Following the sudden resignation of founding member and vice chairman Charlie Shrem, the Bitcoin Foundation has initiated moves to fill its first open Board of Directors seat.
The process got under way on 18th February, when it announced a formal schedule for the voting process. Under the proposed timeline, a new board member will be elected in roughly two months’ time.
Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles also resigned from the board on 24th February, though no timeline has yet been introduced for vetting his replacement.
In the wake of these events, the remaining members of the board continue to work to promote and protect bitcoin – a task that they say is growing in importance and difficulty in accordance with the community’s own expansion.
For example, in just the last few weeks, the foundation has needed to reassure global consumers of the safety of the Bitcoin protocol, vet local groups that can help it expand its reach, and guard against people whose bitcoin associations might harm its reputation; in addition to dealing with two high-profile resignations.
Speaking with current board members, it becomes clear that the organization is in need of a member with a broad-ranging skill set to help the foundation advance its cause, given these new challenges.
When CoinDesk asked Shrem to describe the ideal candidate for his replacement, he said:
“Whoever takes [my] place needs to be a leader. Someone who holds the foundation at a standard of excellence and who realizes that the foundation represents what people think of bitcoin. This power does come with an immense amount of responsibility.”
The resulting appointee will also be the first individual elected to the board since September 2013, when Elizabeth T. Ploshay, manager of communications at Bitcoin Magazine, and Meyer ‘Micky’ Malka, founder and general partner at Ribbit Capital, were awarded an individual and an industry seat, respectively.
With this in mind, CoinDesk spoke to current and past board members about the upcoming election and what attributes they feel the new board member will require.
Of course, while leadership is a rather broad concept, current members of the Bitcoin Foundation were able to paint a picture of the kind of person that could most benefit the organisation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these qualities were a reflection of its recent objectives and challenges.
Bitcoin Foundation Executive Director and CoinDesk contributor Jon Matonis described his ideal candidate, emphasizing that communication will be a key attribute:
“A good candidate would understand bitcoin’s fundamental importance in the world and have a demonstrated capability of articulating that vision to a global audience.”
Ploshay, Malka and Shrem also stressed that candidates must understand that, as a board member, their actions will have a broad impact on the community. Shrem noted that this is a crucial component, in part, because of some members have erred on this point in the past.
“Unfortunately, some of the current members do not hold this responsibility and bring themselves to meaningless ‘blame games’ and lawsuits, where a real leader would look at the bigger picture,” Shrem said.
While this may seem negative, Shrem sought to be constructive with his remarks, which also cited the hard work that continues to be done by the body and his intention to do everything he legally can to provide it with support going forward.
Another common response from current board members was that the newest appointee should reflect the foundation’s motto, “Think Globally, Act Locally”.
This objective is top of agenda at the organization, very likely because of the recent addition of approved international chapters in Australia and Canada.
Malka echoed this necessity, saying that he believes his global experience was integral to his election. Malka grew up in Latin America, has lived in Europe, and now calls the US home.
“I believe that the more people with global experiences, or an understanding of global markets, or visions for the protocol, will be welcome,” he said.
Ploshay, however, said that candidates don’t need to have a diverse background to help the organisation improve its position globally, noting that applicants should be evaluated “regardless of where their passport is [from]”. She added:
“The most important thing is that the best candidate wins.”
Ploshay suggested that the election was not only the best way for the foundation to move forward, but for the community to address pertinent issues and ultimately choose an individual who can help lead such group discussions.
The board member continued, saying that the new appointee needs to be willing to share new ideas, interact with the community and operate in environments where their actions are noticed.
Malka suggested that the new member should be able to collaborate on matters of regulation. Noting the divergent opinions of bitcoin users on the subject, he explained that this means striking a sometimes complicated balance:
“You have to understand regulatory environments. I’m not saying going against them, or go for 100% of what they ask you do to […] but you have to be willing to have that kind of mentality.”
The voting process
Of course, while the board members may have well-defined attributes in mind for an ideal colleague, only industry members of Bitcoin Foundation can vote for the open seat – meaning some of those interviewed here will not have a final say in the appointment.
As Shrem was currently serving a two-year board term set to end in December, a representative from the Bitcoin Foundation suggested the upcoming election may actually be a special election for the remainder of this period, not the full two-years. However, the Bitcoin Foundation has not responded formally to requests for clarification on the matter.
Voting will be held on 21st April. For more information on the voting process, visit the Bitcoin Foundation’s official blog for more details.
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