Olivier Janssens, who was elected to the Bitcoin Foundation Board of Directors last month, made a very interesting post to Reddit early this morning. Saying that he felt it was his duty to divulge certain facts about the organization, he detailed his experience working as a board member.
Transparency Not A Priority
“I was elected on a platform of transparency and decentralization of core development,” Janssens says early in his post. Throughout the post, he explains how the organization has done its best to hide its inner-workings and ineffectively manage its resources.
When I joined on my first Board meeting, Jim Harper and myself immediately put forward a vote to have the board meeting recorded. We followed Robert’s rules of orders, and everyone else basically shut us down and failed to follow procedures. […] It was critical for us to vote on a plan that would save the Foundation. When I mentioned that such a critical vote is all the more reason to make sure the whole meeting gets recorded, I was ignored. The Bitcoin Foundation hates transparency.
Being that in our era, recording things is not a hard thing to do, it does speak to some other motive than the other foundation members have to keep things off the record. Effectively, at least according to Janssens, the organization is in dire financial straits since last November.
Majority of Employees Fired
“The Foundation has almost no money left, and just fired 90% of its people. Some will stay on as volunteers,” says Janssens, while not referencing any way for us to verify this. It seemed apparent that he was writing this for the press, as at the very beginning of the post he wrote, “NOTE TO THE PRESS: The Bitcoin Foundation does not represent Bitcoin in any way.”
Regardless, it seems there’s no reason to make up the statistic that 90% of the Bitcoin Foundation’s employees have been fired. It seems that if they’re running out of money, which is primarily raised through memberships and from industry donors, letting go of a good number of people would be a helpful way to cut expenses.
Intimidation Tactics Regularly Used to Suppress Leaks
“Jim Harper was threatened for doing a press release which was (barely) critical of the Foundation after he got elected. The Foundation tries to make sure we hide the truth by subtly threatening us on a regular basis,” Olivier Janssens tells the Reddit community. He also mentions that he believes this post will most likely hasten his exit from the board seat he’s only recently begun to occupy.
If I get asked to leave the Foundation for telling the truth, so be it. The truth is being told. […] I totally expect the current Board members to try to place blame on me for whatever reason. They are very bad at taking personal responsibility. I have had several threats, but I’m releasing this anyway.
Bitcoin Foundation is Broke
According to the post, the Foundation went almost totally broke last November, and that is when it sought out a new executive director. Patrick Murck took over and immediately instituted a policy of fund-raising for the purpose of core development. By this time, Janssens says, the damage had been done.
As a result of 2 years of ridiculous spending and poorly thought out decisions, they almost ran out of money in November of last year. In extremis, but way too late, they decided to select a new executive director during that time. That new director decided that the only way to still get funds at that point, was to focus solely on funding core development, in the hope that people would see that as a good cause. But people were smart enough not to trust the Foundation anymore. […] The truth is that the Foundation’s plan was to hire even more core devs + to start a Bitcoin Standards Body. No organization should have this much control over Bitcoin, and a disaster was avoided.
Lead Developer Pessimistic About Foundation’s Future
The Reddit post was actually a cross-post from the Bitcoin Foundation’s forums, and Gavin Andresen, the lead developer from the earliest days of Bitcoin development, expressed a negative outlook moving forward.
“I had an idealistic vision of the Foundation being a member-driven organization, but that never happened,” he said.
“The Foundation will support core development” vision didn’t work; I took a couple of weeks off from doing technical work to meet with people capable of funding that vision and it very quickly became clear most “deep pockets” don’t trust that the Foundation would stick to that vision, or aren’t willing to risk their reputations being closely associated with an organization that had two of its Board members resign in disgrace last year.
One of the board members he’s referencing here is former BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, who is presently serving a federal prison sentence for his role in laundering illicit funds among other mistakes made while running the Bitcoin exchange. “Unfortunately I’m pessimistic about a coherent vision arising– too many of the “squeaky wheels” here want to wallow in past mistakes,” he said. And, in closing, asked other members of the forum and foundation to prove him wrong – to constructively discuss what should come next for the Bitcoin Foundation.
The Bitcoin Foundation has been the subject of much criticism since its inception in 2012. During the most recent board member election, one candidate, Cody Wilson, actively sought to disband the organization. The feeling in the wider berth of the community seems to be that the organization is either unnecessary or too friendly with regulatory bodies who seek to change the very nature of Bitcoin.
It will be a very interesting year for a professional organization with almost no money to function. In the meantime, core development will have to find a way to sustain itself. Janssens personally offered to help fund as much, saying:
A special trust fund is being created and I will donate several 100k to pre-pay Gavin’s, Wladimirs and some other core devs wage for the next year (if they choose to accept). The control of this trust fund will be handed over to the core devs, who can decide who can join it.
A few hours after Janssens’ Reddit post he followed up with this tweet:
Images from Shutterstock.