Two Board Members Exit as Bitcoin Foundation Seeks Funding

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on December 15, 2015 at 22:16 GMT
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Bitcoin Foundation board members Jim Harper and Olivier Janssens have resigned and been removed from the trade organization, respectively, following a disagreement over the future of the advocacy group.

At an 11am EST meeting today, long-standing disagreements among Bitcoin Foundation board members came to a head over a vote on whether the organization should be disbanded. Both Harper and Janssens voted to shut down the foundation.

In a statement, Bitcoin Foundation vice chairman and BTCC CEO Bobby Lee said the organization accepted the resignation of Jim Harper following the vote, a decision Harper confirmed to CoinDesk calling it "non-acrimonious".

More contentious was a vote to remove long-controversial board member Olivier Janssens initiated by Lee. The vote was seconded by chairman Brock Pierce as well as remaining board members Elizabeth McCauley and Meyer "Micky" Malka.

In statements, Janssens indicated that he expressed his willingness for the foundation to continue, provided it had a plan and a direction for its future, objections shared by Harper.

"They wanted everyone to start raising money, so they could come up with a plan. I said I'm not comfortable to raise money UNTIL we have a plan," Janssens wrote in a Reddit post.

The dismissals by the board members follow the publication of meeting minutes from 20th October which suggested the Bitcoin Foundation has only enough funding to continue until next March, and that recent conference efforts had drawn little revenue.

According to the minutes, the board discussed the prospect of fundraising to continue efforts, and that board members were to be tasked with collecting money from the community as part of the effort.

In comments to CoinDesk, Bitcoin Foundation director Bruce Fenton, praised both departing members, but said he feels the organization will now be better positioned for success:

"It's key for the vision of the board to align, so while it would be ideal if the opinions coincided, ultimately it will hopefully place the foundation in a stronger position with a board that is aligned."

In a statement, Pierce said he supported Lee’s version of the events "wholeheartedly". Malka and McCauley also confirmed their support for the public statement.

Pot boils over

Janssens had long found himself at odds with more prominent members of the organization over his outspoken demeanor as well as his past attempts to inform the community of financial issues at the foundation without the support of other board members.

"I was a thorn in the eye of the Foundation since the beginning, and they waited for the right time to remove me. The truth is that the foundation is pretty much dead. They will try to keep it going just for the name and ego, but they have no support left with the community," he wrote.

On social media, Janssens drew support for his actions, including from former Bitcoin Foundation chairman and organization founder Peter Vessenes, who suggested that he felt shutting down the group was in the best interest of those who had donated to its efforts.

"I voted for you, Olivier, and floated the idea that we should shut down and just return donations pro-rata to members some time ago; the ones left active on the board are the ones who didn't want to do that," he wrote.

In statements to CoinDesk, Harper, who had long served as the organization's global policy counsel, voiced his belief that the foundation "lacks vision", but that this was not necessarily the fault of its new chairman, Brock Pierce, or director, Bruce Fenton.

"The foundation has not had a vision. I think it was poorly organized, and in hindsight, it was erratic. Not enough has changed," he said. "But, I think the community still needs a good advocacy group for the users."

Path forward

While those involved were in agreement about the day's events, the next steps for the Bitcoin Foundation were less clear.

For now, it must now continue to maintain operations without its full seven board members. In addition to Janssens and Harper, one seat, previously reserved for founders and then reallocated for international affiliates, remains unfilled.

In his statement, Lee stated that the foundation would immediately seek to continue efforts such as its DevCore conference, the most recent of which was held at Draper University in San Mateo, California, in October.

"In recent months the ED [executive director] has cut costs to a very minimal rate while our foundation also been able to add value to the ecosystem with events like DevCore, the launch of media and speaker engagement programs and other initiatives," Lee wrote.

Adding to the questions about the future of the foundation is that Malka and McCauley are approaching the end of their two-year term limit on 31st December.

Fenton, however, stated that the board is "reviewing the election progress" and that it may consider appointing members for "all or some" of the open seats.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Malka's vote was submitted by proxy. It was instead submitted via email.

Coffee on keyboard image via Shutterstock

Bitcoin FoundationBrock PierceJim Harper

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