Funding  •  Investors

Fred Wilson, Reid Hoffman Back MIT's $900k Bitcoin Developer Fund

(@DelRayMan) | Published on March 28, 2016 at 19:36 BST

MIT announced today it has raised $900,000 to fund the work of three bitcoin developers.

The Bitcoin Developer Fund, backed by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and others is intended to give the three bitcoin coders working to resolve the block-size debate and other similar technical challenges an academic platform from which to work.

MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) director Brian Forde said the university's role in helping support these coders is just part of the academic community’s responsibility to create a place where bitcoin's developers can continue their work.

Forde told CoinDesk:

"We built out the fund to be able to support people like Wlad [van der Laan], Cory [Fields] and Gavin [Andresen] who have supported bitcoin to continue their work in an academic way."

Beginning in April 2015, the developers have been working with the MIT DCI in a full-time capacity. MIT's Media Lab created the Digital Currency Initiative, also in Apirl 2015, to foster an academic exploration of the blockchain.

Corporate donors to the fund included BitFury, Bitmain, Chain, Circle and Nasdaq, along with venture capitalists Jim Breyer, Jim Pallotta, Jeff Tarrant and Fred Wilson. LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman, who is also a co-founder of PayPal and a member of the so-called PayPal mafia, also participated.

The money was given as what Forde called "unrestricted gifts", a decision intended to prevent the donors from obtaining any influence over the developers. In regards to the Bitcoin Core versus Bitcoin Classic debate over how to scale the network, MIT says it has no official position.

An academic platform

In spite of MIT maintaining a neutral position, the bitcoin scaling debate certainly plays a role in the Boston-based university's decision to help raise the fund.

While the network's developers, including those with the ability to implement changes decided upon by members of the community, have been struggling to resolve the debate they have experienced increasing demands on their time, according to Forde.

Instead of asking the group of coders to work for free, raise their own funds or join a corporation, Forde says academia has a responsibility to accept bitcoin development as an area of academic interest and create places for the developers to work.

“It’s important for academia to provide a platform to think about and espouse academic ideas,” said Forde. “We would love for other academic institutions to do the same.”

According to a Medium post, the money will cover salaries, travel and support of bitcoin protocol development efforts.

The DCI itself is funded by sponsors of MIT’s Media Lab and not the fund announced today. All the funds will be disbursed in US dollars, even those received in bitcoin.

Money and computers image via Shutterstock

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