Interview: Jason Gantt, Executive Director of the SiaClassic Foundation
We understand there’s been a bit of mystery behind the team in this project. It wasn’t on purpose, it’s just that we’ve been moving very quickly and trying to get a lot done before the fork. But we also understand when there’s mystery, rumors tend to run rampant. So we’d like to dispel all the rumors, and let you get to know who exactly we are.
In this interview, we’ll get to know Jason Gantt, the Executive Director of the SiaClassic Foundation. We’ll talk about Jason’s experience in blockchain and with the Sia project specifically, and then get into his vision for the future of SiaClassic.
Q: How did you get into blockchain?
The 2009 financial crisis was a major eye opener for me. At the time I had been working as the Chief Operating Officer in one of largest construction companies in North America. When the recession hit and I saw how the market took a beating, I knew that my family’s future, our stock portfolio, and our traditional savings were in jeopardy. The recession hit even harder after I became unemployed.
Being a Libertarian, I felt like I had a better grasp of some of the issues that created the financial crisis. However, shortly after discovering Bitcoin around the middle of 2010, I began understanding how fiat currencies were not and could not be considered “sound money.” On the other hand, Bitcoin had immediate appeal as “hard money” in light of its immutable, decentralized, transparent, and salable nature.
Once I learned about mining, I was hooked. I began building machines, eventually bought miners, and spent weeks trying to figure out how to set the damn things up. But it was all worth it for that moment I mined my first Bitcoins. It was exhilarating!
I knew I wanted to share that feeling with as many people as possible. I began by starting a Youtube channel called Bitcoin Master in 2014. Here, I shared some of the lessons — which I had learned from my first 2 years mining — with those who might also be looking for their own financial freedom. Another local Bitcoiner, Jameson Lopp, encouraged me to get out into the community a little more as well. He asked me to speak at a meetup he was hosting. That’s really what made me take it to the next level. Meeting the crypto community in real life definitively changed how I viewed the industry.
Through my channel, I started building relationships with people all over the world. One day, I got a message from a guy down in South America. His country was going through an economic upheaval, and his family was hit especially hard by it. He told me that his family normally ate once every 3 days, and they were desperate. He found my videos while looking for a new way to support his family through Bitcoin mining. Recognizing that this man had fallen on hard times, I sent him some BTC and shipped him a couple miners. After getting them set up, he expressed gratitude and later told me that he was able to feed 40 people in his neighborhood per day, off of just one miner! That story still makes me tear up.
The power of the blockchain is very real for a lot of people. Here in the U.S., it’s harder to see, because we just want to buy our Starbucks with BTC. Internationally, it provides freedom to so many people for so many different reasons, and that’s what keeps me driven to innovate.
“True failure to me is when you don’t learn from your mistakes and you don’t do what you know to be right.”
Q: What attracted you to Sia?
I saw the Sia announcement in BitcoinTalk in 2015, shortly after it was posted. I thought at the time that it represented everything that Bitcoin could be. For instance, most people don’t know that Bitcoin originally was intended to have smart contracts with the Script language, and many second layer protocols as well. Once I heard about how Siacoin was using the Bitcoin code, and also that they had changed the language from C++ to Go, I was impressed. So, I naturally investigated the project further. When I discovered they were using smart contracts to take on the big data centers, I was hooked. I loved that they were taking on giants like Amazon and Google, who historically exploit our data for their own gain, yet we all still keep uploading our data to their cloud.
I started mining Sia in 2016, first with GPUs and then with ASICs. After a while though, things began to change. The Siacoin team announced they were going to take on another goliath in the industry: Bitmain. They were making their own miner, Obelisk. I have to admit, I was rooting for them. I had tried to do something similar myself. I got pretty far into the process of building an ASIC; had investors, had the design, and had some big deals.
Let’s just say, I know exactly how it feels when you pour all of you blood, sweat, and tears into building an ASIC, just to have your dreams dashed by a competitor — especially when that competitor is bigger, faster, and has a hell of a lot more money than you do. You can watch how it played out for me in a few videos I made, but true failure to me is when you don’t learn from your mistakes and you don’t do what you know to be right. Sometimes, in an effort to make your dream a reality, it’s far too easy to get dragged down the wrong path.
Luckily, I made the decision to return all of the investments people had made in me. Once I learned that my design had been stolen and the competitor could make it faster and more cheaply than I could make it, I threw in the towel. I couldn’t in good conscience continue going down a path that I wasn’t sure would benefit all those who supported and believed in me. If it had been my own money, I might have made a different decision.
So now, I truly see both sides of the issue at Sia, with a clarity that the Nebulous team simply cannot. I knew the moment Vorick decided to continue with ASICs instead of GPUs, that Siacoin would have the best security that only ASICs can provide. However, his decision to continue building ASICs even after the A3 was introduced was, in my eyes, doomed for failure. Yet, I continued on, hoping that he might be able to succeed where I had failed, because even I know miracles can happen sometimes.
Q: What made you want to start SiaClassic?
When Vorick decided to double down on Obelisk, and fork Siacoin to work with Obelisk miners only, I was done. It really fired me up. I know I’m not alone in that. A lot of people in the community are saying that we are some kind of shill for big miners, and in my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. In our opinion, this fork doesn’t do them that much damage. Bitmain’s valuation is $14 billion. Siacoin’s market cap is $279 million. There’s no comparison.
But, you know who does feel the pain of this? The guy in a third-world country who used his life savings to buy a miner to support his family. The guy, who for years has lived with the government’s jackboot on his neck, finally has hope to envision a brighter future for his children. Or the guy in South America, who now has a community depending on him to eat. That’s who is going to be hurt by this move. While these may not be the kind of people that spend a lot of time chatting in Discord, Reddit, or Telegram, they are no less worthy of consideration.
So, I called up Scott and a couple other people, and got them all fired up too. We talked about what Sia could be, what Sia should be, and what the future should focus on. We both realized that this is what decentralization is all about. When we take advantage of the freedom that the blockchain allows, we also take on a greater burden of responsibility. We collectively agreed that we have a responsibility to the miners that would be hurt by the fork. But, more than that, once we get past this fork, we think the whole of the Sia community would benefit from a transparent, non-profit organization, that can get back to the business of increasing adoption of a superior decentralized cloud storage solution.
Q: Who is Scott Ellis and why is he the best person to build SiaClassic with?
Scott Ellis and I met through my Youtube channel. He viewed a video of mine, and reached out to me. We didn’t live too far away from each other, so we got together and I helped him set up a mining operation at his business. Scott’s relatively new to blockchain, and his excitement about emerging technology is refreshing. I thought I was a big shot with my extensive mining operation, but everything this guy touches turns to gold. Scott’s a very successful entrepreneur. As an executive producer for a major film company, he’s released 4 motion pictures that have grossed over $100 million cumulatively, and he’s run a $50 million a year business for the past 20 years. It’s one thing to start a company and make it successful, but to keep it going, year after year for 20 years, is something else entirely.
I’m a miner and that makes me biased; I get that. Our strengths and experiences instill in us a certain bias. But, the reality is that a successful blockchain company needs to serve all constituents equally. As much as I love mining, you can’t build a company with just miners. You need to serve the end-users, the renters, the hosts, the miners, and investors — all equally. So I wanted to work with Scott; someone relatively unbiased when it comes to blockchain politics, in order to do what’s right for SiaClassic. It was important to me that we set up the SiaClassic team with this in mind. In my humble opinion, it’s something that the Sia ecosystem desperately needs. Scott’s also a proven leader, well-connected, experienced, and I respect the hell out of him. He’s also just an all-around good guy, who enjoys helping people as much as I do, and I can’t imagine doing this without him.
“We will not allow the fear of possible mining centralization, to drive us into definite mining centralization.”
Q: How is SiaClassic going to be different?
Well, the obvious answer to that is we will not discriminate against miners based on hardware or computer architecture (even Obelisk, ha). We understand the valid concerns the community has over potential mining centralization scenarios. However, we will not allow the fear of possible mining centralization, to drive us into definite mining centralization — as is the case with Nebulous.
We are also committed to operating in the most transparent and equitable way possible. We have formed as a non-profit organization, such that there will be public and mandatory oversight of all contributions, expenses, and governance. Profits won’t be lining the founders’ pockets, but instead will be reinvested into the SiaClassic ecosystem, through development grants and other community opportunities.
There’s a lot that we’ve discussed about how we can improve things in the future and set ourselves apart. I can’t wait to share our plans with the community. There’s only so much we can do in such a short amount of time, and we’re firing on all cylinders to get everything prepared for the fork on Oct. 31.
So I guess the real answer is, that you’re just going to have to wait and see how SiaClassic will be different. We don’t expect you to trust us yet (trustlessness FTW) — you have no idea who we are, and we haven’t been able to do much yet to prove anything to you. Just don’t write us off so quickly, that’s all I can ask.
EDIT: Corrected a line about mining Siacoin in 2016 with both GPUs and ASICs. The editor (myself) modified the sentence during editing in a way that changed its meaning. Thanks to JR for pointing this out! 🙏
Please join us for an AMA on Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 12pm EST, and ask Jason and the rest of the SiaClassic team, any other questions you may have. In the meantime, please check out the links below.