So, the last few years have been quite exciting for Bitcoin and you’ve overcome some massive obstacles, tell us more….. Is there anything you would have done or would like to do differently?
Hundreds of things! It’s not a good day for me if I’m not learning how to do things better in the future. That said, I would have bought more Bitcoins.
Working together in the relatively small Bitcoin team is changing the way we make transactions.
What has been the key to the progress that you’ve made?
Bitcoin is a global phenomenon – and it’s largely because of the intense support of its community. The technology has so much potential to make a huge global impact that it can be overwhelming at first. Millions of people use it, thousands work with it full-time in their jobs, and hundreds have quite literally dedicated their lives to improving it and getting it to work globally. I see it almost as a religion for many community members – they’re why we have anything at all to talk about.
You have held C-level posts in a number of companies over the years, we’d love to know if they have all held the same level of excitement for you and what do you see as being your next project?
Exciting is a nice euphemism. In Bitcoin, we rate days and weeks on a scale that goes from ‘crazy’ to ‘insane’ to ‘mind-numbing’. Adrenaline addiction is a real risk for anyone who makes this industry into a career. For myself, I hope to stick with Bitcoin over the next decade as it grows and matures. I’m particularly looking at how Bitcoin can fulfil its promise of global financial inclusion in poor parts of the world – the ability to instantly connect rural villagers to the global economy is here now; we just need to be able to bring it in an appropriate way.
You have moved towards social enterprise in your recent ventures. Is this a result of just chance or do you have an ethos of creating benefit as well as profit in your enterprises and is this a move that more businesses should be making these days?
I believe the first fundamental benefit a business brings is jobs; then returns for stakeholders – society and investors.
We can only imagine how busy you are at the moment. Help us to understand what a normal day is like for you…
I might wake up at 6:30 to 7:00, check Bitcoin prices, have breakfast with my wife and three kids, and drop them off at school by 7:45. My first meeting will start at 8:30 – on Thursdays it’s a one- on-one with the Bitcoin Foundation’s Executive Director. If it’s a busy news cycle, I will have one to five SMS messages and/or calls from reporters. I will recognize a few of the numbers and not know others. If I’m cleared by our PR folks to talk, I may take a call or two before my 8:30. By 10am, I’ve wrapped up, and will go over important e-mails and calendar items with my assistant Kate – she will have pared down 20 to 100 e-mails into a list of what’s most important to respond to. There are usually speaking invitations, complaints about Bitcoin, interesting ideas, investors looking to talk about Bitcoin, and some operational questions for CoinLab in the mix.
I’m currently spending a lot of time with lawyers, so I will have at least one meeting with my legal team sometime in the day.
I’ll walk by and check in with our team that manages CoinLab’s Bitcoin funds, and then skip out for a lunch – could be by myself, or with someone from CoinLab, or ideally my wife.
By this time I should have a handle on the day’s Bitcoin news, that could be important to the Foundation or CoinLab, so I’ll make sure to connect with whomever might be interested and see if we need to adjust any operating or strategic plans.
If I’m lucky, I’ll have an hour or two to spend planning or thinking in the afternoon, but often I can’t. Back by dinner time with the family, then maybe rock-climbing with my kids, or play some games before bedtime, then collapse in a stupor.
You are currently Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation that’s on track to be the global online currency of the future. Do you think it is possible to have robust enough technology that people and companies will come to trust?
The technology is actually really amazingly good right now. There is a long list of things that could be done to make it better, and the Foundation is trying to help with that, by funding developers, working to get more people involved in the project and so on. But overall, you can easily send millions of dollars (or 25 cents) anywhere in the world very safely and very quickly right now.
What we have as a community lacked so far is a simple way for consumers to assess the trustworthiness of either certain business owners or their underlying security implementations. These areas need a lot of work, and it’s a tough problem. It’s a problem that in general business we solve with an interlocking set of companies and social technologies, from insurance to technology audits, to reversible payments in case of bank fraud. Some of these solutions transfer to Bitcoin, others need to be rethought in light of the technology itself, and that is taking time to sort out.
You stress the importance of community being important for the future of Bitcoins, is this where your work with the Bitcoin Foundation and CoinLab is pivotal?
The Bitcoin community will continue on no matter what – it’s hugely diverse, global, and doesn’t really need the Foundation. On the other hand, there are key areas that I believe the Foundation can help the community, and that’s my goal for it. In particular, the Foundation is focused on protecting the right to transact – making sure everyone in the world is allowed to transact financially if they so choose. Bitcoin is so technical that there are quite complex attack vectors on it. Paying people to watch out for these and deal with problems that come up is at the heart of what we do.
What is the future of Bitcoin?
It’s a fundamental human right to transact economically. Many people in the world don’t experience this right now. Governments, poverty and poor banking systems can all combine to keep much of the developing world from being able to transact globally. Bitcoin can actually change this, it’s a money system outside of political control and because it’s just data, it can go anywhere the Internet can.
The possibility that a villager in a poor country with a highly inflationary currency could instead choose to be paid with globally accepted money is truly