In a shocker posted late last night, Olivier Janssens, the recently elected board member of the Bitcoin Foundation, who promised to bring transparency and reform to the Foundation, has posted a bombshell on Reddit. The post alleges that the Bitcoin Foundation has run out of money and has fired 90% of its staff, some of whom will remain on as volunteers.
The Bitcoin Foundation is a independent foundation that was originally modeled after the Linux Foundation. It funds core development of bitcoin but how much actual control it has over development depends on who you ask.
The cause of the financial problems, according to Janssens, was that the foundation first spread itself too thin on too many projects and then transitioned to a focus on Core development, which did not result in more donations as they expected.
“[. . .]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.”
Janssens went onto allege that the Bitcoin Foundation attempted to silence him and other recently elected board member Jim Harper.
“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 [other board members said.]”
Janssens points to what he called a press release but was later corrected to an interview that Harper gave to CoinDesk. Harper stated in the Reddit thread that the Foundation felt it would be better for the Foundation’s health if he was less than honest about its current state.
“I didn’t do any press release. I think Olivier is referring to the post-election interview I gave to Coindesk. I gather[ed] that Patrick and some on the board felt that my being not dishonest about the condition of the foundation damaged the foundation.”
In what would have normally been the lead story, but is only a side note compared to the other accusations, Janssens alleges that Executive Director Patrick Murck will be stepping down and that he will try to make a new Bitcoin Foundation that will focus on Core development.
The bombshell accusations were also posted on the Bitcoin Foundation’s forum, where Core Developer Gavin Andresen had some comments, seemingly confirming the Bitcoin Foundation’s dire financial situation. It reads in part:
“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[.]”
Gavin Andresen then went on to plead with the community to not wallow in past mistakes or “Monday morning quarterback” the situation. Rather, he hopes that people will look forward for solutions, but is pessimistic about the possibility of that happening. It should be noted that Andresen has since defended the Foundation on Twitter and maintains that it doesn’t control development. That said, his above comments seem to confirm or at least lend evidence to, Janssens’ picture of the current financial situation.
Janssens, who is one of Bitcoin’s most well known millionaires, said that he will donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Gavin Andresen, Wladimir van der Laan and other core developer’s salaries for the coming year. As the most visible (and most successful) figure fighting against the centralization of Bitcoin’s Core Development, he realizes that being in control of those funds would be against his primary objective.
“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.”
He finished the post with his recommendation to the Bitcoin Foundation membership: Kick out the board members.
“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.”
Janssens made headlines last year when he put forth a 100k bounty for software that could replace the Foundation’s role in Core development. That eventually evolved into Lighthouse, a distributed crowdfunding platform.
We have reached out to the Bitcoin Foundation’s official Press email, as well as some board members through Skype, email and LinkedIn. We have not received any replies at press time. We have also reached out to Janssens and will update this space if and when he replies.