The Bitcoin Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that was founded in 2012 to change the public perception that bitcoin is associated with fraud and criminality. Additionally, the foundation seeks to positively influence regulation and policy issues associated with cryptocurrency by educating lawmakers on the ecosystem. The chairman of the board of directors is Brock Pierce, with Bobby Lee acting as vice chairman.
A year before the launch of the foundation, bitcoin had come under increased scrutiny. A bitcoin savings and loan bank was being investigated as a Ponzi scheme, hackers stole over $250,000 worth of bitcoin from online trading floor Bitfloor and two U.S. senators raised alarm at bitcoin’s role in the newly launched Silk Road. The foundation launched in 2012 with Peter Vessenes as its first chairman. Gavin Andresen, who became the “lead developer” of bitcoin after Satoshi Nakamoto left the project, was brought on as chief scientist, for which he received a foundation-funded salary.
Jon Matonis was named the new executive director of the foundation in July 2013 but stepped down in 2014 to do bitcoin-related work in the private sector. Matonis’ departure was preceded by the resignations of board members Charlie Shrem and Mark Karpeles. Shrem, the former CEO of Bitinstant, stepped down from the board after he was arrested in connection with facilitating bitcoin transactions on darknet market Silk Road. Karpeles, formerly the CEO of Mt. Gox, resigned from the board shortly before his company collapsed.
In 2015, the Bitcoin Foundation’s board voted Satoshi Roundtable-founder Bruce Fenton in as executive director of the foundation. Additionally, that year Olivier Janssens, a newly elected board member, claimed in a public blog post that the foundation was nearly “bankrupt” and had fired the majority of its staff. Janssens and fellow board member Jim Harper resigned from the board after both voted to dismantle the foundation. Fenton departed in 2016 and was replaced by South African venture capitalist Llew Claasen.