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Vinay Gupta has followed cryptocurrency on its journey to the mainstream, aiding in disaster relief, working at the Pentagon, picking up a meditation practice, and going to one too many Burning Mans on the way. T his post was written in collaboration with Richard Muirhead of OpenOcean. He is not yet a Bitcoin billionaire. With Bitcoin reaching new highs monthly, the dominating headlines often miss the point of cryptocurrency because it was never about the money or the brand.
The first is Hexayurt Capital , a fund designed to invest in the Internet of Agreements , which is defined as the world enabled by smart contracts. It hopes to invest in companies that tackle real world problems like logistics and global trade. His second project is called Mattereum , billed as a court that understands the nature of cryptocurrencies, making physical property and intellectual property transactable on a blockchain. In a case where you buy a physical table using a fraction of a Bitcoin and the seller does not follow through, it is difficult to explain this to a judge in a small claims court.
This is where Mattereum comes in, enabling technically competent arbitrators to make rulings in these cases instead of a judge. Before the dawn of crypto hedge funds and ethtraders, before the blockchain technology existed, before year-old Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin was born, Gupta was witnessing the ideological foundations of cryptocurrencies brewing and marinating. The interdisciplinary nature of cryptocurrencies means it has drawn from a variety of schools of thought: He was born in in Scotland, growing up as he describes it in a very average Scottish household.
His mother was a Scottish nurse. When he was 13, he started getting into Computer Science and doing a ton of academic reading. By the time he was in university he hit the ground running majoring in Graphics. It was there that Gupta heard his first whispers of this idea called the World Wide Web. Just like everyone else. It started with academics and military, and government. And slowly people began to learn how to use this new thing. There were no ads because no one could buy anything.
I remember getting the first piece of spam. Some elite lawyer spammed half the Internet with some kind of green card thing. And like the whole Internet got the same piece of spam. It was from the Internet that Gupta first heard about a festival called Burning Man. There were people in attendance, with no street signs and a theme of corporate takeover. It was very wild and very weird to the kid from rural Scotland, but he liked it.
Gupta kept coming back for ten years. It was just the staggering, the amazing, the Burning Man. During this time, Gupta was an early adopter of the first popular digital currency: E-gold, brought down in by regulators, shared many similarities to Bitcoin ideologically.
He envisioned a new monetary system that was not so reliant on banks, a private currency backed by gold that could cross borders. Despite its failure, E-Gold offered a glimpse to anti-establishment individuals of a decentralized future. Unfortunately, they change over time. While E-Gold was rising and falling, cryptography, open source, and hacker culture were also rapidly evolving. PGP Pretty Good Privacy was released in by Phil Zimmerman, providing increased encryption through the use of hashing, public and private keys, and data compression.
Zimmerman released PGP in violation of patent law, wanting it to be open and for the people. Of particular importance to cryptocurrency was the Cypherpunk mailing list, which Gupta was a part of.
Founded in , the list hosted futuristic technology discussion about a wide range of subjects, and had nearly members in with an average of 30 messages sent every day.
Which turns out to be more or less exactly where we are now. We really are headed into a world that resembles that fiction. The Cypherpunks were a crypto Fight Club of sorts. The Cypherpunks spread local chapters in London, Boston, and Washington. In addition to notorious figures like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, many of the precursors to Bitcoin were created by Cypherpunks: However, they were all a little too ahead of their time, unable to translate their ideology into a usable, scalable technology.
Gupta saw Bitcoin in its early years but completely ignored it. Even now, compared to E-gold, Bitcoin has more volatility and higher transaction fees. It is unclear if Bitcoin can scale to the number of transactions that a network like Visa has. Though there are thousands of Bitcoin millionaires, there are millions of people who had every opportunity to invest but did not.
He had careers in volume rendering and flight simulators, as well as defense. He picked up a heavy meditation practice after buying a book on the Internet written by an Australian named Paul Wilson called The Calm Technique. And soon he found himself involved in an unlikely field: After I invented it I felt obligated to do something. The hippies were building geodesic domes, hemisphere like structures, for disaster relief. Given his background in graphics, Gupta took a stab at the problem, but after 6 months of work, he had no results.
Years later, in , Gupta was at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, an environmental think tank. So refugees can be given a reusable house. A tent that can be folded. And I sat down, with the back of the envelope, and 15 minutes later I had the Hexayurt.
The first model was built in at Burning Man, 6 feet high, 7 feet long, and 8 feet wide. The biggest difference between Bitcoin and Ethereum is that Ethereum is not only a digital currency, but also a blockchain based platform. It has a Turing complete internal code, meaning that with enough time and computing power, anything can be built on top of it. This means it better supports this idea of smart contracts, introduced by Cypherpunk Nick Szabo in , which are self executing pieces of code that can be used to build more complex applications on the blockchain beyond just payments, like exchanges of property or shares.
Ethereum is younger, moves faster, and is friendlier to developers than Bitcoin. Whereas the Ethereum guys were very much technical first, and then became political. They got led in by the concept of smart contracts and all the decentralized politics built in around that.
But I think that that emphasis, whether political first or technical first, is a huge driver. Because the Ethereum community generally speaking is pretty typical for nerds.
The Bitcoin stuff on the other hand is a very typical space for hard core libertarians. The fact that Bitcoin was first an ideology has been huge driver of its success.
This is why it has stood the test of time and has been able to shake off events like the Mt. Yet this ideology first mentality is also crippling the community by causing so much division. In some ways, Bitcoin and Ethereum are competitors. Though Bitcoin appears to be taking more of a store of value role like digital gold, and Ethereum a platform role with a variety of applications built on top of it, the two communities clash at times.
The smart contracts on the other hand I think are going to be an increasingly huge deal. I think they are going to be immensely important. Gupta is the earliest of adopters, motivated by intellectual curiosity rather than monetary gain.
He is an example of a person who has been on the bleeding edge, part of a group of futurists and forward thinkers ahead of their time. This Revolution Will Be Tokenized. Send us your pitch deck.