Leaders Series: Antonie Hodge at Coin Center and the Zcash Foundation
Issue 47 — April 15, 2018
Antonie Hodge is the Operations Director for Coin Center, and Operation Director for the Zcash Foundation
Antonie has been with the public policy and research organization, Coin Center since August 2014 but bought her first bitcoin in January 2013 — a true OG. Her colleague had been goading her for 6 months before to buy, so you could say she’s been drinking the Kool-Aid since mid-2012.
So you got into bitcoin in 2013, huh? That’s pretty early. What happened?
In 2013, my colleague at my previous job kept talking about how fantastic bitcoin is, from a variety of angles: economic, financial, technological, and philosophical. Finally, after months of hearing this babble, I finally downloaded a wallet and bought from him. (Thank you, Patrick O’Sullivan.) My world has never been the same since. I would post on Facebook (Facebook was cool in 2013!!) about using the creepy red phone you’d use to buy on BitFloor and I took a photo at the first U.S.Bitcoin ATM in Albuquerque, NM.
This caught the eye of Jerry Brito, who was working at the Mercatus Center, a sister organization of my nonprofit. When he started Coin Center in 2014, he asked me to join his team and maybe do some marketing automation and database work, but I one-upped him and told him I’d run all operations and events for him. He foolishly hired me, and here we are, almost 4 years later.
My second position came because of my work at Coin Center. I met Josh Cincinnati and the Zcash crew through my work with Coin Center. When the Zcash Foundation was getting off the ground, Josh asked for help setting up many operational aspects of the Foundation. Then he also foolishly asked me to run all operations for the Foundation.
What did you do before you got into this?
I worked in marketing automation, database design, and processes improvements for IT at another policy-focused nonprofit.
So you run operations for two non-profits. Are you a glutton for punishment? Why do you feel passionate about the work these two organizations do?
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are leaderless, open source technologies that are maintained by a community of enthusiasts, some via their own companies. Just like there is no way to pick up the phone and call “the internet” there is no way to call Bitcoin. But policymakers need someone to call. That’s where Coin Center comes in. We are an experienced resource that can help them think through the nuances of the technology and how it interacts with the law.
Coin Center advocates for open blockchain technologies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Zcash, and any other decentralized cryptocurrency. We help policymakers understand how uses of the technology fit with the law and how regulators can achieve their goals without squashing innovation. These technologies don’t always fit neatly into existing legal frameworks. Where those gray areas exist, we develop and advocate for sound policy solutions that minimize the regulatory burden on the developers actually building on open blockchains.
The Zcash Foundation (my second position) aims to improve the online public infrastructure for the future by building an Internet payments and privacy infrastructure for the public good. It’s a distinct organization from the Zcash Company, which built and currently stewards the Zcash Protocol. The Foundation has lofty and important goals of engaging in public education about online privacy technology, supporting peer-reviewed scientific research, and building a decentralized Zcash network as an open, public infrastructure for private Internet payments.
What are some ideas you’re excited about in the crypto / blockchain space? Why do you think these ideas are exciting or transformative?
Any of the open, decentralized, and permissionless blockchains that allow for greater security, privacy, and freedom for its users; e.g., Zcash and other privacy protocols, Blockstack and their identity component to a decentralized internet by taking security to the edges (in the hand of the users, instead of trusted intermediaries), Orchid and their anti-censorship, anti-surveillance open-source network. Oh, and Lightning is a great project for scaling and cross-token exchanges since it’s super fast and low-cost.
What’s been the most interesting experience you’ve had in the crypto space thus far?
The people I have had the honor to work with in cryptocurrencies are the smartest, noblest, and most passionate people I have met. They see the world as place where thoughtfully implemented technology can improve current systems of privacy, censorship, and speech, ultimately leading to more liberty for all.
As you think about this industry, what do you think will happen in the short term that will blow people’s minds?
Right now, the focus is on the money-making aspects of cryptocurrencies. In my mind, the tokens are an important incentive to the whole technology, but the true innovation is the layers that are being created on top of internet protocols that can ease payments, allow for greater privacy, and ultimately empower it end users.
What aspects of cryptocurrency do you think will be disappointing?
As we are seeing today, there are folks who are solely interested in short-term financial gain, which is short-sighted, and will lead to irrational speculations, rises and falls in prices, scams, frauds, and reactionary regulation. As the pendulum swings back in the other direction (the “Bitcoin is dead” direction), we might see an exodus of these folks.
What changes do you think cryptocurrencies will accelerate in our world?
The people who are passionate and smart about cryptocurrency’s technological implications will stick around and continue to build great infrastructure and sound business models without the distractions of the price volatilities, ICO celebrity endorsements, and blockchain snake oil salesmen. The future is still unknown, and the many products and future technologies have yet to be imagined.
Thank you to Antonie for participating!