Zcash Developer Electric Coin CEO Zooko Wilcox Steps Down, Swihart Named to Role

The overseeing board of Zcash, known for its privacy-oriented "shielded" addresses or "z-addresses," credited Wilcox with delivery of "the first real-world application of zero-knowledge proofs."

AccessTimeIconDec 18, 2023 at 7:25 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 6:50 p.m. UTC

Electric Coin Co., the primary developer behind the privacy-oriented blockchain network Zcash, said Zooko Wilcox, the project's creator, will step down as CEO and be replaced by Josh Swihart.

According to a blog post from Electric Coin, Wilcox has served as the project's leader since 2015, when the company, then known as "Zcash," was created.

Swihart, formerly senior vice president of growth at ECC, will return to the company to take on the CEO role, responsible for all strategic and tactical decisions, according to the post.

"We feel confident in Josh’s leadership — in finding product-market fit, unlocking new partnerships and collaboration, improving Zcash usability and increasing adoption," Electric Coin said. "In addition to a vision for ECC and an optimistic passion for Zcash, Josh has a strong entrepreneurial, technical and product background."

Wilcox will remain in his role as a director on the board of the Bootstrap Project, the parent company of ECC, according to the post.

In a separate blog post, Wilcox wrote that "Zcash took over not only my life but also my identity."

"It was hard for others to see Zcash as something separate from me. sometimes it was hard for me to do that myself," Wilcox wrote. "However, in the long run, I don’t think this conflation of Zcash with me personally is healthy for me, and I don’t think it’s healthy for Zcash."

He wrote that he was looking forward to a "couple of months to think about how I can best help," but that "anything that I would commit myself to in the future would need to include Zcash, because the Zcash community is freedom’s best hope."

ZEC, the native cryptocurrency of Zcash, was down 5.8% over the past 24 hours, in line with a broader slide in digital-asset markets on Monday. The price didn't appear to move much on the announcement of the CEO change.

Bitcoin fork

The Zcash network, officially launched in 2016 as "fork" or copy of the Bitcoin blockchain, is known for its "shielded addresses," in this case "z-addresses," which allow for encryption on one or both sides of a blockchain transaction.

According to Zcash's technical documentation, Zcash relies on a type of mathematical proof called a zk-SNARK, derived from so-called zero-knowledge cryptography, which has become one of 2023's hottest trends in blockchain architecture.

"The owner of a z-address can share its transaction details with trusted third parties via a view key – a key that grants read access but not spend authority over the address," the documentation reads. "This allows for “selective disclosure”, where transactions are auditable but disclosure is under the participant’s control. This allows compliance with payment for auditing, tax regulations, or anti-money laundering rules."

Electric Coin, in its blog post on Monday, credited Wilcox for leading Electric Coin in its delivery, in Zcash, "the first real-world application of zero-knowledge proofs."

CORRECTION (15:39 UTC): An earlier version of this story erroneously used the company name "Electric Capital" in a few instances where we meant to write, "Electric Coin." Those instances have been corrected to say "Electric Coin."

Edited by Kevin Reynolds.


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Bradley Keoun

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