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Zuzalu, Vitalik Buterin-Led Retreat in Montenegro, Inspires Grants for ‘Zu-Villages’

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Zuzalu, the two-month invite-only gathering that Ethereum blockchain co-founder Vitalik Buterin helped initiate last year at a seaside hamlet in Montenegro, has inspired a new grants program aiming to foster spinoff events known as «Zu-villages.»

The aim of the program is to continue the «growth of the pop-up city movement» and «support technology-driven projects,” according to a post on Gitcoin, a blockchain-focused crowdfunding platform for open-source software projects that has received funding in the past from Buterin.

Some 250 ETH (about $590,000) is available during the first quarter of 2024 to be distributed to participants as part of a matching program, according to the post. The grants program runs Jan. 15-Feb. 15.

The catch? In order to qualify for these matched funds, teams need to have one member that was invited to Zuzalu last year and participated in it for at least a week.

Not stated in the proposal is whether Zuzalu is happening again this year, and if so, when and where.

CoinDesk reached out to an Ethereum Foundation official to get a comment from Buterin as well as organizers with Zuzalu. Zuzalu organizers said they didn’t want to comment until after the round of funding is closed.

To qualify for grants in the first quarter of 2024, the program is split into two rounds: with an events Round that has a 166.5 ETH (ether) matching pool, and a technology round with a 83.5 ETH matching pool. According to the blog post, there will be one program per quarter in Q1 and Q2 this year.

Buterin is contributing a «substantial amount» of ether (ETH) tokens to this grant program, in an email sent to CoinDesk by a representative of Gitcoin. But later, the representative wrote in a Telegram message that “it turns out there is no record of Vitalik committing funds and that was a misinterpretation on my part.” They added that “my understanding is that he’s involved but I don’t actually know if he personally provided the matching funds.” The amount of ETH wasn’t specified in the original email.

Zuzalu was co-created by Buterin, a co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain who now serves as de facto leading figure of the decentralized project, which has a market capitalization of nearly $300 billion.

With an atmosphere representing a glorified camp, there were discussions on blockchain-focused topics like cryptography as well as tracks on longevity, interspersed with daily «cold plunges» in the Adriatic Sea, and dinner-dances in the evening.

But the event, reportedly attended by roughly 200 people, remained somewhat of a mystery to the wider crypto community, and wasn’t really publicized at all except for the many participants who tweeted out selfies with Buterin.

There has been speculation that the creators behind Zuzalu hoped that pop-up events like this would happen in other areas of the world.

According to a blog post on Gitcoin about the grants program, “Our aspiration for the current year is to see a proliferation of events inspired by Zuzalu, contributing to the growth of the pop-up city movement.”


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