Bisq Q1 2020 Update: Goals and Reorganization

The year 2019 was, by almost any reasonable measure, an incredibly successful year for the Bisq network.

Here is a sampling of the milestones achieved:

  • v1.0 launched after 4+ years of work
  • Bisq DAO launched as perhaps the first and only bitcoin-based DAO
    • Of 20,100 total trades done since the DAO launch in 2019, 8,589 used BSQ to pay trading fees
  • New trading records reached
    • USD-adjusted volume up 2.6x (from 5,256 BTC to 13,782 BTC)
  • New trade protocol deployed
    • Trades are now secured with 2-of-2 multisig escrows instead of 2-of-3 multisig escrows
  • Account signing
    • Novel mechanism to increase counterparty confidence for fiat trades while maintaining privacy

If Bisq just set out to be a successful software project that facilitated bitcoin trading, this would be it. There would be no need to step back and reevaluate anything. Just keep developing, keep growing, and let things evolve as they do.

But the vision for Bisq is a bit grander.

The vision is for Bisq to become the exchange layer for the Bitcoin protocol stack, organized as a thoroughly decentralized DAO that sovereignly manages and funds itself. This requires the project to manage itself in a way different from your typical open software project, with a greater focus on efficiency and effectiveness.

As a result, some challenges emerged as a result of Bisq’s 2019 success that hampered the project’s ability to continue to effectively achieve its vision:

  • Lack of management led to suboptimal resource allocation
    • Overspending on low priorities and underspending on high priorities
  • Contributor base grew, but developer capacity remained limited
  • Volatile volumes resulted in revenues insufficient to support more developers
  • Weak support often left users frustrated, hampering growth and development efforts

It’s become clear that while the Bisq DAO provides a solid technical basis for a decentralized operation, the human side of the Bisq DAO wasn’t as solid.

A New Structure

To that end, Bisq is reorganizing its operations into 5 teams with goals and budgets.

Until now, Bisq’s contributor network didn’t have much structure. Aside from designating people for roles to handle ongoing responsibilities, the project has largely functioned as an amorphous group of individuals who contributed to the project on their own accord—in other words, a free-for-all—with no real management, no formal constraints, and no analysis. This worked well while the contributor group was small, since priorities aligned nicely with the people who were around to take them on.

The following structure was determined as the result of a rigorous, practical analysis of the network’s standing at the beginning of 2020—one we think will help Bisq realize its vision while staying true to its roots of keeping the Bisq contributor network decentralized, voluntary, and meritocratic.

Project Goals and Budget

The Bisq network’s project-wide goals as of Q1 2020 are:

  • Increase trading volume
  • Improve user support
  • Improve software reliability
  • Improve new user onboarding

The total budget for the project is set to 60,000 USD per month. This number is based on issuance numbers from previous cycles, adjusted to be the minimum required spending to achieve the goals listed above.

See below for goal details and budget allocations.

The Bisq DAO only issues BSQ, but because of the variable prices of BSQ and BTC, we present all budget numbers in USD equivalents.

Team Goals and Budget


Budget: 400 USD

Lead: cbeams

The admin function is made of team leads who collaborate in order to:

  1. Determine and accomplish project goals by executing high-priority tasks to achieve team goals
  2. Manage key DAO infrastructure such as roles, proposals, compensation, etc. to ensure they are fit to achieve project and team goals

In a sense, the admin function exists to unite and rally the 4 other teams as they work to pursue top-level project goals. Its budget allocation is relatively low since the function is new and unproven—team leads have agreed to defer compensation for their own admin efforts.


Budget: 29,000 USD

Lead: ripcurlx

As a software project, development is a core function.

Bisq shipped lots of significant updates to its software in 2019. Now, the focus is on refining this software to be more reliable and welcoming.

For reliability, solving critical bugs are now a top development priority.

We define “critical bug” to be any issue that:

  1. prevents a user from successfully trading or managing funds on Bisq
  2. repeatedly lands users in support
  3. puts user funds or privacy at risk

We’ll track progress on improvements by tracking metrics such as critical bug incidents per DAO cycle and critical bug incidents per trade. Known critical bugs will be prominently tracked and displayed, and solutions to such bugs will get the highest priority in the development budget.

For onboarding, we need to make Bisq less imposing for new users. Making your first trade on Bisq is not trivial, and many would-be Bisq users are turned away from the apparent complexity of getting started with it.

Luckily, we already have some excellent mockups for significant improvements. These mockups include a more intuitive interface for the desktop software and (most crucially) a beautiful step-by-step wizard to help new users get started without guesswork.

Moving forward, implementing these new interfaces will be a top priority.


Budget: 10,700 USD

Lead: m52go

Growth efforts were intentionally muted through much of 2019 because of the DAO launch, bank account fraud incidents, and other factors that made it unsuitable to attract new users to Bisq. The v1.0 and v1.2 releases solved many of these issues.

As it stands at the beginning of 2020, the Bisq software isn’t perfect, but it’s ready for more users and more volume. We’re looking to hit and sustain 2,100 BTC of trading volume per month as soon as possible. Although this is a big improvement from Bisq’s current monthly volume, there were months in 2019 in which Bisq trading volume far exceeded 2,100 BTC.

We plan to achieve this higher, more consistent trading volume with a smarter, more consistent approach to market-making and community engagement:

  1. Develop and promote strategic market-making bounties. The USD, EUR, and XMR markets are strong on Bisq, but volume fluctuates and liquidity is not consistent. We will incentivize consistent, desirable liquidity by making sure Bisq always has offers key markets that people want.
  2. Develop and nurture stronger ties with the community. Bisq already has a good amount of word-of-mouth among those in its key demographics across a range of channels, but it needs to more proactively insert itself into more conversations and give more people more reasons to use Bisq.

We intend for this two-pronged approach to spark more supply (availability of attractive offers) and demand (users who take offers). We expect consistent execution of this approach to lead to consistently higher supply and demand.

To measure success, we will continue to measure the usual volume metrics (e.g., total volume per unit of time, trades per unit of time, etc), but we will also add new liquidity metrics to better reflect users’ trading experiences: average spread, offer size, depth, volume, etc.

A potentially game-changing priority worth mentioning is the shipment of headless Bisq software with an RPC API, making it easy to run a Bisq node almost anywhere and allowing programmatic access to market makers. A proof-of-concept for an API is done, and work on a more comprehensive setup that can be shipped to users is underway.


Budget: 15,000 USD

Interim Lead: cbeams

Support has long been a function that contributors helped with on a best-efforts basis. Recently, particularly with issues arising from critical bugs and confusion with the new trade protocol introduced in v1.2, it became clear that Bisq needs a more robust approach to support. A better support experience is also essential for retaining users, so there’s also a growth aspect to stronger support.

To this end, the project is spearheading the following 2 initiatives:

  1. Implement a Level 1 / Level 2 support and escalation process. Level 1 will consist of mediators and arbitrators in the Bisq software remain, as well as knowledgeable support agents who are reliably present in the Bisq Keybase #support channel for prompt responses to questions not answered within the software. For Level 2 support, there will be at least 1 Bisq developer on-call during weekdays for escalations.

  2. Deploy a knowledge base as a convenient, easily-editable repository of how-to guides, work-arounds, and answers to common questions so users can answer their own questions over time.

Examples of metrics we will track for the support function include time to first response and time to resolution.

You can see more details for how the new support function will work in this support kickoff call.


Budget: 4,900 USD

Lead: wiz

Although Bisq is a peer-to-peer network that doesn’t rely on any central servers, it needs to maintain a number of nodes for various purposes.

Keeping this infrastructure reliable is critical for achieving the project’s goals of maintaining a smooth user experience (e.g., seednodes, mobile app alerts, etc) and protecting user privacy (bitcoin nodes, pricenodes, etc) among other things (P2P network monitoring, Matomo website analytics, BSQ block explorers, etc).

Moving Forward: Contributors

This new framework of goals and budgets means there will be new guidelines for contributors.

Contributions are not eligible for compensation unless they are allocated a part of the budget. This is in order to better account for spending allocation. Specifically, we want to make sure that everyone spending time and effort on Bisq is directing their efforts toward work that is high-priority and within the budget. DAO voting remains the ultimate arbiter of BSQ issuance, but a compensation request that doesn’t align with its function’s budget and priorities will be downvoted and discouraged on GitHub with reasoning for all stakeholders to see when voting on Bisq.

Team leads will implement their own ways of determining which contributions are high-priority in a particular cycle and which aren’t, but if you’re not sure if what you’re working on will make the cut, please ask a team lead!

All contributors actively working on Bisq should post entries to the #standup channel on Keybase. Entries should cover what you worked on during the day and what (if anything) stands in your way of making more progress, and they should be made at 8pm CET (ideally) or at the end of your workday. In addition to helping control costs by letting others know if someone is doing low-priority work, this practice also helps to instill a rhythm of momentum and excitement made of all the cool things everyone is working on.

We will be auditing roles to ensure duties are being fulfilled, bonding is done, and documentation is in place. This is to reinforce existing conventions for roles are actually followed, and that people not in compliance are made to comply with conventions or replaced with people who will—for example, DAO bonding can only work if people actually post bonds, and it’s difficult to fault someone for not doing their role if their role isn’t documented.

GitHub’s discussions feature will be used to communicate project-wide and team-wide announcements, so please watch the relevant sections to stay informed. Keybase will continue to be used for ephemeral messaging.

Moving Forward: Users and Stakeholders

This reorganization of the Bisq DAO was not an easy thing to do. There is no role model for how to structure a high-performing DAO…yet. Maybe Bisq can one day be that role model.

It’s important to remember that Bisq’s success in 2019 is what required such substantive changes. Without the momentous development milestones, record trading volumes, and growth in contributors, there would be no resources to misallocate or competing priorities to manage.

So we kick off 2020 with the following messages to you, dear users and stakeholders:

  • Expect progress on project goals, as stated above, but also on reporting and transparency to manage and prove this progress. This project has always tried to be as open and transparent as possible, and that continues—you can expect any proclamations of progress to be backed up by actual no-BS metrics.

  • Better responsiveness and cohesion within functions, particularly support. A lack of stated goals and defined teams—a sort of “tyranny of structurelessness”—sometimes led to confusion of priorities for new and even existing contributors. Often it led to underperformance, with weak support being a prime example. The new conventions in place now seek to dispel this confusion and set a path for team progress.

  • Generally filling gaps in the Bisq experience as it is now, making it more useful and more smooth all-around. Organizational changes and metrics improvements mean nothing if they don’t translate into tangible improvements for end users. Hence our focus on liquidity, critical bugs, support, and onboarding.

We’ve hustled to put these changes in place for Bisq DAO Cycle 10 (the current cycle), so you should start seeing the effects soon.

Don’t hesitate to reach out on Keybase with comments, suggestions, or other thoughts.

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