Minutes of the Bitcoin Foundation Board Meeting held on July 19, 2016
Llew Claasen (Executive Director)
Brock Pierce (Chairman)
Apologies were received from
Micky Malka status as a board member
A brief discussion was had over whether Micky was still a board member. Some time back Micky had decided that he no longer wanted to be active on the Board, but had officially remained on as a board member until the end of his term.
Llew mentioned that the Foundation bylaws require a board of 6 directors (3 representatives of individual members and 3 representatives of industry members). The Board confirmed that Bruce Fenton was the new board member to replace Micky.
Llew presented the financial report for July 2016:
- June revenue included memberships of $50 and donations of $288.
- Operating expenses (excluding unrealized exchange gain of $13,962) were $10,100.
- 6/30/16 bitcoin balance was 99 coins equating to $67,021 with price of $672.4850.
- Total cash assets, including BTC and USD of $3,931, were $70,951 at 6/30/16.
- As of 7/17/16 cash $9,507 plus Bitcoin current value of $56,911 totaled $66,418. (BTC 83.8 coins @ $679.051 as of 7/17)
There remained a $10 000 liability payable to Brock as a result of a short-term loan which Brock advanced to the Foundation for working capital purposes. The Board had agreed at the time that this loan would be repaid to Brock if he was able to fundraise this amount for the Foundation, which he did during May 2016. The Board agreed that this amount would repaid to Brock once the Foundation had raised additional new funding for its new plan and was able to do so.
The financial report showed there is 6 months of working capital available, 5 months if you exclude the $10,000 due to Brock.
Community Survey Feedback
Llew presented the results of a survey of the Foundation members and Bitcoin community on email, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, which was conducted during July 2016 for planning purposes.
The survey had received 109 responses, of which 90 responses were complete. The survey results were indicative, rather than being statistically reliable, given the relatively small sample size:
- Our community appeared to be almost entirely male (1 female survey response)
- 63% of our English-speaking community were aged 25-44
43% of our community lived in US & Canada, while a further 32% lived in the European Union (incl. UK)
- 60% of our community had a non-technical interest in Bitcoin
- 42% of our community worked at a company did not use Bitcoin in any way, although 28% worked at a company where the primary product or service made use of Bitcoin
- 41% of our community believed that the initiatives of the Foundation should be centrally initiated, but managed through affiliated chapters, while a further 35% believed in a completely decentralized structure for the Foundation where initiatives were locally initiated & locally managed through affiliated chapters
- A full 38% of the community were unwilling to volunteer time to the Foundation, while 31% would volunteer less than 10 hours per month on an unpaid basis.
- 27% of the community believed that the activities of the Foundation should be funded primarily through individual memberships, while 20% believed it should be funded through corporate sponsorships and a further 18% believed that conferences should be a key source of Foundation funding.
- The percentage of community members that said that they would or would not fund the activities of the Foundation on the basis of published plans was approximately equal, at 20% each. Many members (61-62%) said they would consider funding on the basis of the specifics of the plans or initiatives.
- 32% of our community believed that our advocacy programs for the next 12 months should focus on Bitcoin as a medium of exchange, while a further 15% believed that we should focus on the benefits of Bitcoin as a deflationary store of value.
- Support for where to focus Foundation activities during the next 12 months tended to be centered around where most of the community members lived (US & Canada, European Union, including UK), combined with moderate support for activities in Asia and mixed results for South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.
- While there were some differences in specific geographical areas, activities in Asia, European Union including UK, North America and South America enjoyed support from members in both the technical and non-technical camps.
- Results for where to focus Foundation activities in the next 12 months were fairly consistently high across key membership age groups – European Union, including UK, US & Canada and South America, with more support in the 25-34 age group for activities in Asia, than for the 35-44 age group.
- Technical members of the community believed that the Foundation should focus its time & resources on organizing Bitcoin-related technical conference tracks, funding development in the form of BIPs & bugs, administering Bitcoin-related research grants and political lobbying. Non-technical members provided little guidance on their priorities for the Foundation. US-specific results broadly mirrored the global focus areas of technical community members, with less support for funding development (BIPs & bugs) & more support for the administration of research grants.
- Comparing the desired focus areas of the European Union, including UK, community members, to those in US & Canada, we found significantly less support for funding development amongst US & Canadian members than those in the EU and more support for lobbying in the US & Canadian camp.
A look at the desired priorities at an age-related level indicated that the desire for political lobbying is driven by members 35-44, with the strongest support for funding bugs and organizing Bitcoin-related technical conferences/tracks in the 25-34 age group.
As a result, Llew felt that one of the first themes that emerged from the survey and the various discussions he had had during July, was that the Foundation should play a co-ordination function in the Bitcoin community. Any attempt at control would be strongly met with resistance and would not be aligned with the underlying philosophy of Bitcoin.
The activities of the Foundation could also not rely on a large group of volunteers giving up large amounts of their time.
In terms of transparently trying to raise funds by publishing the Foundation plans, the lack of a clear response may be due to people’s inexperience working with the foundation in this way.
Initial recommendation from Llew based on the survey results and discussions with Bitcoin community stakeholders and board members:
- The foundation should look to establish a handful of initial affiliated chapters in North America, South America, European Union including UK and Asia.
- These affiliated chapters should be given a high degree of autonomy to operate, while receiving assistance from the Foundation globally to organize their initiatives around developer conferences/tracks in their areas.
- The programs of the Foundation should be funded primarily through a combination of transparent individual and business membership programs and corporate sponsorships, with local chapters benefiting most from organizing developer conference programs.
- Outbound advocacy programs for the next 12 months should focus on Bitcoin as a medium of exchange and store of value and should be supported by paid marketing programs in key geographies.
- As soon as it is able to, the Foundation should bring on board a small number of initial part-time contractors to support marketing and operational programs, since volunteer support in the form of limited time commitments will be difficult to manage.
- The Foundation funding development, either via BIPs or bugs is a contentious issue for the next 12 months and the Foundation should rather stay out of this for the next while & make progress elsewhere.
- It’s not yet clear that it is necessary for the Foundation to get involved in lobbying, especially in the US, due to the existence of alternative organizations with this focus (Coin Centre, Digital Chamber of Commerce). The Foundation should rather look to work with these organizations to ensure that the interests of Bitcoin are adequately represented.
- The support for administering research grants may assist with providing strong content for advocacy programs and potential partnerships with funders and academic institutions in key areas should be explored further.
Brock commented that the survey results were a useful decision-making tool and that the Foundation should survey the membership more frequently.
Brock asked Llew to investigate further why US developers were less inclined to support the Foundation funding protocol development.
Brock supported the idea that the Foundation would like to adopt a decentralized approach to operations, but that this may take some time to realise efficiently and that some central planning would be desirable in the short term.
Francis talked to the issue of affiliate chapters and the fact that when the
Bitcoin Foundation was initially started in Canada some years back, the Foundation offered to lot of added value in terms of access to internationally renowned branding experts and packages like ‘non-profit organisation in a box’ – but even so it was difficult to sign up local affiliates and currently there were to his knowledge no active local affiliates in Canada. Francis asked what value the Foundation could bring to local affiliates going forward? How would the Foundation overcome some of the negative stigma it carried as a result of things done by past Board members?
Llew responded by saying he doesn’t know if this animosity in North America can be fixed in the short-term and that perhaps it was more important to start the process of establishing a small number of chapters in other parts of the world – whether this was in the European Union, Asia, or South America where the Foundation brand had more international appeal and brand equity.
In terms of taking the decentralized approach to establishing local chapters, Llew felt that the Foundation should look to partner with programmes already running in local communities and that the Foundation should work to convince these organizations of the importance of being associated or affiliated with the Foundation – including that the parent body was not going to extract cash from the local organization. Rather it was the Foundation’s aim to get more people using Bitcoin and would bring with it international experience, training and conference programs content and organizational expertise, as well as a network of expert speakers.
Rather than hiring a content manager to create this training and conference content, Llew suggested working with existing Bitcoin community members with existing content and programs, thereby empowering existing community members who are highly motivated to keep the content relevant and fresh. This was once again consistent with a view of the Foundation playing a coordination function, rather than actively doing anything itself and competing with Bitcoin community members.
Bruce was encouraged by the number of people who were willing to volunteer (30 out of 100 people). He felt that the more people are emotionally invested, the more they would feel Bitcoin is theirs.
He liked the idea of co-operating with the Digital Chamber of Commerce and Coin Centre on lobbying activities in the US. Bruce cautioned that both groups may view the Foundation as a competitor and had criticised the Foundation’s fund raising role in the past.
Bruce liked the idea of the affiliate program – and suggested that of the original 17 chapters that were affiliated, around 10 still existed. Bruce asked that Llew reconnect with these affiliates.
Bruce asked Llew to make contact with Charles Hopkinson – an expert in this space that has previously suggested that he may be willing to volunteer and help the Foundation round up global meet-ups.
Bruce suggested that although the community loves the idea of decentralization, that there was not a lot of evidence that it worked better than centralization. When one looked at Coin Centre, they were very centralized and traditional. But perhaps –it could help with the corporate donors if they received something of value that they could view as specific to their bottom line and could justify to their investors, as was the case with the activities of Digital Chamber of Commerce. If the Bitcoin Foundation could come up such a clear payoff, it would help get the ‘bigger cheques’.
Llew clarified that he was not opposed to make use of volunteers in
Foundation programs, but with the little time that was offered in the survey (mostly less than 10 hours per month), it would require many volunteers to make up the role of one full-time person and someone would need to coordinate this effort.
Michael re-iterated that it was great to have the survey data as a resource, which the Foundation could use to plan for the future.
Michael viewed the local chapters as a great untapped resource, but that it was a matter of engaging and communicating with these groups more effectively than in the past, including giving them something that was worthwhile in order to persuade them to attach their name to the Foundation.
Francis suggested that he would like to speak to Llew after this meeting on how to kick-start a functioning model for affiliate chapters. He was in the process of restructuring the Bitcoin Embassy, including making it a virtual organisation that was already producing content – and if an affiliation with the Foundation worked for the Embassy, then it may be a good example of how to do so with other organizations elsewhere in the world.
Llew concluded that there were, for the most part, no disagreements amongst the board members as to the validity of approach suggested by him, but rather that further discussion was needed on how to execute, including a need for more detail. Everyone agreed with this sentiment.
Llew then said that he would move forward with this recommendation and prepare a more comprehensive plan, including the next steps of how to operationalize the revenue plan, put together a draft budget and put together a marketing plan for raising awareness for these initiatives and Bitcoin in general. These deliverables would be the focus of discussions for the Board meeting next month. Everyone was happy with this approach.
Amy was thanked for her time with the Foundation, with her last day being July 15.
Llew asked if there was any objection to publishing the results of the survey back out to the community as a way of increasing transparency and invigorating conversations about the role of the Foundation. Everyone agreed this was a good idea
There being no further matters to discuss, the meeting was adjourned.