As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s VP, Sarah Martin, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in Chicago on July 10-11, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Jeremy Gardner, a spokesperson for Augur.
Sarah: Tell us about how and why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies.
Jeremy: Well like most of the early adopters of bitcoin who didn’t enter due to ideology or technological appreciation, I first learned of cryptocurrencies maybe three years ago as a result of a Rolling Stone profile of the Silk Road. Although I never ended up purchasing any bitcoin at that time, my interest was piqued. In the fall of 2013, as the price began to climb, I bought in around $200 and, still not appreciating the technology for the tour de force that it is, I sold at $1,000, believing collapse was inevitable. If I hadn’t transferred to the University of Michigan that fall, where I met a bitcoin entrepreneur named Kinnard Hockenhull, that may have been the extent of my foray into cryptocurrencies. Fortunately, Kinnard encouraged me to look beyond the drug bazaars and speculative nature of bitcoin, and then I discovered the blockchain. Having recently left the Massachusetts Attorney General campaign for Maura Healey (who would go on to win) as a result of deep disillusionment with the role of money in elections, the blockchain seemed like a more positive way to change the world than our current political system. Soon after joining the Michigan Bitcoin Club at Kinnard’s behest, I founded the College Cryptocurrency Network with Daniel Bloch, and it’s all history after that.
Sarah: What led you to Augur? What makes Augur unique?
Jeremy: This past fall, the University of Michigan determined that I, quite literally, had too many credits (from outside institutions), and thus, would be forced to undertake far more classes than I would have been able to handle while serving as Executive Director of the CCN. I had to choose between Bitcoin and University. I chose the former, and thus was promptly cut off from any remaining financial support I had from my parents. Not wanting to draw a salary from the lightly funded nonprofit I ran, I instead looked for part time work that could complement my current occupation. I was offered a position with the company that preceded Augur, and I began to read about Truthcoin (the intellectual basis for the Augur protocol.) Having been a huge InTrade aficionado, I was immediately drawn to the notion of a blockchain-based prediction market platform. Unlike many of the “2.0” or “DApps” projects in this space, Truthcoin, and what would become Augur, was a truly necessary, and socially beneficial, application of decentralization. Despite being overwhelmingly lauded and supported by academics, economists, and the mainstream media, and proven to be hugely insightful tools, prediction markets have failed to thrive as a result of stifling applications of dated legislation and slow-moving bureaucracies unable to adjust to revolutionary technologies such as PMs. Thus, I have been consumed by this project ever since.
Sarah: What are you most excited about in digital currencies and blockchain technology right now?
Jeremy: Augur. Duh. Ethereum is obviously great, too (we use it.) Beyond those, however, what’s incredibly exciting to me is the overwhelming cascade of positive reinforcement Bitcoin and its underlying technology has received from both established financial and technological institutions, and the mainstream media at large. It feels so surreal when you think about how, less than a year and a half ago, the largest bitcoin exchange in the world imploded in the most spectacular fashion, and how such incredible damage was done to this industry. Yet the about-face in the wake of such a disaster has been nothing short of remarkable. The cynic inside of me is still waiting for some terrible news to strike at any moment. However, it’s more and more feeling like we’ve found a bottom for bitcoin and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the price hit double digits again.
Sarah: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry?
Jeremy: This is difficult, as I believe our greatest moral, technological, and business challenges are quite different (albeit terribly entangled.) Morally, I want to see this technology reach those who have been, historically, financially undeserved before it is totally appropriated by the big banks and traditional financial institutions. Technologically, we have to resolve this debate around block size, and even more importantly, tread incredibly lightly while approaching untested tech like sidechains. I love the Blockstream team, but have my reservations about the measures that would need to be taken to implement “working” sidechains. On the business end, the industry is going to have to brace itself for a lot of failures, and potentially (and not necessarily for the better) messy acquisitions of venture-funded companies. Buttercoin was just the beginning. Due to the relatively short history of venture capital in this industry, despite the huge amounts being raised, I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot of companies fall hard and fast.
Sarah: What’s on the horizon for you? What can we look forward to seeing next from Augur?
Jeremy: Hopefully, a vacation. In this month and a half, I’ll be home in San Francisco for no more than three days, and will have visited fourteen cities in five different time zones, across seventeen visits. But alas, we have some serious work to do at Augur before I even consider a break. In the coming week, we will do an alpha release of Augur’s software. That means a fully working peer-to-peer prediction market platform that anyone can try out. In about a month, we will have a software sale for the token used in our distributed oracle solution. Shortly thereafter, we’ll have a beta release of Augur, and then, as we near the first quarter of 2016, you can expect the software to go live. Hopefully, at some point, I can turn off all of my electronics for a week and detox. But that’s probably wishful thinking.
Sarah: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Jeremy.