Navigating the Blockchain Jungle: Lessons Learned as a First-Time Founder


Insights on what to do when shit hits the fan and the vibes are off.

Violet Summer

By Violet Summer



March 25, 2024

MARCH 25, 2024


Last updated May 7, 2024

Violet Verse Banner

"Hey, are you joining Zoom for our weekly team meeting?"

Like someone who is good at leading teams and communicating, I pinged my former collaborator of my software during a meeting. During pre-ship stages, it's all hands on deck.  It was the summer I had just secured non-dilutive funding to build app and looked to my network to help me execute.

"I have dinner plans. Can we cut the meeting short?" they responded.

We were in Valencia, Spain, for a week before heading to Eth Paris. The team I had assembled was located in Pacific and East Coast time zones, so rescheduling wasn’t an option. The dapp was scheduled to deploy in less than six weeks, and we simply didn’t have time to reschedule.

This was one of the many times I contemplated whom I had chosen to partner with in building a blockchain application. As a first-time founder of software, I had no idea what I was doing or how to lead both an engineering and creative team. It was something I was learning on the job.

Attempting to code 

As we approach the bull market of 2024, money will flow. Currently, there are over $100 million in grants from blockchain ecosystems, calling for both new and seasoned builders to submit proposals for consumer-friendly applications and tools to propel their ecosystems into mass adoption. There will be new products with non-dilute startup investment capital of upwards of $100K. New teams will form, and one thing is for sure: partnering with the right people will make or break your decentralized application.

When I received my own round of non-dilutive capital, it was career-changing. Suddenly, I had a token grant worth almost $100K, responsibility for milestones, and a lot of riding on me as a Black female founder. Naturally, I looked to my network and close friends in the industry for help in building what I had pitched to an ecosystem that was expecting value in return for their investment.

The biggest lesson I learned from building Violet Verse is that partnerships are crucial, and finding the right people in the early stages of building your blockchain tools is paramount. At the time of building VV from scratch, I was eager and overly generous, and consequently, I didn’t set clear boundaries with my chosen team. As time passed in the project, my personal and business values were tested.

"I thought you were going to give me equity," my ex-colleague said to me after a summer of under performance from my perspective. 

Perhaps the best thing decision I made was to not jump to give out equity before the project was complete. To be clear, everyone got paid in full and were encouraged to share ideas. I didn't really get any good value except ideas on how to cut corners. As a founder, you want to maximize your budget, your resources, and your time. I think people got me fucked up because they under-estimated the power of the product.

I'd been working on VV from the "outside in" - after work hours, on my off days, and after 5pm. What I wasn't prepared for was how early I was in building custom blockchain software for the media industry and the years of adoption it is taking to at least get people on the same page. This post is for new founders who are excited about the opportunities that come with grant funding, but is also a cautionary tale about finding the right balance between work and play. As innovators, we are fortunate to be part of an industry that rewards innovation and participation, but we must also be mindful of the business ethics that are the pillars of successful partnerships.

Here are four values I wish I had considered before founding Violet Verse:

1. Consistency: Violet Verse would not be where it is without my dedication. However, there were a few people who had been part of the project since 2022—developers who helped write the code and contributors who submitted articles and edited high-quality videos. While many people are motivated by money, I believe that the early stages of a blockchain software project are about navigating the dark forest. As a bootstrapped startup, it was hard for me to keep up with paying people who were only here for a good time, not a long time. It was challenging to pay people on an hourly basis when troubleshooting new technology. As a developer, it can get lonely, and people will come and go, but the consistent vision holder will push the product forward.

2. Accountability: There were team members who lacked accountability and were not willing to compromise. To own up to your mistakes and shortcomings is what makes someone a better team member and also moves the company culture forward. Go to business cons

3. Trustworthiness: This one goes without saying that if you have to look at your co-workers sideways, there is absolutely no trust in the team or the product. Building a product with trust means that you rely on each other to solve hard problems and get things done. I remember laying out the vision of Violet Verse for my team, and the technical part was a very gray area. The person I hired was only familiar with solidity, and cadence as a smart contract language was still very foreign. I had to trust that the development team I assembled had all they needed to learn the right commands and actions to get the task done. My priority was connecting my team to the appropriate channels to mitigate any problems along the way. Your team will lose trust in you when you're not consistent, you're rude when giving directives, your tone sucks and it's not positive. They will also lose trust when they aren't fairly compensated. 

4. Communication: Which leads me to my next point in managing communications, tone of voice and nurturing relationships as a new founder. This is supposed to be the easiest to achieve but in a media business, but it's far from the truth. The end goal is that everyone will communicate on the same wave length. They will use Discord for check-ins, they'll express their annoyances before they turn into bigger issues, and the company vibe will allow for an open floor to express their concerns. But in the age of TikTok, this is rarely the case. As a leader, you have to establish the bar. You have to be vulnerable enough to communicate when you're wrong, or pump the brakes when the team is not aligned. I wish I would have established a roadmap that was based on what was actually in the company's bank account, instead of paying people at the top of the budget without no plan to how the business was going to make money. I wish I could have asked the team that I recruited what their ultimate goals were, instead of using them for one-off projects.

I digress... Everything is a healing journey; business is not supposed to be perfect. You'll learn from your mistakes, whether it's a hard launch or soft landing. In retrospect, I would have probably not hired my friends. And moving forward, I probably will stick to reviewing resumes and proposals before asking people their rates. Moving forward, I've definitely spent a huge portion of my product development process going over the business strategy.

We're still building and growing. We're still refining the software and adding the latest code to the ecosystem. What counts is the steps taken daily to make it better. Even if the team members you started are now ghosts in your Notion pages, at least you tried. Just keep growing and moving the technology forward. Something good will happen... at least that's what I tell myself. 

What are your partnership boundaries? 






More From


More From