The Big Interview

Brock Pierce: The hugely successful chair of the Bitcoin Foundation tells us ‘I do not see myself as a cowboy’

He means in the metaphorical or literal sense and tells Coin Rivet he does not fear failure, although not every project he's worked on has been a huge success but the vast majority have been

Brock Pierce, one of the most famous names in cryptocurrency, told Coin Rivet that he does not fear failure and that not every project he’s worked on has been a huge success. The majority have, though.

The former child actor is chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation and is also the co-founder of Block.one, EOS Alliance, Tether, Mastercoin and Blockchain Capital.

He advises several companies in the sector including BitGo, DNA, and tZERO and is working on the launch of a small Venture Capital fund for entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico, where he lives, helping them innovate in tech start-ups.

As we speak his phone’s notification is pinging every few seconds, which is a distraction, and he has to move it away. At one point in the interview I can hear the sound of water glugging down a sink – he’s clearly someone who is very busy – and I wonder what on earth is going on.

A recent interview with the Sunday Times described how he’s revered as a guru by his followers, so I ask if he thinks of himself as a guru. “Absolutely not!” he replies. “A lot of people are in search of knowledge and due to my tenure I have a lot of knowledge and I can do my best to be generous.”

Experience and judgment

He talks of his “experience and judgment that comes with asymmetry of information as a sector that has been around for 10 years”.

He confirms he’s aiming to give away $1bn which has turned out to be “much harder than I thought”. He’s “exploring new avenues and new experiences but the main thing is to have an impact. I wouldn’t want to give money to the Red Cross to see six houses built”.

He’s looking at an organisation called Xprize that is doing a good job in distributing funds with measurable impact.

He is also looking at the philanthropic work of Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, and is interested in the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and other environmental matters.

He wants to make an impact on Puerto Rico, an island with a population of three million, which has been hit by natural disaster and is extremely poor economically, where he lives wife his wife Crystal Rose, the CEO of Sensay, who I’ve interviewed previously for Coin Rivet.

The couple are about to become parents in a few weeks’ time to their first child. He says they’re both very excited about the baby’s arrival.

Giving away shoes

Separately in another act of generosity he gave away his shoes to someone who admired them, who luckily had the same size feet. I ask him about it and he laughed and says he didn’t just do it randomly. A woman said to him: ‘Oh My God I love your shoes.’ He goes on to say: “I don’t value the things I buy. But little actions (like giving away your shoes) can have an exponential impact.

“Most people are not used to random acts of kindness, but it can change your mindset and that one small action can have a major impact over the years of a person’s life,” he explains.

He goes on to tell me the coffee story – which I’ve read in other interviews by him where he’s standing in line and he buys the coffee for the person behind him (who doesn’t realise until after he’s left the coffee shop).

I interrupt him and tell him that I would hate that as it is patronising. “One little ripple can create a massive wave,” he says. Reflecting on what I just said, he says he was “certainly not wanting to offend anyone.” I don’t think anyone’s minded him buying their coffee before.

Cowboy

Given that his trademark look involves a cowboy hat, I ask if he thinks of himself as a cowboy. “I do not think of myself as a cowboy,” he replies deadpan.

“Do you mean metaphorically or literally?” I ask, seeking further clarity.

“Metaphorically or literally,” he says. “I think of myself as a man who wears a lot of hats.” He just likes a particular hatmaker, Nick Fouquet based in LA, who makes these kind of hats which cost around $1,000 each.

Back to cryptocurrency, he says: “We have the ability to change almost everything. I am especially excited in these times of a bear market.

“The bull market has other frustrations as it attracts all the wrong people for the wrong reasons and the market becomes irrational with people not committed to projects they are working on with everybody quick to jump onto the next thing.”

Riff raff

In the bear market, what he describes as the “riff raff” have moved away as there are no easy pickings to be had, allowing the “dedicated people” to work harder. It’s kind of a “cleansing or purging,” he adds, where people can “hunker down and build and build.”

He urges people to educate the regulators which is something he’s been doing for a long time. The regulatory laws are “old laws” which are not designed with cryptocurrency in mind, which is why there’s a need for this education. The quality of the laws is determined by “how well educated” the legislators have been.

He says there will be some kind of trigger event that moves the bear market on whether it’s a number of things – “with mass adoption being one possibility”.

He admits he’s moved on to a number of roles but says being a CEO is “not a role I like”.

As a result of the “foresight and asymmetry of mind” that he says he possesses, he likes to see “where the market is going” and uses that knowledge to “help others catch the next wave and the one after that”.

Gox Rising

He has recently announced a project called Gox Rising, citing how his company Sunlot acquired Mt Gox from Mark Karpeles in March 2014 – who has yet to admit to the sale publicly. It’s yet to emerge whether it will be one of his successes, or whether it will not take off.

The Mt Gox hack and fallout five years ago is still fresh in the member of many in the community with creditors still not reimbursed for their losses and the case in the hands of the bankruptcy courts.

He points out he’s been the successful founder of a range of major projects including Tether and EOS.

I ask if he fears failure as he’s had so much success. “I’ve failed plenty,” he says. “I fail often but people tend to focus on the successes.

“I’ve had projects that have not worked out.” He points to GoCoin, which is still in business and profitable and Express Coin, which due to regulations was sold off to a team on another project. Then there was Zenbox cryptocurrency ATM networks which he “pulled the plug on”.

He muses would he do them all again? “Probably,” he says. “As it was part of the learning process.”

He was involved in a company which was the largest Bitcoin miner and is still in the top ten. Inevitably, I question this as he’s motivated by environmental and philanthropic reasons. He says there are theories of Proofs of Work looking at making it more energy efficient.

 

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