Jimmy Song's New Mission: Fund Unpaid Bitcoin Coders

Bitcoin Core developer Jimmy reveals Platypus Labs, a project at Blockchain Capital to provide fellowships and more to support bitcoin development.

AccessTimeIconFeb 22, 2018 at 1:45 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 10, 2024 at 2:48 a.m. UTC

One of the most respected developers in bitcoin wants to give a new generation of open-source developers a revenue stream.

Jimmy Song

, known for his easy-to-understand technical analysis of cryptocurrency, is in the process of designing a laboratory to train and pay crypto developers under his new auspices as a partner at Blockchain Capital. Informally dubbed Platypus Labs, the project will support developers with a combination of residencies and fellowships, with an initial focus on coders building on Bitcoin Core, the most used version of the bitcoin software.

According to Song, the project, while still in its early stages of development, has already garnered the interest of several of Blockchain Capital's portfolio companies, plus a number of investors that have bought into the venture capital firms' funds.

It's not all that surprising given the lack of talent in the space as compared to the number of developer jobs needed. According to stats from Indeed.com, the number of blockchain jobs posted in the U.S. alone rose by 207 percent between December 2016 and December 2017.

Illustrative of this, Blockchain Capital co-founder Bart Stephens told CoinDesk, "Without exception, all of the 62 companies in the Blockchain Capital portfolio need engineering talent. We couldn’t be more pleased to have him join the team and allow us to support and contribute to the ecosystem in this way."

With such enthusiasm already, Song expects to roll out a fellowship or residency program in the next two months.

While the project, which will have a physical location in San Francisco, will at first focus specifically on building up the developer ecosystem around bitcoin, the lab could eventually expand to include support for other cryptocurrencies.

Song told CoinDesk:

"We want to reward developers, because they're obviously adding tremendous value to the ecosystem, and we want to see them get compensated for it, if that's what they want to do."

Developer interest

That modifier on Song's statement, though, stems from the fact that getting developers to participate could be more of a challenge.

During bitcoin's infancy, all Core developers were volunteers, working on the code in their spare time for free. Although other times, developers had large sums of bitcoin and so worked on the code to protect their investment.

"If you own a lot of bitcoin, then it's in your interest to work on it – at least that's why I started contributing to Core," Song said.

But as bitcoin became more popular, educational institutions such as MIT and venture-backed startups like BitPay, Blockstream and Chain Code Labs began hiring bitcoin developers to keep up their work on the public blockchain.

Yet, not every Core developer has shown interest in such monetary support, in some ways stemming from the perception of working for a company versus the altruistic autonomy of working alone.

"Certain developers, you're never going to get them to do that, they're doing it for other reasons than money," Song said. "But certainly, if that is a concern, and if that's something that certain developers are interested in, we want to support that."

Supply and demand

Song also wants to support new developers that might want to get trained in the nascent technology, but have limited resources to do so.

While Song has committed 14 changes to the Bitcoin Core codebase, he's better known as an educator, making a name for himself through Programming Blockchain, a two-day seminar designed to give Python developers the necessary skills to write code for bitcoin applications.

Yet, he wants to add to that with Platypus Labs, primarily in teaching developers how to update core infrastructure that's been overlooked for some time.

For one, there's bitcoin's aging open-source libraries, such as bitcoin wallet library bitcoinj, which was already getting old when its creator Mike Hearn walked away from bitcoin altogether in 2016.

"A lot of open-source libraries in bitcoin have fallen into disrepair," he said. "We'd like to make sure those are shored up for the sake of our portfolio companies at the very least, but also for the sake of the ecosystem."

In this pursuit, Song is in the process of contacting each of Blockchain Capital's 62 portfolio companies to ask which coding libraries they use. He's also asking them which new tools they need and what other ways Platypus Labs might be beneficial to them.

Once that reconnaissance is done, Song expects to formally reveal the criteria for the joining the laboratory.

On top of that, he'll be perusing the industry for companies – that Blockchain Capital might invest in – run by entrepreneurs that can code the "basics really, really well."

Speaking to both his expanding the role on Blockchain Capital with his laboratory, plus his thesis for finding companies for the firm to invest in, Song told CoinDesk:

“I like to see companies that are innovating and not rent-seeking."


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