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

MIT has raised $900,000 to continue funding the work of developers on the open-source bitcoin network.

AccessTimeIconMar 28, 2016 at 6:36 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:11 p.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global hub for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

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


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to to register and buy your pass now.