First of all, let me say I’m only writing this because Laurence encouraged me to do so on Telegram so please don’t lynch me, thanks. This is just my opinion and if you find it dumb or annoying please blame Laurence, not me
Anyway, a perceived lack of marketing has been a cause for concern amongst Kleros investors and supporters for quite some time already. I know Federico (along with others I’m sure) has been doing a great job of getting Kleros known outside the blockchain world, in particular in the arbitration community, but it seems like Kleros has yet to fully capture the mind of the blockchain world and that our efforts have been lackluster up until now.
Worse still, some of our inferior competitors do not hesitate to market themselves despite having no cases, no long-term plans and vision, and/or no amazing research team pushing the boundaries of social choice theory. And while it is true that we’ve secured a partnership with at least one very important (dare I say, blue chip) player, namely, Maker, I feel like newer projects don’t necessarily know about us, or if they do, they might think that we are just one amongst several dispute resolution options.
Here’s a quick recap of Kleros competitors or potential competitors (let me know if I missed one):
Aragon: Aragon is a platform for building and governing DAOs. It comes with a court system (Aragon court) which if what I’ve heard is true is a fork of Kleros. At any rate, their court seems to follow the same design, judging by their documentation. The idea is to use this court to resolve disputes pertaining to DAO governance, and in particular, to assess whether governance contract calls are in line with a DAO’s constitution. I see basically no difference between this and the Kleros governor and I see no reason why any project would use Aragon court for governance instead of the Kleros governor since there simply seems to be no comparative advantage to it. Quite the opposite, this would be putting one’s DAO in the hands of a court with apparently no real cases  and a lower market cap, making it considerably less secure.
It is possible that Aragon would try to rebrand its court as a general purpose court but I see nothing to suggest it for now. All in all, I would not consider it to be a serious competitor but it might gain some traction through marketing to less savvy projects. Which brings me to UMA, which seems to have managed just that…
UMA: UMA is a project that brands itself as the optimistic oracle system. In short, they provide an oracle where, instead of price feeds being continuously updated on chain, market participants self-report the price of assets relevant to their transaction (e.g. for a liquidation event). These transactions are however subject to a challenge period (generally of a few hours?) where the provided prices can be disputed, resulting in a case being open in their Data Verification Mechanism (DVM) which is UMA’s version of a Schelling point based court albeit apparently a lot simpler than Kleros court since I see no mention of appeals in its documentation.
UMA also offers a layer of financial instruments such as options and synthetics which use the optimistic oracle as their main building block.
Given how targeted UMA is and the extreme simplicity of the DVM, you might ask why I am even mentioning them a s a potential competitor. Well, I found an article  from October which explains how a new insurance protocol named Sherlock is integrating with UMA —specifically UMA’s DVM— to decide smart contract hacking claims. So it looks like the UMA team is already thinking of diversifying outside of price feeds and related applications. Although I have no idea how worthwhile of a project Sherlock is, I feel like this partnership should come as a shock to the Kleros community given how basic the UMA’s DVM is and how much more appropriate of a choice Kleros would have been here (with appeals and a specialized technical blockchain court among other things). Perhaps Sherlock’s decision simply has to do with internal project politics and conflicts of interests, but if not this suggests a failure in Kleros’ marketing strategy.
Jur: As far as I can tell, Jur is trying to bring traditional arbitration to the blockchain. I don’t see them as a real competitive risk since they are likely far too centralized to the taste of most blockchain projects, will prove to be less reliable and affordable than Kleros’ incentivized wisdom of the crowds, and will find it hard to scale. They might be a more appropriate choice for certain complex cases, at least until Kleros evolves the infrastructure to solve them. As such, they should not constitute a threat to us but we might constitute a threat to them in long term (assuming they ever garner any success).
PAID: Vaporware/scam. Enough said.
(0.) In-house arbitration layers specific to each project. It is very tempting for projects to roll their own arbitration system with voting power allocated based on their own token distribution. The advantages of doing so are: A. that this adds a new utility to the project’s token, thereby increasing its value; and B. that the project is not reliant on a third party which might be perceived as unreliable or a liability, especially if the project in question is bigger (i.e. has a higher market cap) than Kleros. The disadvantages are: a. increased complexity (reinventing the wheel), although this can be partially solved with libraries; b. bias towards the project, since the jurors are tokenholders and any financial loss against the project would reflect upon their own token share; c. lack of diversity in the jury pool and greater ease of vote buying, which could more easily lead to favoritism towards a specific party with influence (be it inside or outside the system) or offering bribes. An example of a platform that has its own arbitration system is the Nexus Mutual insurance protocol, with all of the aforementioned caveats, especially a risk of bias towards the project (b.). UMA is another example but they consider arbitration to be a primary function of their protocol so that’s a little different.
So it appears to me that strong marketing will be essential to fend off these competitors. If you’ll oblige, I’ll lay out my thoughts on what our marketing goals and non-goals should be until court v2 is released:
Let people know that Kleros exists;
that it already is a working and proven product (although not yet perfect);
that it’s the only on-chain dispute resolution system with complex real world cases (UMA seems to only have simple price feed “disputes”).
Brand marketing: When any of the terms dispute resolution, arbitration, court, investor protection, or any related concepts are brought up in the context of blockchain, the first thing that should come to people’s mind is Kleros.
Emphasize that we are the only blockchain court to have proven our worth: For high-value, high-stakes use cases, the only valid dispute resolution system anyone should consider using is Kleros. The only area in which other dispute resolution systems will have any chance of competing with us is fees (because Kleros has and will surely maintain the best track-record of unbiased decision making in the space) and so the only context where another dispute resolution system might ever be considered competitive is low-value cases. And even then, it would be wise to allow appeals to go through Kleros.
Pumping the price of PNK.
Getting Kleros onto an exchange. I actually agree that this probably isn’t useful other than to pump the price in the short term.
Getting projects to integrate Kleros into their DAOs or smart contracts as soon as possible.
Regarding this last point, there is a general feeling among many Kleros investors or would-be investors that the cooperative is waiting for the release of Kleros v2 to start marketing. If true, I believe this could very well be a major strategic blunder. As I’ve already mentioned, our competitors will not hesitate to market themselves despite not having a proven product and not having anything that comes close to Kleros v2 in the works.
What if they manage to build momentum before us and then simply copy-paste the court v2 code when it’s released? There is currently no reason to choose a competitor over us except lack of awareness so this hypothetical situation is avoidable, and it will be easier and safer to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. As a bonus, if it so happens that some projects see a use in integrating Kleros before the V2 release, we get some new customers early and avoid losing them to the competition.
So what can we do?
Well, I’m certainly not qualified to make recommendations since I have zero experience in business or marketing, but I’ll give it a try anyhow:
If we could get into popular and especially higher quality podcasts like Bankless, that in itself could be a huge boost to our reputation. We’ve got some really interesting stories to tell too, like our case history and our forays into real-life justice, so surely it can’t be that difficult to convince some podcast hosts to do an episode with us.
I see that the cooperative has two job offers for marketing positions on angel.co . I don’t know how long they have been up for, but if the cooperative can’t find anyone, isn’t it likely that the offers are underpriced? The offers certainly look extremely low to me at 50k-80k for a communications manager and 24k-40k for an outstanding(!) crypto communicator. These are listed as full-time jobs too. I feel like we should be aiming for people with extensive connections within the space, and I can’t imagine that will be cheap. Surely a few hundred thousand dollars (or even half a million if necessary) for a year is a small price to pay to ensure we don’t get front-run by copycats and lose a huge chunk of our future market share. I also think the types of connections a potential candidate might have are important to consider. In particular, connections with younger projects (e.g. Abracadabra) and incubators are likely to be more beneficial since the old guard of DAOs probably already know about us, but I’m just thinking out loud here.
If there is support for it, I can write a KIP officially asking the Kleros cooperative to ramp up marketing and put it to a vote on snapshot to measure stakeholder sentiment and get some form of official community approval. To make things a little more concrete, I could propose that the cooperative is encouraged to use up to 500k USD for its marketing budget for a year starting immediately.
Thanks for reading.
EDIT: s/Lex/Jur; haven’t looked into LexDAO yet.