Minutes of The Bitcoin Foundation Board Meeting held on August 18, 2016
Llew Claasen (Executive Director)
Brock Pierce (Chairman)
Apologies were received from Vinny Lingham
Llew let the Board members know that while he would be presenting the Marketing plan and Financial projections, he would not ask the Board to approve the plans during the call. This was in light of the Board members not having had prior sight of the plan in 1-on-1 sessions, where it was possible to ask questions or workshop deliverables. All present agreed with this approach.
Llew presented the Powerpoint file “Bitcoin Foundation Marketing Strategy_v1.1_08232016” to the Board.
Llew suggested that the objectives of the Foundation marketing programs were to “seek competitive differentiation through listening to what our members want us to do (mandate ), partners recognize our right to contribute (legitimacy) & it is not already performed well by another organization (performance ) .”
Similarly, the expected outcomes of the marketing programs are to:
- Drive memberships through communicating value so members want to keep participating;
- Create compelling and educational technical events and conferences;
- Promote Bitcoin as a medium of exchange and store of value;
- Stimulate debate about bitcoin & foster a constructive and participative community;
- Contribute through positive community participation & media engagement, and
- Research compelling, high-value Bitcoin projects.
Llew expects that these 6 marketing program outcomes will increase BTC adoption and re-establish foundation legitimacy.
In looking at a SWOT analysis of the foundation, Llew suggested that the foundation had few strengths and many weaknesses, but also many opportunities that perhaps the foundation hadn’t taken adequate advantage of in the past. Fortunately, neither has any other organization, so these opportunities still exist.
Our marketing strategy is cognisant of the fact that we have primary, secondary and tertiary audiences, where our focus given scarce resources will be on primary audiences. Our audiences are:
- Primary – Developers that are unfamiliar with Bitcoin, Developers that are familiar with Bitcoin and the Media;
- Secondary – Regulators, Investors, Merchants, Miners, and
- Tertiary – General public, University students.
The value proposition of the foundation is captured in two offerings:
- Individual memberships, and
- Events or technical conference tracks.
The individual membership offering is characterized by the features:
- Small monthly recurring fee;
- Cancel at any time;
- Members’ only Slack channel and monthly newsletter, and
- Monthly financial report.
The technical conference track offering serves a dual purpose of getting more technologists to try out Bitcoin, while also creating an individual membership on-ramp. It is characterized by the features:
- Live streaming of event sessions;
- Access talk videos at any time;
- Access speaker slides, and
- Talk + workshop format – get assistance with getting started at the event.
The Bitcoin advocacy competitive landscape was reviewed for only the US, UK and Canada given limited expected resources to end 2017 and the difficulty of starting new programs with added cultural and language challenges this early into our plans.
The competitors in the Bitcoin advocacy landscape can be broadly grouped into the following categories:
- Policy research & lobbying – organizations that focus on providing information to and exert influence over regulators;
- Industry news outlets – Organizations that focus on providing information to and exert influence over individuals;
- Technical development – organizations that focus on creating the underlying Bitcoin technology and making it available to individuals, while being fairly neutral to peddling information and influence, and
- Non-profit industry groups – generalist advocacy organizations that sit between the other options.
Llew believes that given this competitive landscape, the foundation has an opportunity to differentiate by focusing on serving individuals, while not being a pure information provider or focusing exclusively on technical development.
The competitive analysis did not consider competing ecosystems as direct competitors at this time, despite their obvious competition for share of voice, since, for example, the Ethereum community doesn’t peddle Bitcoin any more than the Bitcoin community peddles Ethereum.
The foundation then has an opportunity to fulfil the following functions in the ecosystem in a competitively differentiated way:
- Organize technical conferences/tracks;
- Administer research grants;
- Educate the media, and
- Provide an online information resource for global regulators.
Llew proposed that the vision of the foundation be changed to:
“Bitcoin will be a globally accepted method of exchanging and storing value which will operate without the need for third parties.”
And that the Mission of the foundation be changed to:
“The Bitcoin Foundation co-ordinates the efforts of the members in the Bitcoin community, helping to create awareness of the benefits of Bitcoin, how to use it and its related technology requirements, for technologists, regulators, the media and everyman globally.”
Finally, the Values of the Foundation to amended to include:
- No censorship
- Stable money supplies
- Financial inclusion
Llew spoke about the marketing tactics, especially acquisition and retention campaigning for individual memberships. Aside from a switch to what may be considered more closely aligned with the original Bitcoin philosophy, a switch to individual memberships as primary source of income is a realization that we have very little direct benefits to offer businesses in a business membership program and any attempt to create such benefits for businesses or corporates would require us to take action that is in the interests of corporate funders, rather than what’s in the interest of the wider Bitcoin community and this is likely to create conflicts of interest.
Specific marketing programs to end 2017 include:
- Individual member acquisition and retention;
- 8 technical conference tracks or events – a planned 4 in the US &
Canada and 4 internationally;
- Reinvigoration of the local or affiliate chapter program in the second half of 2017, and
- Research paper development and associated outbound PR.
The Bitcoin Foundation Manifesto
Llew suggested that the intention of manifesto is to evoke the emotional response needed to get people to share in the philosophy of the foundation, so that members will support foundation activities because of the way that it makes them feel and shared values, in the absence of a specific product or service exchange. Additionally, the manifesto raises awareness of how the current system is infringing on what the foundation believes are the financial rights of everyone and how the foundation seeks to win back these rights.
Llew suggested that he would share the draft Manifesto with board members after the meeting, so that they could provide more specific feedback. Llew asked the Board for their high-level approval of the principles contained within the Manifesto and Elizabeth, Michael and Bobby verbalized their agreement.
Llew presented the Excel file “BTC Foundation FY2016-FY2017 Projections_v1.1_08242016” to the Board.
Llew suggested that the 2017 budget seeks to return to approximately the 2015 actual level of operations, albeit by applying resources in different areas based on the new strategy. The income numbers contained in the new plan are not inconceivable for this reason ($463k in total income 2017 vs $389k in 2015). There was little activity in the first 6 months of the 2016 year, so there was little comparative information that could be used for that period.
There are many unknowns associated with whether or not we can easily switch to an individual member-funded organization, which means that we expect to have relatively few resources to apply to our programs to end 2017. We can’t tackle too much, but at the same time, we can’t just do one thing – else we’ll become boxed into that role.
An important consideration of switching to individual memberships alone is that there will be an extended period of testing from a marketing campaign perspective until we expect to be able to settle at an economically viable acquisition cost. Unfortunately, we’re not able to fund this on-ramp from own resources as a result of the $20,000 wire fraud loss that we suffered in early July. Llew confirmed that recent discussions between Jody and Wells Fargo and Bank of America suggests that the money is gone and the foundation has no recourse, since the money was sent willingly via wire transfer. We will need new funds to kick-start our member acquisition program – at least an extra $70k.
This shortfall led to the creation of what Llew proposes we call “The Friends of the Bitcoin Foundation” – an invite-only program for business that will run to end 2017. Businesses that become friends of the foundation will get prominent branding on our website and marketing materials to end 2017 as thanks for their support in getting the foundation programs started. Getting this program off the ground and successful requires the direct sales involvement of each board member to sell this program to businesses that they’re closest to.
Michael cautioned that since the foundation had achieved so little so far in 2016, that the Friends program would suffer from the same challenges which would be experienced with business membership. He suggested a preference for first getting some of the suggested 2016/2017 programs off the ground before asking for money, so that we could show progress.
Elizabeth expressed support for switching to individual memberships and believed that a once-off Friends program stood a better chance of success than a business membership program. This was particularly true given the stated intention of the foundation to position itself very clearly as a pro-Bitcoin organization addressing community needs not currently solved by other organizations.
Brock verbalized support for the plan, but disappointment at the confirmation of the $20,000 fraud loss. Bruce suggested that it may make sense for the foundation to file suit against the banks involved and he would discuss it further with Brock.
Bruce commented that while he was in support of the plan, he was concerned that it took so many more individual members to bring in the same amount of money as a single corporate donation. This was particularly poignant given what appeared to be a large amount of money currently going into the ecosystem as organizations seek to position themselves as blockchain companies. It was agreed that corporate donations could be solicited under the Friends program, provided there was no conflict of interest.
Llew confirmed that no resolutions would be passed today to approve the marketing plan and financial plan. Board members would be left to provide feedback between the meeting and early next week, with the intention that they would provide timeous feedback in advance of Llew seeking final approval for the plans within the next 2-3 weeks.
There being no further matters to discuss, the meeting was adjourned.