Walking the Line: Transparency across roles and companies

Jonas Schnelli
May 8 · 4 min read

As we move beyond mainly trading and speculation towards creating a functioning, sustainable industry, many of us might find themselves in situations where potential conflicts of interest arise. Some conflicts are only perceived by people who don’t have full information, others are real. Either way, transparency is the way forward. It’s the basis for much of what we do, so it should be for us personally too.

For example, on March 24th I posted the following exchange on Twitter where I was challenged about a particular hat I wear at Shift Cryptosecurity AG.

Of course, I still recommend to do your research and never follow anybody without challenging and validating their perspective. But while that was a quick Twitter response, I think it’s important for me to address and clarify what it means to me personally to work across various roles within Bitcoin.

My main work goal is to contribute to the Bitcoin ecosystem as much as I can. I would like to play a small part in contributing to what I believe is a potentially revolutionary future of true digital privacy and sovereignty.

I followed the development of Bitcoin since the very early days and since 2013 I’ve been contributing to the core development as I saw that as the best way for me to help Bitcoin evolve. Since May 2016 Bitmain have paid me for this work. They too see it as a contribution to the ecosystem and they don’t ask anything of me except regular progress reports. I’m not fully aligned with everything Bitmain does, especially Bitcoin Cash, and do not feel in any way encumbered to say what I want about them.

I’ve also always enjoyed the challenge of making things. I love hardware and believe that it has an important role to play in the Bitcoin ecosystem around central themes such as privacy and security. So when I met Douglas Bakkum, the creator of the original Digital BitBox, at a Zurich Bitcoin meetup a few years ago, I decided to see whether I could apply my skills to contribute to the hardware development. At the time the hardware wallet market had only two players, Ledger and Trezor. I felt that there was a need for more independent players in the market, which would ultimately allow users to spread risk amongst more vendors. I still feel this way.

So now I have two main roles:

  1. Bitcoin Core Developer and Maintainer (majority of my time, ca. 70–80%)
  2. Advisor and President of the Board at Shift Cryptosecurity AG (ca. 20–30%)

I suppose a third role is that of an industry commentator where, like many, I use Twitter to draw attention to things that are important to me or where I see inconsistencies.

So back to the Twitter post “he’s part of a team that marketed a product as unhackable”….

In terms of being part of a team: as a co-founder and investor, I am a minority shareholder in Shift Cryptosecurity here in Zurich. I work with Douglas and the team as an advisor. When in Switzerland I go into the office once or twice a week though I travel a lot too. I am also President of the Board to help with corporate governance. But I am not an active member of the management team.

Marketing a product as unhackable: to date our only hardware product has been the Digital BitBox which is a hardware wallet. As far as I’m aware we haven’t made the claim that the BitBox is unhackable. We once tried a marketing idea at an event where we put 10 Bitcoin inside a BitBox and let a member of the audience have the weekend to try to hack it and keep the coins.

In any case, if we ever make that claim, then it would be wrong. We are in the business of making it significantly more difficult for people to get to your keys. As we launch the BitBox02 and other ecosystem products, we need to find a way to make memorable and easy to understand claims. But we strive to make claims that are accurate. Since the beginning, one of our goals has been to minimize the need for you to trust our word about our products. This is why our code is open source: it’s easier for anyone to independently verify whatever claims we make. We are also working with auditing companies and security researchers to improve the security of our products. Though building good software and hardware is difficult and mistakes do happen, I will do my best to be transparent and to hold myself and the companies I work with accountable.

Oh yes, and for transparency, I’ve drafted this blog post with the help of an English friend.

/jonas

Shiftcrypto

BitBox - Swiss Made Crypto Hardware

Jonas Schnelli

Written by

Bitcoin Core Developer / Co-Founder of http://digitalbitbox.com / Author of libbtc / C,C++,Obj-C Pro / Cypherpunk / Hacker

Shiftcrypto

BitBox - Swiss Made Crypto Hardware