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The 100 Ether Rooftop

How crypto-mining impacted our company

Our story begins in July 2015, when the Ethereum project launched the genesis block, the very first block of the ether blockchain. Some people in our team followed the idea of Ethereum for some time already, and it didn’t take long until the excitement spread like a wildfire through our office, kicking of heated discussions about how this technology and its underlying concept will change things.

The excitement turned into momentum. We attended the very first Ethereum Developer Conference, started implementing contracts to test out code and concept and connected with many people from the blockchain community. All that happened while Cryptoland was still sour from the bitcoin lemonade.

Finally, in a spontaneous act in early 2016, we decided to rent cheap office spaces in a location in the middle of nowhere, buy some server rigs and graphic cards and started a little ether mining operation. Our CFO was a bit baffled, especially as this was more of an out-of-the-blue and hey-we-don’t-expect-any-profits plan. It was other factors that drove our decision:

  • We had people in our team that had a vast expertise in how to setup and operate mining servers.
  • Our home, the Ruhrvalley, has a history in coal mining. Over 50 years ago, millions of people worked in the mining business, essentially spurring Germany’s wealth and growth. With the demise of the mining industry, the whole region fell into substantial structural problems. In a sense, we loved the compelling irony of a tech company in the heart of the Ruhrvalley to go back into the mining business.
  • Most importantly, we felt that this sort of commitment helped us engage with the technology and community in the long run. We believe that not every investment needs to have a direct yield. Fostering knowledge and curiosity can be an end to itself.
Our mining rigs in action

Back in our head office, we used one of our TVs to display the amount of ether we mined to keep everyone in the loop. In fact, it helped to keep awareness up and conversations going around the Ethereum project.

Then, in the wake of the 2017 cryptohype, things started to change which was good in the beginning. And again, our CFO was baffled, but this time because our investment turned cash flow positive, at a pace that nobody ever anticipated. That was, when the ether climbed up to 20, then 30 then 50 then 70 Dollars.

TV screen at our 9elements HQ

Now, with a continuously rising ether price, things became weird. Conversations started to change; suddenly everyone knew everything about cryptocurrencies, why it should be a trillion dollar business and why we should totally buy into some shady sounding crypto ICOs. Rumors, blind speculations and the typical greedy yabadaba came along the hypetrain.

And obviously, it also affected us. The ether price became a dominant topic. We shifted away from being passionate techheads and became investors and speculators. The very reason why we were interested in Ethereum in the first place was slowly pushed into the background. Eventually, we realized that this all had an undesired effect on us, we started backing down from our operations, shut down our servers, left the office in nomansland and turned off the TV screen. At the height of crypotmania, coincidentally, we decided to cash out most of our mined Ether.

Even though this was undoubtedly a very lucky moment for us, and it couldn’t have gone better economically, the side-effects of the hype made us aware of what is far more important to us: People and ideas. Don’t get me wrong, profit is a fine thing, but making a living from shuffling capital from one stock to another or betting on the next currency to rise or fall is not who we are. We care about innovation and we care about our innovators. So, while our investment used to take up a lot of room in our heads and sucked up ideas and creativity, we felt it was time, that its profits should be used to create the rooms where curiosity and ideas can thrive.

Two weeks ago, 9elements had its first gathering on our new 120 sqm rooftop terrace, a project entirely financed out of our mining operation. Since then, it has already become an immensely popular work and chill-out space for the team. Moreover, we’ve hosted multiple meet-ups and barbecues and there will be many more to come. It seems like we found a way to make our journey into crypto mining much more tangible for everyone. Ultimately this will be a space, where people come together to share ideas or simply enjoy working under the open sky.

Stay tuned for the next events, and come visit us!

PS: We still keep working on exciting crypto projects, like helping the holochain core team, but for now we’ll keep it strictly on the technological side.

Originally published at 9elements.com on August 7, 2018.



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Eray Basar

Eray Basar

High on code. Co-founder of @9elements and @imgly