Getting to Know Andrew Verbinnen from HairDAO


1. Tell us about yourself - What did you do before HairDAO? How did you get interested in hair loss and what did you study and where?

I was born and raised in New York City. I majored in Government at Hamilton College with a strong focus on History. While I discovered crypto in college, I worked at a real estate private equity firm in Boston for ~2 years before focusing full-time on my own investment fund. While the fund was initially split between equities and crypto, I eventually pushed for the fund to go full crypto. 

In parallel with all of this, I started losing my hair freshman year of college and acutely felt the psychological impact of losing your hair at such a young age. More than just aesthetics, it’s like you’re coming face to face with your own mortality everyday when you look in the mirror. In a world where we are increasingly solving highly complex problems, I couldn’t believe that something as seemingly simple as hair loss hadn’t been solved. As I studied crypto, and came across VitaDAO, it became abundantly clear to me that the problem - the reason there are only two FDA approved treatments to hair loss on the market - was due to misaligned incentives in the pharma industry, starting with the NIH and the way early stage R&D gets funded at Universities. Already aware of crypto’s incredible ability to realign incentives on a large scale, I started building HairDAO with Andrew Bakst a little over a year ago. 

The idea started with the premise that we wanted to disrupt early stage hair loss research but as we’ve dug in, it’s so much bigger than that. We believe there’s an opportunity to not just disrupt early-stage R&D, but also hair loss D2C businesses, clinical trials, hair transplant clinics, and more. All in a way that better serves patients and rewards scientists/researchers for doing good science vs. being good politicians. 

2. When did your DeSci/Web3 journey start and how?

As I touched on a bit above, my Web3 journey started as an investor in Bitcoin in 2017. After quickly making money and then losing it all, I kept digging into the space. Andrew Bakst ultimately fully converted me to being an Ethereum maxi and I haven’t been able to unsee it since. My DeSci journey started when I saw VitaDAO and realized the same exact model could be applied to hair loss. That said, because hair loss happens faster than aging and because it’s easily visible, I think hair loss may even lend itself to more decentralized/web3 use cases than longevity.  

3. How did you get to know about and why did you decide to join?

I saw Tyler Golato doing an interview about VitaDAO on some podcast. When we started building HairDAO, we kept trying to get in touch with the VitaDAO team for some advice but it proved very difficult! Eventually, I slid into Tyler’s dms on Instagram and he agreed to speak with us. After ~6 months of speaking with them, they asked us to join and we agreed!


4. Can you tell us about your experience in so far?

The team is incredibly personable and smart in a way that I believe really facilitates honest discourse that is just so fun to be around. I will say that we have definitely been early to DeSci and so the infrastructure is still getting built out. That said, it’s happening quickly and I see the potential. For now though, it can definitely feel like you’re building the app store and your app at the same time to use an analogy. 


5. What is the most exciting thing about and what would you say to others who want to join the program?

There’s still a ways to go, but when all of its offerings are finished, will allow anybody who’s passionate about starting a BioDAO to solely focus on the science behind their specific indication and not worry about so much of the legal, dev work, crypto, marketing, content creation, fundraising, etc. that slows down actually finding cures or solving your problem. 

6. What are the biggest challenges you faced in building a BioDAO and how did you overcome them?

I would say the biggest challenge for me was getting my head around what the actual process of turning early stage research into biomedical IP. I had never been in a university lab or dealt with a tech transfer office so it was foreign to me. However, we read hundreds of research papers on hair loss and would cold email all of the researchers on the papers. Luckily enough, Prof. Ralf Paus responded to us and agreed to start brainstorming potential study ideas. That was around a year ago and recently we minted our first IP-NFT with Ralf based on a study testing the impacts of T3/T4 Thyroid Hormone on hair loss using human scalp skin organ cultures. 

Amazing things happen when you bring hard-working, open-minded, cross-disciplinary professionals together and that’s exactly what happened. Ralf guided us through the research design process, helped with the patent/IP-NFT, and we supported where we could - building the community, vetting the research ideas, securing fundraising, and more. 

7. What advice do you have for individuals and organizations looking to join DeSci and contribute to its mission?

Join a Discord community that seems to be operating at a really high-level. Don’t necessarily focus on indication. Then when you’ve learned best practices or even understand areas that you believe the DAO is underperforming or where you think you could innovate, start your own DAO based on an indication that interests or inspires you. When you start your community, don’t focus on any typical “company building” until you’ve built a community of people sharing ideas, doing research, and debating whatever your focus is. Then focus on raising money, building tools, etc. 

8. What does HairDAO do and how has HairDAO been involved in the development and growth of the biotech and DeSci community at large?

We’ve tried to grow DeSci as a whole by building tools that are applicable across the entire industry. The first example is our Patient Portal, which we’ve allowed PsyDAO to fork. The next build to take on will be our D2C business. We want to sell finasteride and minoxidil and use those profits to fund R&D instead of spending all of that money on marketing like incumbents Ro and Hims. There’s no reason VitaDAO shouldn’t use the same D2C model to sell NMN and then use those profits to fund R&D.

Catch Andrew on the latest episode of The DeSci Podcast: