It’s a grand experiment that we’re doing here as a collective’, the founder says, which should give prospective investors about as much confidence as a Theranos Kickstarter campaign, but here we are. Steph Curry reportedly bought one on Tuesday, doubling the floor price, and ensuring that we’ll have to hear about the future of elitist exclusivity for a while longer. Whether said future looks like a metaverse golf course or a spectacular rug pull remains to be seen.
While we wait with bated breath, let’s consider what the fuck a ‘democratic country club’ would actually mean. Per genre norms, the roadmap is caked in jargon and difficult to explicate. Reportedly, they hope to organize into a DAO to identify and buy ‘one of the world’s greatest golf courses’ by the end of the year in order to ‘create the club of our collective dreams.’ Memberships have already sold out. The secondary market for LinksDAO NFTs commands a floor price of 0.89eth on OpenSea.
There’s not a whole hell of a lot to go off besides that. But, by reading between the lines, one can glean that this new WASP democracy really just means buying a (speculative) private club membership (for three grand) and then (eventually) having a (marginal) say in where it’s physically located (maybe). So (technically) it is a change from clubs only open to rich white people with storied family histories, but also, in spirit, the same.
Admittedly, though, it’s a perfect fit. After reading Ian Vanagas’ characteristically excellent essay, ‘NFTs Are All About Access‘, I realized I’m only surprised a DAO didn’t try to buy a country club sooner. As the author puts it: NFTs give access to scarce resources. People value scarcity. Ergo, people value NFTs. Vanagas examines this from both the literal lens (access to a physical golf course) and the psychological (access to the identity of ‘person who might one day get to golf a quick 9 with Steph Curry’). In doing so, he casts the ‘new path’ provided by web3 not as a transparent democratic utopia, but a response to the ‘old ways’ web2 traded status — networks, reputation, engagement. Now, rather than selling the snake oil of an inclusive American Dream, the exclusivity is the whole point.
He concludes that ‘the projects that succeed will continue to convince people the access they provide is valuable.’ That’s something country clubs have done since the 19th century and, if LinksDAO is any indication, will continue to do. So while I do believe there are new opportunities for institutional change presented by the blockchain, I can’t agree with Vanagas that the emphasis on access and scarcity represents any sort of new path. ‘Members Only’ has been a viable business model since some alpha chimpanzee cucked my great¹²⁸ ancestor. This is no different.