My departure has been greatly exaggerated
I elected to wait for the initial panic to subside before demystifying the present state of affairs so that this debacle would not overshadow the significant milestone of Chrysalis / IOTA 1.5 testnet going live in all its glory. Before I elucidate the current situation and my plans moving forth, I have to express gratitude for the flood of support I have received from Foundation members, partners, and the incredible IOTA community.
First, let me quench all concern regarding my well-being; I am fine; in fact, one could say that part of me is relieved. Ever since I initiated the Foundation and embarked on raising the capital necessary to establish and run it, my life has revolved around its success in a borderline monomaniacal fashion. During the most turbulent periods of the past years, this all-consuming task often felt like juggling Sisyphean boulders. However, reflecting on it all, I feel immense pride in what we have built and accomplished with the IOTA Foundation. No regrets.
The IOTA Foundation anno ~2021 comprises sheer talent, raw passion, and a boisterous drive to deliver on our promises. It’s been an absolute privilege and honour to lead and work alongside all team members in my capacity as co-chair of the Board. Through it, I’ve come to know some of the smartest and most talented people I have met in my life. There is not a single shred of doubt in my being that our detailed plans for 2021 will be realized and that finally, we will be able to state: “we did it” not through words but the live network of the world’s first fee-less scalable decentralized distributed ledger.
Over a week has passed since I departed from the IOTA Foundation. I know many of my colleagues from IF and followers in the community were bewildered by this seemingly Kafkaesque development, which has led to asinine speculation both in the community and media. Frankly, the Board’s handling and communication of this situation have been clumsy, panicky and downright unprofessional, allowing ample room for rampant speculation. Ideally, this would have been dealt with internally and a joint statement by the Foundation and myself would be issued, providing our respective perspectives. All the confusion and uncertainty within the Foundation and Community, as well as the inevitable “here we go again” external reputational hit to IOTA would have been avoided; alas, that did not occur, thus these words you are currently reading.
IOTA ≠ IOTA Foundation ≠ IOTA
The “official” reasoning for my departure was communicated on the basis that there was some kind of contradiction between my interests and that of the organization. I categorically reject this blatantly false, dubiously motivated and defamatory depiction of my person. I founded the project, raised the capital for the Foundation, built the initial team, single-handedly selected and empowered every current Board member and have never taken a single cent in compensation. Rather, in context, the truth is that if forced, my number one allegiance is to IOTA.
The IOTA Foundation exists due to and for IOTA, not vice versa. This fact is also reflected in the statutes of the Foundation. The organization’s runway for the past 3 years has been entirely dependent on the IOTA tokens created by IOTA AS in 2015 and solicited by me from the community all the way back in 2016 for the sole purpose of ensuring that the protocol and a fertile crescent for the ecosystem be established. I will not waste the reader’s time by detailing every minuscule domino brick that fell leading to this outcome. Instead, I’ll condense the tension into the three subjects: the IOTA Foundation’s maturation, finances and role.
As all growing young organizations with momentum, we were at risk of suffering ‘Founderitis’. It became apparent to me in mid-2018 that we were starting to exhibit worrying symptoms of this and needed a CEO/COO. Despite consensus, this was chronically deprioritized until I again raised the alarm in 2020, this time escalating it to the Supervisory Board, which sided with my stance. Regrettably and inexplicably, the Board repeatedly resisted this, despite me even naming a promising prospect from within IF. Unfortunately, this meant that the maturation of the Board was hampered. Not only did this provide a fertile environment for the past drama to fester, but it also prevented the Foundation from bringing on people with expansive Board member experience, since joining IF meant that you would have to be a full-time employee, which is virtually unheard of in Boards and thus acting as a insurmountable barrier. The consequence of this neglect was that constant drama from the past resurfaced and IF suffering misalignment and delays repeatedly.
A chief point of contention in the Board this year revolved around finances, or rather the Board’s approach to the subject. Before expounding on this — as a seasoned veteran of this space — I have to pre-emptively counter FUD: No, the IOTA Foundation is not on the verge of bankruptcy. Don’t twist my words to construe a false narrative. That being said, there were multiple instances in the last year where I advocated for liquidation to ensure the Foundation’s runway and independence from the volatile markets. I escalated this to the Supervisory Board which again sided with my stance. When you have over 100 talented and devoted people depending on IF’s finances for their livelihood, winging it is not acceptable. This would evolve into the last major confrontation in the Board, which I’ll get back to in the last point. However, once again I want to reassure everyone that IF is not broke and, due to the aforementioned actions, IF now has a sound strategy and multiple financial models for different scenarios that ensures IOTA’s success.
IOTA has several successive epochs: ideation, initialization, experimentation, adaptation, implementation, standardization, and ultimately widespread adoption and independent innovation. All successful transformative technologies follow a similar trajectory.
The epoch we are currently entering is the implementation and finalization stage of the IOTA protocol. This means that adoption and permission-less innovation sit at the top of the totem pole of priority from a Bird’s-eye view. The IOTA Foundation is equivalent to the Coordinator in many aspects; it was conceived to support IOTA’s success in the early days, but not evolve into a centralized authority of IOTA in perpetuity. The IOTA Foundation is meant to become one of many influential entities in the ecosystem of IOTA.
Personally, I have numerous concepts that I’ve discussed with investors, separate DLT-project leaders, community devs and others as a means to finally break out of our vacuum, build bridges and bring new exciting opportunities, capital and talent into IOTA. I’ll elucidate these in early 2021, but for now I’ll simply summarize it as follows: profitable governance of the committees in IOTA Smart Contracts, Oracle-as-a-Service and Decentralized-Infrastructure as a Service open a cornucopia of opportunities for IOTA. Personally, I am not going to lead these projects as I want these opportunities to benefit the IOTA ecosystem and bring ‘new blood’ into it.
As mentioned in the prior section, the Board started panicking about its negligence of the IF’s finances and decided that these concepts ought to belong to IF, to ensure an “ever-growing” runway at the cost of IOTA’s ecosystem actually growing. This contradicts the ethos of IOTA by default and prevents IOTA from growing similarly as the more successful projects in crypto. Naturally, I vehemently refused this and here we are…
I’ll quote a successful project that utilize and epitomize a similar philosophy as mine re: IF:
The Ethereum Foundation (EF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Ethereum and related technologies.
The EF is not a company, or even a traditional non-profit. Their role is not to control or lead Ethereum, nor are they the only organization that funds critical development of Ethereum-related technologies. The EF is one part of a much larger ecosystem.
I rather that IOTA actually succeed than it simply becoming a vehicle for a centralized German organization with multiple subsidiaries wholly-owned by it to grow indefinitely.
Hornet, Iot2tangle, Society2 etc. etc. are successful examples of this vision that has always been instrumental to IOTA’s vision. These principles are instrinsic to IOTA’s success and cannot merely be empty platitudes.
There you have it; my “diverging interests”.
I’ll end this topic with a message to the Board and Supervisory Board which illustrates what’s what:
When I got to know you, you were a young flailing entrepreneur hating your life in Südtirol. I took a chance with you and, for the most part, don’t regret giving it to you. We had good times. You have played an important role in the Foundation and been the fellow Board member I have worked with the most. Then shit happened. I will refrain from sharing unsavory details, you know, to return the favor of “respecting privacy”.
I will however, demand that you no longer refer to yourself as a co-founder of IOTA since you had no part in its founding. You were never involved in either developing the theory of the Tangle or the IOTA vision. While we conceived IOTA you had no clue or interest in IoT and played no role in the vision of The Machine Economy, Data Integrity through DLT, Feelessness, etc. You didn’t even know about IOTA when this was fleshed out. I brought you into the project well over a year after its inception; it’s time people know the truth.
You reached out to me in 2017, begging me to help you secure some iotas at discount in fear of missing the train. Not only did I bring you on the train, I made you one of the conductors, with handsome compensation. I did so for a reason, I used to call you the “dev whisperer,” and I don’t regret that move at all. My only request as you carry on the role I gave you in IF is to make up your mind regarding priorities. Your whispers have become increasingly inaudible. Initially, you promised to be present full-time, but you rarely make it to any of the official meetings, and multiple directors have inquired about this. Now that the Board is down a founder, you will have to refocus and deliver, especially on Tangle EE, where we made you Eclipse Board member to lead it.
Ever since CFB and I hired you to work on the Tangle whitepaper, you’ve never ceased to impress me, not only with your mathematical prowess but your genuine passion for elegant and sound theory. When I brought you to the Foundation’s Board, much to Dominik’s dismay, I did so because Research needed a leader, and I felt that only you fit and deserved that role, including the compensation. You delivered. While there’s been some heated situations lately, I hold no grudges. I know you hate politics, drama, and confrontation. We can drink wine and play chess anytime.
Richard & Clint
Both of you have been exemplary from day one. Always available to provide advice or assist in resolving conflicts in the Board. Your wisdom and vast experience are sources of inspiration that I am grateful to have had direct access to. You were forced to make a difficult decision given the limited information at your disposal and peculiar acute circumstances. That was your legal obligation, and you simply fulfilled your duty. I would work with both of you again anytime.
IOTA will prevail and succeed
I have received an overwhelming amount of inquiries pertaining to my future and whether I am going to abandon my project. Let me be absolutely clear: of course not. Not even an iota of chance for that. I will take a few weeks off to enjoy the holidays and new years in a regular fashion for the first time in over half a decade and also finalize IoTIFY’s 2021 plans. There will be further details on my plans for IOTA coming early next year. Don’t worry. I will continue to work on IOTA with Foundation members, community members and external partners.
This is not the dot at the end of the final chapter’s last sentence; it’s merely a comma.