Roger Ver gave me three big announcements as an exclusive to Modern Consensus. First, he is breaking news with us about his investment in the mobile crypto wallet and non-custodial exchange Evercoin. Second, he told me he just submitted Bitcoin.com’s application to join the Facebook-led Libra Association. And third, he shared details about the addition of Stefan Rust as Bitcoin.com’s CEO.
All this coming off the heels of a U.K. court decision dismissing Craig Wright’s defamation lawsuit against him and his announcement of the September 2nd launch of Bitcoin.com’s rewards-based exchange.
Since 2011, Ver has been one of the industry’s most prominent Bitcoin angel investors and evangelists seeding the crypto ecosystem. After a career as a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he became one of the earliest investors in the industry, putting money in BitInstant, BitPay, BitAngels, Blockchain.com, Kraken, Ripple, and more. He was one of the founders of the Bitcoin Foundation along with Charlie Shrem, Gavin Andresen, Mark Karpeles, Peter Vessenes, and Patrick Murck. And he is also the founder of Bitcoin.com, a platform dedicated to the widespread adoption of Bitcoin Cash.
I had a chance to talk with Ver about the state of payments, where he’s placing his bets, and how he sees the market evolving with Wall Street’s adoption of crypto and the G7’s pushback. The following is an edited transcript of our discussion.
Martine Paris: It’s certainly been a thrilling past 48 hours for you.
Roger Ver: It sure has been!
Congratulations on winning this round with Craig Wright in his defamation lawsuit against you. It seems like you’ve been in the industry from the start. Who do you think Satoshi is?
So actually the case in England had nothing to do with Craig claiming he is Satoshi. I claimed Craig is a liar and a fraud which he absolutely is, but it’s entirely possible that he could be Satoshi and a liar and a fraud all at the same time. I’m not making any claims in either direction at this point with regards to Craig being Satoshi or not. I don’t know and I don’t think it matters.
How did you first become involved with the crypto movement? Was it at the time of the 2008 global financial crisis when Bitcoin’s white paper came out?
I actually wasn’t aware of Bitcoin during the financial crisis. I became aware of it in January, February of 2011 but I can say that I was aware of the concept of Bitcoin since maybe the year 2000, or something like that, reading different books that talked about how once anonymous digital cash exists on the internet all sorts of interesting things will become possible. Then when Bitcoin came along it was like, “Oh, the time is here!”
I heard you say you are not the creator of Bitcoin Cash, what is your involvement with the currency?
I believe very strongly in Bitcoin Cash. We just had a huge Bitcoin cash anniversary party here last night and close to 200 people showed up. It was a really fun time with great turnout. A lot of people love to say I was the founder or creator of Bitcoin Cash, but no, I was late to the show in one sense. In another sense, Bitcoin Cash is the exact same vision and version and goal of the Bitcoin that I got involved with back in 2011. Gavin Andresen tweeted out that Bitcoin Cash is the version of Bitcoin he got involved with in 2010. It’s a means of exchange and a store of value. If you study economics, you realize that those things are not separable. You can’t have something that’s only a store of value; there has to be some additional use case in order for it to be usable as a store of value. The BTC maximalists are trying to destroy Bitcoin’s other use cases and they think that it will still manage to be used as just a store of value but that wouldn’t be the case.
How do you feel about being called Bitcoin Jesus?
A better term would be Bitcoin Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed was this guy who went around planting apple seeds all over the place. Then a few years later these apple trees grew up and now we have all of these wonderful apples. And so I kind of did the same thing with Bitcoin back in the first generation – doing everything I could to spread adoption, and now today there’s this big ecosystem that everyone gets to enjoy.
You’ve been described as a cryptolibertarian and anarcho-capitalist. What do those terms mean to you?
My philosophy is really simple: Anyone should be allowed to do absolutely anything so long as it’s peaceful. If you’re not harming someone else, you should be allowed to do it.
Crypto payments are taking off, but the U.S. tax laws are not making it easy. Can you take me through a scenario where Bitcoin Cash could substitute for the U.S. dollar and why that would be an advantage when the U.S. dollar is relatively stable and we have such an onerous tax code regarding capital gains reporting on crypto transactions?
Good people disobey bad laws and if the laws are stupid, the people should disobey them. If the law says people aren’t allowed to use cryptocurrency as money, the law is wrong. Like the marijuana prohibition law, it’s simply a plant. The very idea that a group of people can get together and tell other people that they’re not allowed to have a plant is insane. The people that want to throw those people in jail for having a plant are the criminal aggressors who should be stopped. I don’t see it morally different. And so we’re trying to build the infrastructure to allow people to decide what laws they want and which ones they choose to disobey. If you’re running a restaurant and a bunch of people are paying you in paper dollar bills, some people will report it and some people won’t. I think the same is true about cryptocurrencies.
“I claimed Craig [Wright] is a liar and a fraud which he absolutely is, but it’s entirely possible that he could be Satoshi and a liar and a fraud all at the same time.”—Roger Ver
What is your response to would-be investors who are concerned that the market for Bitcoin is so small that it is subject to market manipulation by big players making it volatile and not great for everyday purchases?
I think that’s a fair criticism but I think that also applies to the U.S. dollar. Just [Thursday] night, Donald Trump managed to crash the entire stock market by saying that 300 million people in the U.S. are going to have to pay him extra money if they import goods from China. There’s an example of one person whipsawing the U.S. markets by just saying something on the Internet. So those criticisms about Bitcoin are accurate, but a lot of them apply to the U.S. dollar as well.
Will volatility die down as we get beyond the halving and the market matures?
Yes, and it has. I’ve been in the market over eight and a half years now and it’s already much calmer. The bigger the market cap becomes and the more traders that are out there, the less volatile the price will become.
You just named a new CEO and you moved into the role of executive chairman, what does the road ahead look like for Bitcoin.com?
Stefan [Rust] has an amazing background, amazing pedigree, and an amazing network of contacts, and he’s going to be an awesome CEO. He’s just a bundle of energy and has already gotten a bunch of stuff done. I’m not lowering my efforts in anyway whatsoever. I’m still going to be in the office everyday and online every night. Stefan as the CEO and myself are basically doing the same thing I’ve already been doing but with an executive chairman. We’re not only going to be able to double up but we’re going to be able to do an even better job of bringing peer-to-peer electronic cash to the world.
Sounds like you brought him on to help scale Bitcoin.com.
In the documentary, The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, there are some great scenes where you go from merchant to merchant educating them on how to accept Bitcoin as payment. Was that for BitPay?
Yes. BitPay is the biggest payment processor for BTC and BCH payments and I was their seed investor in the first round. They got started in 2012 and the BitPay debit card is now accepted wherever VISA is. There are more than 100,000 websites where you can pay with Bitcoin Cash and other cryptocurrencies at checkout and the platform you’re using to pay that handles all the conversion and merchant processing is BitPay.
You’re invested in a lot of wallets and exchanges. Are these potential collaborators with Bitcoin.com or are they competitors?
Competition leads to better results for the consumer. My goal is to spread peer-to-peer electronic cash for the entire world through whatever means. So Evercoin is one mean, Kraken is another, and Blockchain.com and BitAngel are another. Anywhere, anyhow, we can do it.
Evercoin has assembled an impressive roster of initial backers including Ross Mason of MuleSoft [acquired by Salesforce], Marc Fleury of JBoss Open Source [acquired by Redhat], John Pigott of ABE Exchange, Eman Pulis of Malta Blockchain Summit, and you along with Gumi Cryptos Capital leading the round. What interested you in Evercoin?
I’m a big fan of Miko [Matsumura]’s and his team. They’re a bunch of sharp guys and are going to do a great job. The app is also super smooth with a real great interface. It’s really nicely done.
We’re seeing a lot of adoption on Wall Street with major players like Fidelity, Ameritrade, E*Trade, Robinhood, NYSE, and Square adding crypto. Financial news broadcasts like Bloomberg now regularly report on crypto markets. In May, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss made news with the release of the Flexa Spedn app which allows investors to spend their bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ether, and Gemini dollar at major retailers including Whole Food, Jamba Juice, and GameStop. And then in June, Facebook announced that they joined forces with dozens of the world’s largest brands including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber, Lyft, Spotify, and others to launch a global cryptocurrency for its 2.7 billion users. This has been an incredible year for payments.
It sure has! The more options for people to use cryptocurrencies the better. More choices are a good thing.
Has there been any thought given to joining the Libra Association?
Bitcoin.com already applied to join, we filled out the application online. I don’t think I mentioned that to anyone publicly yet so there’s a scoop for you!
Evercoin co-founder and CEO, Talip Ozturk, told me that they are in the Libra testnet and have plans to integrate Libra. Is Bitcoin.com in the Libra testnet as well?
Not yet, no.
What are your thoughts on the recent U.S. congressional hearings? Libra is very different from Bitcoin in that David Marcus who is leading the effort for Facebook has testified before the U.S. Congress that they intend to comply with AML/KYC regulations in every jurisdiction they operate in.
That’s true but that’s about the [Facebook] Calibra wallet. If you read between the lines during the Libra hearings, there’s only one congressman who really seemed to have his head wrapped around this and he asked, If someone owns the private keys to their Libra currency, do they own the currency? Full stop. And David Marcus had to say, yes, which I think is really exciting. They’re not marketing it that way but the fact that one guy even thought to ask that question is a really good sign.
As for thoughts, it’s still early days, so we’ll see what happens. Any tool we have available to bring more economic freedom to the world, we want to help with that and I think this is a big step forward in that direction compared to the world that we have now. The more the merrier. Kudos to them for pushing this on.
Are you concerned that the Libra Association might give concessions to the G7 like a backdoor to shutdown accounts suspected of criminal activity?
Well, they already can shutdown your VISA account or your Bank of America account. Only real cryptocurrencies they can’t shutdown. And I think there are lots of people who will want to use the cryptocurrencies that they’re actually controlling themselves and not trusting someone else. But the fact that Coinbase is so incredibly popular with their custodial wallets means lots of people don’t care, don’t understand it, or aren’t concerned.
Is this what you thought the world would look like by now?
I thought we’d be further along than we are. We’re years behind schedule where we would have been if we hadn’t run into the Bitcoin civil wars. That sent the entire ecosystem back years and there’s basically no way to make up for lost time. We can’t change the past, we can just go as fast as we can into the future.