Okay Founders, Stand Up And Take A Risk

As it turns out, I was indeed part of the group who brought the first bitcoin machine to the State of Washington and the greater Pacific Northwest.   We launched Coinme on May 1st at Spitfire in Belltown during a well attended launch party, complete with our first Meetup and an entertaining expert bitcoin panel, including Charles Fitzgerald , (angel investor), Patrick Murck (General Counsel for Bitcoin Foundation) and Will O’brien (CEO of BitGo).

We had a great time and it was an awesome way to ring the new venture.

Interestingly, one of the most asked questions I get now is “So, why bitcoin?”  What is it about bitcoin that made you jump at this opportunity?”

My answer may not be what you expect, but if you are a founder – or thinking of becoming one – it’s what you need to hear.

I jumped at this opportunity because I sensed something seismic rattling under my feet, I felt the inevitably of it becoming such a transformative force in our world I knew I would kick myself later if I or Seattle didn’t get involved now.  I had this crazy notion that we are now experiencing a tremendous change in the way we relate and interact with money/currency/privacy/data and wanted to be a part of it.  I noticed the most common way people were perceiving this new technology was with ignorance and confusion, stating things like “bitcoin is a Ponzi Scheme”, which tells me they just need to be educated.  I realized we are watching an industry mature right before our very eyes, growing from a child into a gangly teenager, struggling with growing pains along the way.  With a little luck maybe I felt I could guide that teenager in the right direction.

It was a risk I simply couldn’t pass up.

The media likes to cover the “downfalls” and the “catastrophes”, mostly because shock media drives more page views than intelligent and analytical dissection of challenging topics.  But along with all the negative press bitcoin has received, there are golden nuggets of wisdom one shouldn’t turn a blind eye towards.  Look hard enough (and follow the right people) and you will read bitcoin analysis that will blow your socks off.   Please follow Fred Wilson, Marc Andreesen and Naval Ravikant for such nuggets of the wisdom I am referring to.

It’s fascinating.  You’ll read things like bitcoin is the new internet of money and will soon power machine to machine (droid to droid?) payments, opening up a whole new part of our daily economy.  It has the opportunity to transform many different industries outside of finance, it could become the new domain/identity protocol for online citizens, it will aide in calming identity theft and consumer privacy, allow for more efficient commerce and transactions across the web, maybe even help media outlets collect micro-payments from readers for access to their posts, and many, many other things.  Simply put, this ain’t your daddy’s financial system.  These and other reasons played into my decision to be a part of Coinme and help grow the crytpocurrency in Seattle.

So with all this crazy “Bitcoin” (air quotes) coverage and other startups making questionable business decisions around the cryptocurrency, why the heck would I decide to start a bitcoin business?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke

I acknowledge the above quote can be quite overused, but in this instance I think it fits perfectly.  We started Coinme because we saw an industry taking shape but yearning for more quality leadership from the innovators and executives of those companies.  We made a pledge to ourselves to be one of the good men (or women) leading this new industry.   The bitcoin economy desperately needs innovators, entrepreneurs, legal advisors, regulators, politicians, consumers and business owners to all work collectively for the advancement of our society.  Not just for the advancement of their own selfish interests, but for the betterment of the world.

Who knows, Bitcoin might drop through the floor and Coinme might fall flat on its face as a result.  But by taking this risk I will have learned A TON about a new and emerging industry (and myself) at a time when everyone is still trying to figure out what it is. I will have laid the groundwork for my next 10 – 20 years as an entrepreneur and established myself in a small but growing industry.  I will have looked uncertainty in the face and chosen to proceed when the path is not exactly clear, teaching me to acknowledge my fear of the unknown but move forward anyway.

And that is what I encourage you with today.  Seattle has tremendous leadership in the technology space and is home to many recognizable and industry leading companies, yet, we need more leaders – the future of our local economy depends on it.

You may not be launching a bitcoin startup but you do have an opportunity to be influential and guide your market in the right direction.  You have an opportunity to take a risk, to put Seattle on the map – or more aptly allow us to become even more attractive for both entrepreneurs and investors and hopefully put to rest the whole Valley vs. Seattle argument.   We hear it all the time from the investment community here in Seattle – Swing Bigger.  Well, here’s your chance.

You have right in front of you a choice: take the easy road and solve a derivative of an existing problem, making things just a bit easier for the few that may experience it.  Or choose the hard road and take a larger risk to do something no one has ever done before, with a greater reward waiting for all of us at the end.

In speaking for the greater Seattle tech community, I urge you to choose the latter.

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