The early years of cryptocurrency
Marco Peereboom is the chief technology officer of the Decred project. He has more than 25 years’ experience in open-source projects and began working on Bitcoin projects in 2012. Before Decred and cryptocurrency, he says he “started with a project called Cyphetite” (a high-security scalable solution for online backups).
“That didn’t sell well enough, so we had to shut it. After that, we decided to get into the cryptocurrency space”. This didn’t necessarily mean they instantly began working on Decred, however. Bitcoin development was their first port of call. Marco and his partners created Coinvoice, a “pretty profitable business that did well right up until the US government made it illegal”.
This meant they had to shut it down or register the business. “What they [the government] did is they clarified the law which meant we had to register as a money transmitting business”. Choosing to not register due to time and money constraints was the “kick in the butts that made us decide to begin to work on Decred, an idea that had been kicking around for a while”.
Partners and community
Marco is not alone in spending the majority of his time working on the Decred project. Often, when Marco refers to we (like above), he is “actually referring to Conformal Systems”, a business he was involved in.
“Jake Yocam-Piatt, who was the CEO (of Conformal Systems), is the project lead for Decred. Jake and I go back quite a while. David Collins, who’s a well-known name in the Decred space, was also with us”. However, Decred isn’t a project that solely relies on this small group of people. Instead, it is a diverse community, and thanks to “Politeia”, contributors can be paid in Decred for their work.
“What Decred is trying to do is to create their own little economy. So you show up, you do a little bit of work, people like it, then we will ask you to join and you start getting paid. It’s kind of like your entrance exam or job interview.”
A practical cypherpunk
This is how Marco ascribes to the cypherpunk philosophy. He follows the mantra “cypherpunks write code” but maintains the practical aspects of such. “I know how to operate, when to operate, and when not to operate it (cryptography). I believe in liberty for all and for folks to make their own decisions and be the bosses of their own bodies”.
Marco goes further when asked about a possible decentralised exchange built upon atomic swaps, rather than current exchanges which use a token in between, such as the recent Binance announcement.
“I really do not like enabling middlemen. Middlemen are a scourge to the economy and to the world. I think we need to have less of them. I’m pretty vociferously opposed to DEX as they call them with a token in the middle. For me, it’s about liberty; being able to exchange when I want to exchange without jumping through all the hoops”.
The hoops he refers to are not limited to DEXs with tokens in the middle either. “No one can exclude me from exchanging my tokens. I do not love having to use my passport. There is nothing worse than an exchange in the US. The amount of information you have to disclose is abysmal.”
Many people will have read about the recent Marriot hack which resulted in the loss of many customers’ personal details. This followed shortly after the British Airways scandal involving a similar data hack. Marco says: “Anyone who hacks any of the exchanges has access to my incredibly important personal documents and that is not OK. I am not OK with disclosing that information, and it’s not because I’m trying to be a bad person. No, I’m a good person, so why are you asking for this information?”
Evolution of the cryptocurrency space
2018 hasn’t been a kind year to Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrency for that matter. When I posed the question to Marco as to how he sees the space evolving without going into a price analysis, he jumped right in. “Let’s talk about the price! I thought the price rise was ridiculous and unsustainable. I was seen to be the crazy one, but I guess I’m not crazy!”
He has put a lot of time and effort into the world of cryptocurrencies, so it isn’t that he doesn’t want to see the space succeed. However, he sees “real issues”.
“First of all, there was a lot of scamming as the price was going up. This was unfortunate, and doesn’t help the space in any way”.
Whilst Marco believes in the future of crypto, he admits “there is going to be a lot of blood on the streets. A lot of these projects are going to cease to exist. Large projects as well. We are starting to see lay-offs at certain companies because the price has fallen from underneath them. With the larger projects failing, I think we are going to see them take a lot of smaller projects with them, as people really start to panic at that point. If a large project raised hundreds of millions of dollars, what do you think can happen to smaller projects?”
Despite this bleak outlook, Marco views it as a positive. He says: “Honestly, and I know this isn’t an opinion that some people love, but I’m glad that crypto winter is here, because we need to cleanse the space. I’m trying to build something for the future, and having a bunch of people peeing in my pool is not helping me for the future”.
“I don’t wish ill on other projects, but I do wish ill on scams and other people trying to get rich quick”.
Clearly, we are not quite there yet, but Marco thinks “We are going to reap what we sow, and realisation is going to set in that blockchain is an amazing technology, but it isn’t going to cure cancer. It isn’t going to do certain things that have been promised…cryptocurrencies are an amazing discovery, but not all ideas that have been projected upon it are good ideas, and we are starting to see that break at this point”.
As crypto winter continues, Marco is focused on building a solid and practical foundation for Decred. For new companies and developers in the space, he sets an example of how to behave, and how to build sustainable projects.
As a disclaimer, I do own a small bag of Decred. I have been following the project for way over a year now, and since beginning to work for Coin Rivet, Marco was someone who I always wanted to speak to. Luckily for me, he was more than happy to spare some time.