The Case for Decentralizing the World
I’m really excited to finally introduce you to Blockchain Technology Research Innovations Corporation, or BTRIC (we pronounce it like “bit trick”). BTRIC is a newly-formed, U.S.-based 501(c)(3) public charity. On #GivingTuesday, November 28, 2017, we will be launching our 2018 fundraising drive. In advance of that, I wanted to share with you the genesis of the organization, our mission, and what we’re doing to make it a reality.
My name is Ben Beideman and I’m a founding Trustee and Executive Director of BTRIC. I’ve spent my professional life working in the technology field, especially with non-profit organizations and implementing government grants. While I am a coder, I do not have specific expertise in blockchain, though I am quickly expanding my knowledge. Most of my hands-on, professional experience is in project management, especially managing teams in their development and implementation of projects.
I have been a user of networked forms of communications since I was a teenager, before the masses took to the Internet, way back in the days of FidoNet bulletin board systems (some of us remember those days, others of us were yet to be born). I first became interested in Bitcoin in early 2012. I recently found an installer on an old hard drive for Bitcoin Core 0.5.1. (Of course, I wish I had found the wallet.dat file. That wallet’s address contained some faucet coins that would be worth a bunch today!) However, back then, I believed that if Bitcoin caught on and became “a thing” that it would be outlawed by governments as it threatened their control over money. To all of you in the community who disagreed with my assessment, recognized the potential for such a paradigm-changing development, and kept it moving forward, I salute you. Your unwavering belief is a huge reason that the world is just beginning to undergo tremendous change.
The Trouble with Centralization
Throughout human history, power and control have traditionally been centralized into various structures (governments, information providers, banks and monetary authorities, dominant corporations, etc). Certainly some of this was necessary. For example, the only way to get information in a pre-telegraph era was from leaflets and newspapers. Depending on where a person lived, they may only have access to “stale” information many days or weeks old. These early information sharing mediums were limited to those who could physically get their hands on a copy, or have it read to them (and literacy rates in those times were only a fraction of what they are today). Telegraphs and telephones increased the speed at which information could travel from point A to B, which helped increase the timeliness of long-distance communications — newspapers could become more relevant and rapid person to person long-distance communication became possible. Radio and television broadened the size of the audience significantly and allowed for information to be disseminated to large numbers of people at once.
However, both history, as well as the present day, is rife with instances of abuse of this centralized power and control. Around the world, governments have been corrupted by dominant corporations working in concert with information providers to maintain their mutual control over public discourse. Monetary authorities have abused their power to manipulate markets, put nations in debt to the tune of many trillions of USD, and favor the small few at the expense of the many. Thinking about it, with control over information flow, this wasn’t that hard to accomplish.
The Promise of Decentralization
Times have changed. We now live in a world with instant, worldwide communication. Mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have shown that anyone, anywhere can spread information to millions of people, pretty much instantly. This is enormously powerful and revolutionary. It has never truly been possible before in human history. Yet, this too, is beginning to be abused. Governments are censoring (or forced these and other platforms to self-censor) content that is “controversial”, as are other powerful special interests. The platforms themselves are large corporations and have been shown to censor content that does not comport with their agenda. Decentralization is a big part of the solution to this problem.
Much of the world has moved from a silo of “traditional media” to “new media” as the source of their news and information. The problem is the silo. So long as content providers control what you see, and what you don’t, they hold enormous sway over the public discourse. A fair society requires open, uncensored access to all sources of information. Of course, illegal and obscene content should be moderated, but no central authority is necessary for that.
Cryptocurrencies have the power to store wealth in a way that cannot be tampered with by a body such as the Federal Reserve. Unlike fiat currencies, cryptocurrency, when properly implemented, cannot be debased.
In many ways, the technologies that are really just emerging, most important among them being distributed ledger technology, will change the world in ways that were never before possible. For me, they paint a vision of a future with greater accountability, equality, and efficiency and a modern society that is much more fair, much more open, and much more honest. BTRIC was founded to work to achieve this vision, benefiting the projects we implement, the partners we work with, and the world we live in.
How BTRIC Came About
Earlier this year, I began design work on a project to improve traceability in seafood from the point of harvest to the point of sale. This is a real problem. Seafood fraud is common, has contributed to illnesses, and takes a huge bite (pun 1) out of the bottom line of those that are honest. One of the technologies that I researched to support this project was blockchain. Once I began looking into the technology, I was hooked (pun 2). I saw how far Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency projects have come, as well as many other great ideas, most of them with decentralization at their core.
At the same time, I was disappointed with a few things. Some very promising projects seemed abandoned or had insufficient resources to be accomplished. Others seemed appeared to be having difficulties finding and keeping the right mix of talent. A full team is needed to bring projects to fruition — concept, developers, marketing, logistics, etc. Many projects were missing critical pieces of a robust team. A cohesive, effective team that implements and ships.
I was also very intrigued by the huge potential of Initial Coin or Token Offerings as a funding vehicle to bring projects to reality. At the same time, many of the whitepapers I reviewed were lacking pieces of a successful business plan and investment offering. Yet they raised funds?!? Even some projects that on paper looked great — with excellent potential, a great team, and a good plan — have now ended up in lawsuits, which could poison the well for continuing what is an extremely empowering method of fundraising. It was clear to me that higher standards across the board, especially in project governance, are needed in to increase the quality of projects before they get to the stage where they can make an investment or token offering, which could be through an ICO/ITO, funding by venture capitalists, etc. One of BTRIC’s key goals is to work with projects so that they are resilient and ready to fly after they graduate from our program.
How BTRIC is going to forge better projects
I identified the need to have an incubator for projects and startups that focus on emergent technology — blockchain distributed ledger and other FinTech, decentralized data, Internet of Things, and even Virtual and Augmented Reality. These technologies — and others that I am sure will emerge — need a non-profit business incubator, a laboratory where they can be researched, developed, and implemented with best practices and a sound roadmap before they are offered out to investors.
BTRIC will work with projects — both existing projects that could use help, as well as projects we identify or that apply for our programs. As a non-profit, we will be primarily supported by donations from the public and our partners. We will also actively participate in government grant opportunities and pilot projects to bring emergent technologies to governments around the world. We have plans to create a “BTRIC Coin” (yes, we will come up with a better name) that can be donated to projects we are supporting. More on that in a future post.
We will be working with all parties — including donors, investors and venture capitalists, marketing professionals, security auditors, developers, and especially innovators — to bring quality projects to market. Most projects require the expertise of all of these professionals — so why not leverage economy of scale by bringing these capabilities together in an incubator?
When a project is ready for launch, it will be separated from BTRIC and spun-off as a separate for-profit entity, where it can then engage in fundraising, whether as a coin or token offering, to venture capitalists, other crowdfunding, or other means. As a non-profit, our tax exemption does not permit us to engage in significant for-profit activities. BTRIC is here to incubate, infuse best practices into our projects, and then the project becomes a separate, independent business, creating economic growth and taking its place in building a vibrant, decentralized future.
The only requirement is that, upon becoming a separate entity, a plan is in place to reward the donors that funded the development of the project. This could take many forms, and in a changing regulatory landscape, we do not want to be married to any particular form. With our guidance, each project will choose its path. But we do believe that donors should be rewarded in some manner once a project moves into a for-profit (or potentially a separate non-profit) entity.
Full and Complete Transparency
BTRIC is a public charity. We are required to make certain financial disclosures. However, we are going to go far beyond our legal requirements. We’re going to have a completely open ledger with monthly updates, only redacting personally identifiable information. Our governance will be open, including expansion of our Board of Trustees during 2018 to include several more people that believe in our organization. We will actively solicit for participation on our Board, as well as on our Committees, Working Groups, and Advisory Panels. All of our policies and procedures will be open for review and open-source. Other projects are free to use them, and we will always strive to improve them as we move forward. We strongly embrace open source software and hardware, and promote their use in all projects we work with and in our outreach. We believe that in the Internet era, this is the best way to operate a business incubator that will foster creation of world-changing technology.
Help Us Build BTRIC
BTRIC will not exist without the financial support of donors. Your contributions are tax-deductible, which can be a useful way to offset capital gains or to divest altcoins that could cause additional tax liability (consult your tax advisor). Our 2018 fundraising campaign begins on #GivingTuesday, but you can coordinate donations with us right now by emailing email@example.com. We accept any currency, crypto or fiat, that we can convert into USD, and we will issue you all required documentation for tax deductibility. We also have a Bitcoin tip jar for donations at 1btricdjXr4uAFnxPULmzpXmaVWnP25o6. If you’d like a receipt, please contact us by email with a signed message from the account you use to send the donation. A much easier way to donate will be live next week.
We also will be forming partnerships with investors, venture capitalists, marketing professionals, developers, security experts, attorneys, advisors, businesses, and others with expertise in the field. In return, our partners will have an inside track to BTRIC’s projects, but they will also have a chance to give back to the community in a way that can make a real difference to enabling the future that we all believe in. If you’d like to discuss these opportunities, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the coming days, I will be blogging more about BTRIC and the wider revolution that is taking place — the decentralization revolution. The world is ready. Let’s do this!
[And of course, the all important Legal Disclaimer: Blockchain Technology Research Innovations Corporation is a non-profit public charity that is an exempt organization pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Donations to BTRIC are tax deductible as charitable contributions. Consult your tax advisor for more information. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to invest in any entity or as investment advice of any kind. Investing in all forms, especially less regulated forms such as token offerings, carries significant risks, including possible loss of principal and limited recourse against fraud. Consult your professional investment advisor for more information.]