Unveiling the Potential of the NEAR Ecosystem: A Grassroots Perspective

Unveiling the Potential of the NEAR Ecosystem: A Grassroots Perspective

This article is sponsored by NEAR Horizon. NEAR Horizon is a startup support platform that has onboarded more than 200 Web3 projects and attracted over 50 contributors since its launch in April 2023.

The inaugural Horizon cohort the inaugural Horizon Founder Fellowship, HZN1, will be kicking off on September 18th, 2023, and run through mid-December. Learn more at https://hzn.super.site/


Presenting a comprehensive analysis of NEAR Horizon, a startup support platform and community for Web3 founders, which is part of the NEAR protocol ecosystem. Our research approach was multifaceted, encompassing a macro review of the NEAR ecosystem to understand its structure, key players, and growth dynamics, as well as an in-depth examination of the NEAR Horizon Product and its value within the ecosystem.

We also conducted a qualitative survey analysis and in-depth interviews with Horizon Founders to gain insights into their experiences and the critical attributes impacting their success. The goal of our research was to provide insight into the founder journeys of early-stage NEAR products and identify key success factors. The following sections will delve into our research findings, offering an overview of the NEAR ecosystem, the NEAR Horizon Product, and the NEAR Horizon Founder Analysis, providing valuable insights for investors, developers, and other stakeholders interested in the NEAR ecosystem.

NEAR Ecosystem Overview

The NEAR Protocol has been gaining significant traction in the blockchain space, particularly in the AI, Health, and Fungible Token verticals. This is largely due to the rise of SWEAT, a move-to-earn platform built on NEAR, which has become one of the most popular applications across Web3. SWEAT’s unique proposition of rewarding users for physical activity has resonated with a broad user base, driving significant interaction with their existing user-base and the SWEAT smart contracts on the NEAR Protocol. This trend underscores the potential of blockchain technology to revolutionize sectors beyond just finance, such as health and wellness, while also highlighting that the majority of users and traffic on NEAR are concentrated among the top applications.

This concentration of activity highlights the necessity for nurturing a grassroots community and empowering early-stage companies to create applications that can draw in users and stimulate transaction throughput. This is precisely the mission of NEAR Horizon, fostering an environment that encourages innovation and growth within the NEAR ecosystem. (See Messari Report: State of NEAR Q2 2023 for more information)

NEAR Horizon Snapshot

NEAR Horizon is an on-chain product that enables founding teams to scale their projects with a wide range of support enabling growth and real-world value in the NEAR Ecosystem. The NEAR Horizon Product has been experiencing steady growth in its user base since it first launched in April 2023. This growth has been driven by a combination of grassroots activations, strategic partnerships, and community engagement initiatives.

Horizon by the Numbers:

  • Over 240 projects have been launched on Near Horizon since its inception in April 2023, demonstrating the platform’s ability to support a wide range of applications and use cases.
  • The platform has attracted over 80 contributors, highlighting the vibrant community of developers and innovators who are actively engaged with the NEAR Horizon community.
  • More than 25 contribution requests have been created, indicating the active collaboration and ongoing development within the NEAR Horizon community.

The Horizon team is taking an inventive approach to foster growth and expand its footprint within the emerging NEAR founder community. Product demo days have become instrumental in both introducing NEAR Horizon’s capabilities and in deepening connections with its audience. These events invite community feedback, attract new users, and cultivate a richer understanding among its existing members.

Supplementing these demos are the weekly grassroots AMAs with Service Providers and Backers. Far more than just interactions, these sessions foster community connections and elevate the appeal of the NEAR Horizon Product.

Hackathons have been a significant aspect of Horizon. The recent, Major League Hacking x NEAR Horizon Web3 Build Hackathon, boasting over 900 applications and 300 global participants, concluded by selecting four standout teams for an immersive summer fellowship. The goal: transform hackathon prototypes into tangible projects under the guidance of seasoned NEAR mentors.

  • NEAR IP – An Intellectual Property NFT Marketplace
  • Transpact – Tamper-proof and transparent records of contractual agreements
  • MediBridge – Empowering Healthcare Through Secure Decentralization
  • StoreHub – Enabling business owners to effortlessly launch their businesses online with a single click

Horizon has formed a strategic partnership with Outlier Ventures. This collaboration not only provides opportunities for more users to engage with the NEAR Horizon Product, but also brings to the forefront an investment thesis deeply rooted in Web 2.5 transitions, real-world blockchain applications, and the convergence of AI and blockchain. Outlier’s NEAR x OV Base Camp emphasizes these very ideologies, championing the fusion of decentralized and centralized technologies, and envisioning a future where AI and blockchain seamlessly intertwine.

As we continue to engage with our community and foster partnerships, we look forward to seeing continued growth and innovation in the NEAR ecosystem.

NEAR Horizon Founder Analysis

Being a founder in the Web3 space over the past 12 months has been a test of resilience and adaptability. Macroeconomic conditions, public and VC sentiment, and regulatory changes have all created significant challenges for early-stage builders. Despite these hurdles, our survey shows a vibrant startup community within the NEAR ecosystem, demonstrating the resilience and innovation of these founders.

Our survey revealed a wide range of product categories, indicating the diversity of the NEAR startup community. Geographically, there is a higher concentration of startups in North America and the EU, followed by APAC and LATAM. This distribution reflects the global reach of the NEAR ecosystem and its ability to attract founders from diverse regions.

Our research on early-stage products within the NEAR ecosystem provides an insightful contrast to Galaxy’s broader findings in the crypto space. Geographically, our data mirrors some of Galaxy’s results: 56% of our founders are based in North America, aligning with the US’s dominant fundraising role in Galaxy’s Report. Europe also stands out in our research, contributing 16.7% of founders.

In terms of market categories, NEAR’s focus on real-world value is evident. We’ve seen a significant 33.3% of ventures delving into specialized infrastructure, trailed by entertainment (13.3%), wallets, and gaming (each at 10%). While Galaxy observed a high capital deployment in trading, exchange, investing, and lending, the NEAR ecosystem distinctively prioritizes genuine utility over short-term, speculative activities. The emphasis is on transformative solutions rather than fleeting trends, ensuring the ecosystem’s robustness and longevity.

In terms of founder backgrounds, our survey showed a balanced distribution with nearly a 50-50 split between technical and non-technical founders, as well as a mix between startups with and without prior founding experience. 

Impressively, a significant 43.4% of founders identified as non-technical, a testament to the diversity and inclusivity of this space as well as disrupting the narrative that all Web3 founders are highly technical. A 2019 study by Basis Set Ventures becomes particularly relevant here; it emphasized that while a technical founder isn’t quintessential for success, having a technical counterpart early on can greatly boost outcomes. Furthermore, finding outstanding team members that perfectly complement founders is often a linchpin for sustained success.

Another statistic was the preponderance of first-time founders, standing at 80%, starkly contrasted with a mere 20% having prior founding experience. This disparity elucidates the pressing need to envelop these nascent founders with a solid support framework. By equipping them with the best practices pivotal for birthing exceptional products and scaling companies, we aim to bridge this gap. Given this backdrop, our subsequent ventures include launching mentorship drives, curated bootcamps, and cohort-centric learning experiences.

Despite the gamut of backgrounds, most founders face similar challenges. The common focal points? Building or refining their product, fundraising, or juggling both. Galaxy’s recent analysis offers insightful parallels, noting a continued decline in crypto VC investment, even as deal counts saw marginal upticks in Q2. Moreover, the median valuation for crypto VC deals plummeted to a low of $17.93m in Q2 2023 – the lowest since Q1 2021. 

Teams within the NEAR Horizon ecosystem have displayed an enviable blend of grit and resourcefulness, navigating the complexities of 2022 with dexterity. It’s a historical truism: bear markets often sow the seeds for the most revolutionary products and we are steadfast in our conviction that Horizon Founders are building just that. 

Conclusions and Actionable Takeaways

The NEAR ecosystem presents a compelling opportunity for both developers and investors. Its best-in-class tech, coupled with the strong leadership of its founders and the robust network of service providers, make it a promising platform for the future of decentralized applications. Our comprehensive analysis of the NEAR Horizon community has provided us with several insights into the factors that contribute to the success of founders.

Key Success FactorDescriptionHorizon Initiatives
Day-to-Day EffectivenessRunning a company effectively on a day-to-day basis is crucial, particularly in a bear market where resources might be limited. Founders need to be adept at managing their resources, prioritizing tasks, and making strategic decisions that drive their company forward.Mentorship Program: Matches founders with industry mentors for guidance, experience sharing, and strategic insights.
Founder-Market FitFounders should have a clear advantage or unique insight into the market they are targeting. This could be based on their background, experience, or a unique perspective they bring. A strong founder-market fit can give startups a competitive edge and increase their chances of success.Founder Selection: We target founders with founder-market fit in our recruitment and onboarding efforts.
Scrappy and ResourcefulGiven the resource constraints typical of a bear market, being able to do more with less and find creative solutions to problems is a valuable trait. Founders who are scrappy and resourceful can navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and keep their startups moving forward even in tough market conditions.NEAR Horizon Marketplace: Our platform connects founders with resources, tools, and collaborators to foster creative problem-solving.
StorytellingThe ability to tell compelling narratives is crucial. This is how founders attract investors, users, and talent to their project, especially in a bear market where these resources are more scarce. A compelling narrative can resonate with stakeholders and drive engagement with the startup.Fundraising Bootcamp: Intensive training sessions to enhance storytelling, craft compelling narratives, and create all the material required to have a successful fundraising round.
Technical CapabilityA deep understanding of blockchain technology, smart contracts, and decentralized systems is crucial. Founder teams should be able to navigate the technical challenges of building on the NEAR Protocol. This technical capability is crucial for building robust, secure, and scalable applications on the NEAR Protocol.Technology Trees & GTM Playbooks: Tools providing a roadmap and best practices for building on the NEAR Protocol tailored to specific verticals. This includes software architecture, developer tools, and exemplar products.

The resilience and determination shown by the founders in the NEAR ecosystem give us confidence that many of these startups will be among the next wave of success stories in the Web3 space.

[This article has been written and prepared by Near Foundation/Near Horizon and GCR Research Team, a group of dedicated professionals with extensive knowledge and expertise in their field. Committed to staying current with industry developments and providing accurate and valuable information GlobalCoinResearch.com is a trusted source for insightful news, research, and analysis.]

Disclaimer: Investing carries with it inherent risks, including but not limited to technical, operational, and human errors, as well as platform failures. The content provided is purely for educational purposes and should not be considered as financial advice. The authors of this content are not professional or licensed financial advisors and the views expressed are their own and do not represent the opinions of any organization they may be affiliated with.

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