Aha Labs

Grant Application to NEAR Foundation

We applied for a NEAR Foundation grant. Here are the interesting parts.

You can learn more about NEAR Foundation grants here: near.org/grants. The application copied below currently lives on Airtable.

NEAR Foundation Grants Program

This application is for entrepreneurs, developers, researchers, and advocates looking to contribute to the NEAR ecosystem. You might be looking to bootstrap your project on NEAR, add funds to your DAO’s treasury, or conduct research on the social impacts of decentralization. The NEAR Foundation (NF) welcomes all projects interested in building a more scalable, equitable, and creative future on NEAR.

Please make sure to fill out all sections of the application. While you should provide clear details of your project timelines and scope, an application with lengthy responses is not necessarily preferable! We read through many submissions, so if you can concisely convey your ideas, we would greatly appreciate it. All applications will be received and reviewed on a rolling basis. Only one application per individual and/or team can be submitted at a time.

After completing your project’s pre-specified milestones, an individual or team can re-apply for another grant. Grants are issued in NEAR tokens but payment methods such as USD/ EUR can be issued in exceptional circumstances.

NEAR Foundation offers different grant tracks of support depending on your current stage. A guide can be found here: https://bit.ly/Grant_Track_Guide_NF

You will receive a follow up email to confirm your application has been received and separately when the review process has started. If you have questions that aren’t answered on near.org/grants, please contact us via email at grants@near.foundation.

What is the name of your project?

Aha Labs

Which grant track are you applying for?

Grant tracks found here: https://bit.ly/Grant_Track_Guide_NF

Open Source Infrastructure Grant

Grant Category

Infrastructure / Wallets

Please describe your project in 2-3 sentences.

Limit: 100 words.

Create the best developer experience of any blockchain, with the most succinct and compelling path for Web2 developers. Continue to build out RAEN for NEAR, the “Ruby on Rails” for dapps, as well as related:

  • tools, e.g. NEAR Riffs, OpenZeppelin-like composable contract template library;
  • infrastructure: registry & bootloader contracts; governance DAOs;
  • integrations, e.g. nearblocks.io;
  • products: Contract Store, schema fallback DAO;
  • education: documentation, The RAEN Guide, Raenville, workshops, conference talks;
  • marketing: Twitter, YouTube, GitHub, conference presence, blog.

LinkedIn URL

https://github.com/chadoh, https://linkedin.com/in/willem-wyndham

Twitter URL


Are you working alone or in a team?


Tell us more about your rockstar team and your achievements.

  • Willem Wyndham: studied programming languages at a doctorate level. Built near-sdk-as, the gateway to NEAR for thousands of developers. At bleeding edge of WebAssembly, the VM used by nearcore’s runtime, via active involvement in the community group. Built simulation testing for NEAR in 2020 and superseded it with near-workspaces in 2021. Cofounded TENK NFT accelerator; built smart contract that powers most (and most successful) NFTs in NEAR ecosystem. Built back half of RAEN in first half of 2022.
  • Chad Ostrowski: 9-year veteran of web2 startup & consultancy world, full-time in web3 for 3 years since. Built initial Rainbow Bridge UI; delivered well-loved talk about Rainbow Bridge at ETH Denver 2021. Collaborated with Willem on near-workspaces. Built front half of RAEN in first half of 2022.
  • Jonathon Hammond: Worked as a web2 developer and consultant since 2012 specializing in software automation. Made the web3 transition in late 2020 and has been part of NEAR projects including Fayyr and Amplify Art.
  • Andrew Nickell: UI/UX expert creating work in both web2 and web3 for the last 10+ years. Has worked on NEAR projects Fayyr, RAEN and Amplify Art.
  • Jenni Dinsmore: A background in project management from the interior design world, made transition to software project mangement in late 2021.
  • Anil Kumar: Started career working for a web2 finance reconciliation tech company; transitioned to web3 in late 2020. Specializes in backend JavaScript and Rust development.

Has your team previously received funding, tokens, or grants from NEAR?

Willem and Chad as Aha Labs were both NEAR Education Fellows; see wrap-up. The rest of our team as Pixel8 received a grant to build NEAR Tooling.

Project Website URL

https://raen.dev, https://AhaLabs.dev, https://pixel8.io

Github Project URL

https://github.com/raendev, https://github.com/AhaLabs, https://github.com/Pixel8-LLC

How much funding are you requesting? Please specify the exact amount you are requesting in USD.

E.g. $50,000. Grants will be given in USD value of NEAR tokens. (Benchmark: average grant <$50K USD)

$420,000 (for 6 months with current team + 3 new hires)

How far along is your project?

Ideation phase, MVP, or maybe you’ve already launched—woohoo!

We’ve already launched—woohoo!

When is the expected project launch date on NEAR?*



What are you building & why?

The biggest gap in NEAR’s current tooling & education exists between “hackathon Proof-of-Concept” and “full-scale app”. How’s a hacker to evolve a weekend project into a well-architected codebase that serves a userbase of millions? What are the best current patterns for building on the Open Web, and how can a builder upgrade to the latest patterns “for free”, harnessing the research and development of the whole ecosystem, rather than re-performing the research themselves?

RAEN has already laid the foundation for tooling that answers these questions. This grant will give us six months of runway to expand this offering, allowing us to evolve it into the “Ruby on Rails” of the Open Web: a framework, CLI tool, and related infrastructure to allow builders to quickly iterate on ambitious decentralized apps.

Central to the Open Web vision are thin apps that access open data. That is, apps that incorporate data from many smart contracts. RAEN will support this in three ways: 1. Making it easy to build apps that integrate with existing, deployed smart contracts; 2. Building a no-code “Contract Store” app that allows people to quickly launch their own version of a contract, such as the many NFT projects that forked the TENK smart contract with minor modification (for a partial list, see https://ahalabs.dev/posts/near-edu-fellowship-recap); and 3. Providing OpenZeppelin-type templates and building blocks, giving smart contract authors quick starting points and secure patterns to build on.

What makes you different from your competitors?

Why are you the one? :)

A collective 8 years experience of 1. building tools that are both more powerful and easier to use than the competition, 2. launching well-loved apps in the NEAR ecosystem, and 3. explaining concepts in accessible ways that a broad audience of web2 and web3 developers can understand. See our team description above.

What are your project milestones and estimated budget for each step (Please list)? And when are the expected delivery dates for each milestone?

Guidelines for completing milestones: https://bit.ly/Grant-Milestone-Guide-NF

Milestone 1: NEAR Contract Store soft launch

(Month 1, $70k)

  • NEAR Riffs v1 released with usable documentation & good branding
  • Web UI to self-service launch a contract
  • DAO to manage submissions of new contracts to Store
  • Subgraph-driven dashboard tracking launched contracts

Milestone 2: RAEN refinements

(Month 2, $35k)

  • Branding (outsourced)
  • Embed Wit in contracts instead of JSON Schema
  • TypeScript-to-Wit generator
  • RAEN Admin: Complex data input UX (e.g. date inputs for dates, not numbers)
  • Rust SDK allow macro (supersede /// @allow comments)
  • RAEN Admin: Sign into multiple contracts at once (work around near-api-js limitation)

Milestone 3: Ecosystem development

(Month 2, $35k)

  • NEAR Tooling: Add Linkdrop indexing
  • RAEN Admin-like contract explorer in nearblocks.io
  • Collaborate with popular NEAR projects to release RAEN-built versions (wrap.near, USN, Ref Finance, Burrow, Paras, Mintbase, NFT Secret Skellies, NFT TAYC, …)
  • Measuring success: Index all deployed contracts; check if built with RAEN

Milestone 4: Verified secondary RAEN schema fallback system

(Month 3, $70k)

  • DAO to manage submissions of fallback RAEN schemas
  • Web app to wrap DAO and allow easy browsing of schemas
  • Collaborate with Jacob Lindahl’s contract registry

Milestone 5: Wit-to-X generators, where X equals:

(Month 4, $70k)

  • Interactive contract CLI
  • Cross-Contract Call logic for contract developers
    • Rust contract boilerplate
    • TypeScript contract boilerplate
  • TypeScript for app devs
  • OpenRPC
  • Pagoda’s upcoming ABI
  • Subgraphs

Milestone 6: OpenZeppelin-like contract composition

(Month 5, $70k)

  • raen generate contract (nft|ft|dao|etc) to fetch same template contracts used by Contract Store
  • raen generate scaffold to also generate associated Subgraph & TypeScript
  • raen use [some-contract.testnet|some-contract.near] to generate Subgraph & TypeScript from deployed contract

Milestone 7: Education & tutorials

(Month 6, $70k)

  • Expand The Guide
    • Use launcher to allow users to deploy contracts from guide
    • Embed admin contract interface to call contracts from guide
  • Launch Raenville full dapp tutorial for web2 audience

Is your project open-source?


Which components of the project will be open source?

Please provide as much detail as possible.

Every single one

How will this impact the NEAR Ecosystem?

Our tools and resources will lower barries to entry, making NEAR the easiest blockchain to learn and build for, hands-down. App developers will feel confident launching and rapidly iterating on ambitious Open Web apps that integrate with contracts throughout the ecosystem, creating a Glory Of The Commons, positive-sum race to the top. Whatever people’s entry point — whether the no-code blackbox solutions on the Contract Store or the turn-key OpenZeppelin-like templates from the RAEN CLI — a huge new swath of web2 and web3 creators will feel empowered to build their moonshots on NEAR, wrapping businesses and public infrastructure around the well-architected codebases RAEN helps them launch and maintain for the long-term.

What makes you excited about NEAR?

Most developer-friendly:

  • runs any language that compiles to WebAssembly
  • dynamic re-sharding design

Most user-friendly:

  • account name system
  • function-call access keys with network allowance (no confirming every single transaction!)
  • NEAR Wallet (no downloads! works by default on mobile!)

How will you measure project success?

What will success look like for your project? An example can be number of sign ups, active users, total TVL, NEAR ecosystem impact etc.

In order of importance:

  • Number of deployed contracts built with RAEN over time. Correlate with other known events, such as marketing campaigns and conferences, to approximate:
    • web2 converts to NEAR
    • web3 converts to NEAR from other chains
  • Partnerships completed. Factor in partnership size so that a complex partnership counts for more than a simple one.
  • Total downloads of published packages
  • Visits to web properties, tracked using Plausible.io
  • Conference talks given (including virtual); audience size
  • Video views
  • Twitter followers

Links to Video(s)

Please upload any videos to some video hosting platform (e.g. YouTube/Vimeo/etc.) and add the link(s) below:

Introducing RAEN (2min)

Status & Vision (6min)

Please include any helpful materials such as roadmap, video demonstration, pitch deck etc. A pitch deck is compulsory for project requesting over $100,000.

Select up to 3 files to attach. Acceptable file types: .csv, .doc, .docx, .odt, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, .wpd, .wpf, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .svg, .tif, .tiff, .3gp, .avi, .flv, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .mpg, .webm, .wmv, .epub, .key, .mobi, .mus, .musx, .ppt, .pptx, .sib, .xls, .xlsx, .zip

Are you currently raising a round (or do you have plans to do so in the future)?

If yes, please tick the box below.


How did you hear about the NEAR Grants Program?

Please tell us how you found this program! Did you hack with us, see us in a newsletter, or something else?

We all worked with NEAR previously

Did someone refer you to the NF Grants Program?

Sherif Abushadi, Cameron Dennis, Matt Lockyer, Dani Osorio, and others. See everyone who signed our recommendations contract here: rec.raen.dev/list

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