Cambrian Protocol is decentralized infrastructure for a permissionless labor and services market. It includes modular, extensible decentralized apps called Solvers, an open marketplace of solutions comprised of those apps, and a tokenomic model aligning incentives between developers, workers, entrepreneurs and the wider "Web3" community.
Our immediate priority is to enable on-chain freelancing solutions and hasten a growth in decentralized labor. Freelance and gig work are rapidly growing in prevalence, expedited by the global pandemic and stagnating wages around the world. More people than ever in modern history have eschewed the employer-employee relationship and turned to themselves for financial stability.
However, marketplace access for workers has been largely captured by centralized tech companies. Workers rely on these platforms for exposure, payment, dispute resolution, and the administration of their work itself. To realize the future of the self-sovereign worker it is critical that competitive participation in the labor economy has no gatekeepers.
Our minimum viable product is intended to serve this next generation of self-sovereign workers. After demonstrating our technology on the freelance model, we will turn our attention to conferring its advantages to the wider world of decentralized and autonomous business.
The first section of this document examines only freelancing to understand problems characteristic of labor and service agreements. We relate these problems to problems of centralization intrinsic to incumbent tech platforms in order to contrast the benefits of our decentralized solution.
Problems established, we introduce Solvers, the operative dapps underlying our modular system for composing and executing on-chain agreements.
We then expand our view beyond freelancing and discuss how Solvers are broadly applicable to innumerable schemes for doing business. We describe the basic inner workings of Solvers and how smart contracts are a transformative improvement for executing labor and service agreements.
The final sections describe our marketplace, Cambrian DAO, and the tokenomics which drive development and adoption of Cambrian Protocol.
The self-employed worker faces several immediate needs which serve as a useful model for understanding business challenges in a general sense. We expand and provide anecdotes on select examples below. We later explain how they are remedied by our decentralized infrastructure.
The most fundamental problem for most freelancers is finding customers. Marketing challenges include advertising, branding, pricing, and leveraging one's reputation (or overcoming a lack thereof). Success here comes at the cost of time, money, and energy.
It's in solving this problem that freelancing platforms provide the most value. By piggybacking on a prominent platform a worker can expose themselves to a larger market. Platforms provide reviews and ratings, search, ranking algorithms and a convenient portal for customers.
However, these companies commonly forbid workers from engaging in marketing for themselves outside the platform, such as by banning ads for the worker's listings. The platform's marketing funnel is designed to increase the profits of the platform, not the worker.
Even successful freelancers risk becoming "locked in" to these platforms with no way to take their positive reviews and work histories with them. They are vulnerable to changing terms and increased extraction, or worse, being banned and losing their entire business overnight.
“*I spent $17.95 promoting my gigs with Fiverr, and got $195 in revenues. That's a great ROI. What isn't great is that at any time, Fiverr can decide not to promote your gigs.
My order completion rate is 98% (one refund). My overall rating is 4.7. Yet all my gigs are unpromotable, even the ones rated at 4.9.
I asked customer service what I'm doing wrong, and they told me not to worry, that it's all about the algorithm, and that in the future, my gigs will become promotable again.”*
We use "contracts" here to mean binding mutual agreements which define terms of work such as deliverables, timeline and compensation. Contracts are crucial to protect involved parties.
Workers must draw up their contracts themselves or be protected under the umbrella of a benefacting platform. Crafting one’s own contracts can be difficult and error-prone without expensive legal advice, and examples taken from the internet may not be perfectly suited for their work. Less legalistic agreements often conclude without issue, but workers may be at risk of losing their pay or intellectual property when issues do arise.
Platform-based freelancers are spared figuring these things out for themselves but lose in exchange the ability to dictate their own terms.
*“After I’d already written about thirty-five pages—with no advance payment—this client asked me to pull in screenshots and examples from my own social media accounts,” the freelancer said. “I had to do mini-experiments, like log into Twitter and post four inspiring quotes, to see how many retweets and likes I got.”
Since he needed the work, the freelancer agreed. But when he sent the client the completed white paper, “she sent it back to me with a note saying, ‘Great job! I’ve indicated ten places for you to include dazzling graphics,'” he said.
The freelancer hadn’t included a “scope creep” clause in his contract, so he could either walk away or do what the client asked and hope he’d get paid. He ended up hiring (out of his own pocket) one of his graphic designer friends to create graphics, “like, bar graphs showing how many likes my Facebook posts got.”
The client paid him, and the freelancer learned “never to work without including a provision for scope creep—and a fifty percent advance.”*