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Olivier Janssens

The truth about the Bitcoin Foundation

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NOTE TO THE PRESS: The Bitcoin Foundation does not represent Bitcoin in any way. It has historically hired some Bitcoin developers, lobbyists and organized a conference.

 

Dear Members,

 

I was elected on a platform of transparency and decentralization of core development. Since the beginning, the Foundation has been sorely lacking any transparency of its actions. I can no longer in good conscience hide the truth on what I have witnessed in the Bitcoin Foundation since I was elected last month.

 

First of all, the Bitcoin Foundation is effectively bankrupt. 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. Despite it’s intentions, they failed to collect the necessary funds to support this idea. With the election in February-March, it became clear that people did not want the Foundation meddling with core development. 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.

 

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. There were “more urgent” things to discuss (as you will see later, the urgent pattern was an excuse to just continue on their course and shut us up). 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. If they would have been transparent then everyone would know there is no money left. Something I think the members have a right to know, wouldn’t you think? Members have a right to know that the current board failed to tell them the truth, and that their way of running the organization resulted in it going bankrupt. But instead of taking responsibility, they want to find the next executive director, that will come up with another magic plan. Ironically, being transparent from the start might have prevented this whole thing to begin with.

 

Everyone has the right to know the truth:

 

- The Foundation has almost no money left, and just fired 90% of its people. Some will stay on as volunteers.

- Core dev can no longer be funded by it, and Patrick Murck is trying to re-create a new Foundation just for core dev, because the current name is tarnished. Do not fall for this.

- The current Executive Director (Patrick Murck), will be gone in 2 weeks, and they are trying to find the next person to blame everything on.

- 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.

- If I get asked to leave the Foundation for telling the truth, so be it. The truth is being told.

 

Moving forward:

 

- 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. Alternatively, we can give voting power to everyone who puts money in it (pro-rata). I will also organize crowdfunds and help make this fund public. At no point do I want to have any control whatsoever.

 

- It is up to the members of the Bitcoin Foundation to decide what they want to do now. The bylaws allow for a special board meeting to be called by 15% of members. I would recommend you to do so and ask for all information to be released so you can learn the truth. Additionally I would recommend for you to replace the whole board if you want this organization to last. Alternatively you can vote to shut it down and get your money back. There might not be enough money left in the Foundation to pay its members back, but I will personally try to help make up the difference, even though I have not been part of it.

 

The lesson for all of us in Bitcoin is to never put any trust in a centralized org again that wanted to represent Bitcoin or the Core Development of Bitcoin.

 

Please provide feedback here on the Bitcoin forum.

 

Note: 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.

 

Olivier

 

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David R Allen    318

Well it's about time.

 

I was beginning to think Jim Harper and Olivier Janssens had simply joined the dissappearing silent board.

 

Let's get on with it.

 

Do we know what 15% of the members looks like in real numbers?

 

Can we get the records of who is a member and how they can vote?

 

Jim and Olivier, can you help us out on those first few items?

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Joel Dalais    306

Count me in on the 15% in wanting to know what exactly is going on?

 

(I'm not throwing any opinion out here, just would like to know more, either side)

 

Information either side has come out now, thanks to those that supplied (minutes and such).

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Oliver,

 

Count me in, happy to donate some bitcoin to this initiative also.

Happy I voted for the right guy ;).

 

Hope the BitCore event in London is going ahead as I've paid for a ticket and flight.

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Gavin Andresen    481

So, members: what DO you want the role of the Foundation to be going forward?

 

I had an idealistic vision of the Foundation being a member-driven organization, but that never happened. Now would be a good time for you, the membership, to make me proud and come together and figure out a vision for the Foundation moving forward. What do you want to do, and how will that get paid for?

 

"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.

 

Unfortunately I'm pessimistic about a coherent vision arising-- too many of the "squeaky wheels" here want to wallow in past mistakes. I expect what will happen is there will be lots of Monday-morning quarterbacking and discussion ("you lost HOW MUCH money on the Amsterdam conference? Conferences should MAKE MONEY, how could you be so stupid?" ... when all of the "yous", and the money, are long gone).

 

And very little productive discussion of how to move forward. Please prove me wrong....

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Ciemon    9

Well I joined recently in anticipation of an organisation along the lines of the Open Source Initiative - http://opensource.org/about

 

"We are also actively involved in Open Source community-building, education, and public advocacy to promote awareness and the importance of non-proprietary software. OSI board members frequently travel the world to attend Open Source conferences and events, meet with open source developers and users, and to discuss with executives from the public and private sectors about how Open Source technologies, licenses, and models of development can provide economic and strategic advantages."

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Leith Marar    11

Thanks for posting Olivier, and for your honesty and contributions to funding the ecosystem.

 

Gavin, I am surprised that you say...."The Foundation will support core development" vision didn't work. I can well imagine that concessus is hard as you have said but surely that is what a large part of the funds rasied to date have been used for?

 

If I understand you correctly both Olivier and Patrick want the same thing, i.e. an organisation to support core development, but the disagrement seems to be whether this is bitcoin foundation 2.0 or something entirely new. I think walking away from the name is silly as people looking in aren't that stupid. If the foundation is broken I would recommend fixing it and if it can't be fixed I'm sure those venture backed companies will get toghether and sort out some sort of standards body rather than see core development starved or resources.

 

Bitcoin will be fine without the foundation, but something has been created that can be a vehicle for interrested individuals to contribute, if those leading the foundation still believe in that vision they should persist at least untill the money runs out.

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Brad Wheeler    296

Unfortunately I'm pessimistic about a coherent vision arising-- too many of the "squeaky wheels" here want to wallow in past mistakes. I expect what will happen is there will be lots of Monday-morning quarterbacking and discussion ("you lost HOW MUCH money on the Amsterdam conference? Conferences should MAKE MONEY, how could you be so stupid?" ... when all of the "yous", and the money, are long gone).

 

And very little productive discussion of how to move forward. Please prove me wrong....

 

I think the organization still needs to take a few steps forward to release information before worrying about the noise that it generates. Complaints and criticism should be expected in nearly any organization. The Foundation appears to be in a state of turbulence - something that many members may have sensed during this lull but is now on the record thanks to Olivier's disclosure. It would be a mistake to continue to hold back on information because the membership is needed now more than ever. Many members (myself included) will be confronted with a choice to re-pay dues next month.

 

Situational awareness has been long absent from this group -- and it shouldn't have to be stated: key questions and decisions should be communicated to the community in a timely manner. Changes in leadership should be communicated at an appropriate time.

 

I've yet to get the next months worth of board minutes to post after sending out reminders that I intend to post them. I would hope to think that this could be more automated. Making the bullet points more specific would go a long way to break down the barriers between the board and the membership. I could get abrasive about this, but think it's unnecessary. It just needs to be fixed and will restore some repuation. It may stoke some discussion too, but I think we'd get signal along with some noise.

 

Leaving membership out of the process forces the exclusion of valuable/ creative/ volunteer talent which has more time/ collective energy than the board itself. Most of this talent will recede to greener pastures if there are legal threats being thrown about. Lets not go there. Lets anticipate change and restore some sanity to this organization.

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I think Bitcoin Foundation should be only some sort of Lobby and Advertising Organization. And with a new Development Organization its clear what they are for. Though i wonder if im happy with the "donate much and you can tell what to develop". Who will block bad things implemented?

 

Regarding 15% vote. I think those rules are stupid as long as they dont say 15% of active members. The way it is now it can be that the needed amount of votes dont come together even with all real members vote. Might see it too black though.

 

Im a pirate, so no, i dont like intransparency. This needs to be changed fast. Being bankrupt is a good and needed step to make this happen it seems.

 

Guess all the riches came in the hand of persons that didnt know how to handle it. Oh well, i guess i cant blame them on this part. I had my fair share of learning on this too. But doing the same with coins one only holds for other in practice isnt very good. Maybe they though the income stream will flow steadily.

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David R Allen    318

So, members: what DO you want the role of the Foundation to be going forward?

 

I had an idealistic vision of the Foundation being a member-driven organization, but that never happened. Now would be a good time for you, the membership, to make me proud and come together and figure out a vision for the Foundation moving forward. What do you want to do, and how will that get paid for?

 

"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.

 

Unfortunately I'm pessimistic about a coherent vision arising-- too many of the "squeaky wheels" here want to wallow in past mistakes. I expect what will happen is there will be lots of Monday-morning quarterbacking and discussion ("you lost HOW MUCH money on the Amsterdam conference? Conferences should MAKE MONEY, how could you be so stupid?" ... when all of the "yous", and the money, are long gone).

 

And very little productive discussion of how to move forward. Please prove me wrong....

 

Gavin,

 

I think you will see this community coming together quickly with a coherent vision. The only mention of the past will be to clarify why we are moving forward. You have the support of myself and everyone I know if the Bitcoin world. I think Olivier has provided a vehicle for truth and transparency that cannot be stifled again.

 

We all have a lot to be optimistic about, and again, thank you for the work you do.

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Gavin Andresen    481

Thanks Ciemon and Sebastian, that's helpful: and essentially the vision Patrick presented to the Board once it became clear fundraising to continue paying me and Wladimir and Cory (and Sergio part-time) wasn't going to work.

 

Bitcoin will be fine without the foundation, but something has been created that can be a vehicle for interrested individuals to contribute, if those leading the foundation still believe in that vision they should persist at least untill the money runs out.

 

The money has basically run out, and the money coming in from new memberships and renewals is not enough to fund "that vision". The Foundation isn't bankrupt, but the Board needs to decide whether the responsible thing to do is to continue the organization with a much smaller organization and vision or to dissolve it.

 

I still think the best way to move forward with core dev funding is some type of not-for-profit legal entity, whether that is Olivier's crowdfunded Trust or something else (or both) I don't really care. I DO care that it is legal, transparent, and that I'm never put in the position of deciding how to divvy up a Big Pile Of Money. That puts me into a clear conflict of interest, and would be a very good way of generating resentment and envy among the core devs who aren't working for their own startups.

 

What happens with future funding of core development is a separate issue to what happens with this Foundation over the next couple of months, though.

 

EDIT: I should really have said, "the future employment status of Wladimir/Cory/Gavin/Sergio" -- development will happen even if we join other companies or decide to spend more time with our stamp collections. It will just take longer.

 

Edited by Gavin Andresen
Confounding core dev funding ....
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Dissolving the foundation wouldnt be a good move at the moment. I think headlines like "Bitcoin is bankrupt" "Bitcoin is dead" and so on would follow. Bad advertisement. Better change the foundation to something useful and prevent intransparence from the start with correct rules.

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Patrick Murck    130

Basically what Gavin just said.

 

Just to clear up some possible points of confusion:

 

-The Foundation is not bankrupt, but a restructuring is needed. Olivier basically jumped in front of our announcements on that and our annual report on the 2014 finances to be released next week, and he spun it very very negative.

 

-90% of the staff was not "fired", some of the staff was reduced through attrition and in anticipation of the restructuring. That just happened and it was more like 50%

 

-DevCore London is still on and I'm looking forward to seeing you all there!

 

Thx,

-pm

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David R Allen    318

Patrick,

 

Presenting Olivier in a negative light is a bad spin. Regardless of the intentions of this board prior to Jim and Olivier, the results have been insulting to the membership. The board may have had a plan but they have made no effort to communicate or involve the memebrship.

 

And let's be clear. Your 2014 annual report will not tell us the current state of the finances. It never does.

 

How much is there in the bank now, and where did it go? I am sure the corporate sponsors are going to have the same questions now that the cat is out of the bag.

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Joel Dalais    306

Step 1 - Be open and clear about the financial situation.

Step 2 - Start asking the membership before major decisions are made - e.g. use the distributed opinion system (a) Board member xy has suggest idea B, what are your thoughts.

Step 3 - Make use of members! - This can also be done using something like the distributed opinion system - e.g. Member proposes idea, if X amount support it then it is put on the distributed opinion for wider acceptance.

Step 4 - With clarification about the financial situation members will have a good idea what they can propose.

Step 5 - Allow members to use the distributed opinion (or something similar) to also raise funds for their Foundation related project - e.g. Member's proposed idea requires XX funds, will be initiated once funds received, if funds not fully received then funds are returned to those who donated (if not return address provided, then funds forwarded to charity of the Foundation - make this very clear) - a Foundation controlled/escrow wallet can be used to support this (just a suggestion).

Step 6 - Board members can also raise funds for XX project this way, IF people approve, they will fund it. If people don't support it, then obviously they don't like it, great! Reputation saved, money not wasted, double win.

Step 7 - Foundation funds raised from membership and excess from events used for core Foundation responsibilities (e.g. rent, wages, etc).

Step 8 - More clarity from the board meetings.

 

These are just off the top of my head, though I've bandied them around in my head for a while. It would raise funds, it would direct these funds to what the majority of people wanted, it would raise funds from outside the foundation, it would get more involvement, it would make active use of proactive members that wanted to do things.

 

Edit: It also makes proposals, plans, finances, a lot clearer for members and the general public.

 

Anyway, it can be gone into more details, a team made up to make it happen, etc, etc,

 

I know it's not much, but the amount spent on lobbying in the US still makes me cringe..

 

Edit2: Just my 2 cents

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Paul Sproge    59

2 years. I've been patiently waiting for 100% transparency since March of 2013: https://bitcoinfoundation.org/forum/index.php?/topic/49-bf-board-meeting-agenda-requests/page__st__20#entry1130

 

As a lifetime member who donated 25 BTC (at one point $25,000) to this cause, and one of the first outspoken who requested more transparency early on, I didn't think it would take 2 years to get to this point...

 

Gavin once said, "why not more transparency? Like you said-- because we're young and figuring everything out... Finally: other organizations I've seen handle financial transparency by making their non-profit-status-financial-statements public, and I vaguely remember that being the plan."

 

I voted for Olivier hoping that Gavin's words, said many years ago, would become irrelevant. That this organization would have grown older, become more transparent, and in good standing with the community. I was not, however, expecting his latest announcement. Things have really taken a turn for the worse.

 

Regardless, I point to my original post: in it is a list of what the BF should do at this point going forward regarding financial transparency. I need to know exactly what happened, where the money went, and where it will be going in the future. I need to feel good about having my name attached to this organization (and so does this community, if it is to survive), and only 100% transparency will allow for that.

 

If that doesn't happen, I would like to request whatever's left of my initial membership fee be returned to me (I have no reason to think it will, but I am asking anyway), my account be closed, and my name removed from the list of members.

 

I honestly, and sincerely thank everyone involved for all the good work done in the past (especially the dev's), but two years is enough time in my opinion.

 

-Paul Sproge

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As a lifetime member who donated 25 BTC (at one point $25,000) to this cause, and one of the first outspoken who requested more transparency early on, I didn't think it would take 2 years to get to this point...

 

Yeah... i never understood why the foundation wasnt built fully transparent from the start. It looked like the old way of doing things was implemented in such a new area of development and possible change of the world.

 

And yes... thinking now about me spending this amount of money out of the moment makes me cry a bit. :lol:

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Matt Mihaly    55

I've spent most of my time on these forums defending the Foundation. I feel like a chump.

 

This lifetime member votes for just dissolving it and returning whatever money is left to the members and/or sponsors. It's not going to recover from this in any meaningful way.

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Leith Marar    11

I still think the best way to move forward with core dev funding is some type of not-for-profit legal entity, whether that is Olivier's crowdfunded Trust or something else (or both) I don't really care. I DO care that it is legal, transparent, and that I'm never put in the position of deciding how to divvy up a Big Pile Of Money. That puts me into a clear conflict of interest, and would be a very good way of generating resentment and envy among the core devs who aren't working for their own startups.

 

I don't think any reasonable person would argue with that Gavin. I also think the foundation should not worry about negative PR if it does choose to disband. From my understanding 250m has been rasied in VC funds in the last quarter, there is plenty of money in the ecosystem, and those organisations will fill the void of dev funding if need be.

 

The beauty of bitcoin is that no single entity is in charge, that does not apply for an organisation, they require vision and leadership.

 

If the foundation wants to carry on someone needs to step up and make a case for its existince that people can get behind, if that's Patrick or Olivier I am sure either of them are more than qualified. If not, so be it, nobody died.

 

I would suggest however that being open is one of the cornerstones of whatever this organisation is.

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I don't think any reasonable person would argue with that Gavin. I also think the foundation should not worry about negative PR if it does choose to disband. From my understanding 250m has been rasied in VC funds in the last quarter, there is plenty of money in the ecosystem, and those organisations will fill the void of dev funding if need be.

 

The beauty of bitcoin is that no single entity is in charge, that does not apply for an organisation, they require vision and leadership.

 

If the foundation wants to carry on someone needs to step up and make a case for its existince that people can get behind, if that's Patrick or Olivier I am sure either of them are more than qualified. If not, so be it, nobody died.

 

I would suggest however that being open is one of the cornerstones of whatever this organisation is.

 

I think you underestimate how non bitcoin journalists work. They dont understand bitcoin very well and a disbanding Bitcoin Foundation sounds to some of those journalists like Bitcoin is dead now. And people not in bitcoin would believe that.

 

So i think if possible we should avoid such headlines. If the foundation is changed to something much smaller but still exists with their name then this might be possible to prevent the next big bad news to bitcoin. Negative news tend to be the news that reach the people not in bitcoin yet the most.

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Leith Marar    11

I think you underestimate how non bitcoin journalists work. They dont understand bitcoin very well and a disbanding Bitcoin Foundation sounds to some of those journalists like Bitcoin is dead now. And people not in bitcoin would believe that.

 

So i think if possible we should avoid such headlines. If the foundation is changed to something much smaller but still exists with their name then this might be possible to prevent the next big bad news to bitcoin. Negative news tend to be the news that reach the people not in bitcoin yet the most.

 

Isn't the current bitcoin died count at about 40 now? People who think that don't care or understand bitcoin, people who don't I suspect woudl not fear the foundation's non existance. If bitcoin is as fragile as to be really damaged by the views of badly informed journalists, we have a much bigger problem than the foundation disbanding.

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