Team Musings: Cypherpunk is Not Dead

Recently, I attended Zcon0 hosted by the Zcash Foundation. Based on the nature on the conference, it was an environment in which everyone engaged in continuous, productive discussion, and was very open — cypherpunk even. Search Zcon0 on twitter for a better idea of some of the discussion — the whole event was also livestreamed. This sums up the experience pretty well. There were lots of productive privacy and governance based conversations — long term considerations for almost every project in this space.

Zcash is a privacy focused cryptocurrency and the community around Zcash reflects what’s widely considered to be the original ethos of the blockchain space — open source, decentralized, and crypto-anarchist. The for-profit Zcash Company is primarily responsible for the execution of the Zcash platform, however the non-profit Zcash Foundation exists in conjunction to serve as a body to uphold the Zcash values and include the voices of the larger community. The ideal future situation for Zcash is to move more control away from the company and to the foundation and community. They provide a good amount of grants for people working on projects in the space and maintain completely open communication — almost every decision and process is logged in a GitHub issue. This is a good in depth overview of the unique structure.

It’s significant to see how the culture fundamentally affected the outgrowth of the cryptocurrency, the community that formed around it, and the interest in the project. By defining Zcash as extremely technical, academic, and privacy focused early on, they have been and are able to attract a lot of interest from strong academics to security engineers to the general public. Their openness facilitates excitement and desire to be a part of the project.

For blockchain companies building blockchain platforms, it’s important to understand the ethos and roots of this space to better understand the community and the opportunity that exists. For more background on the blockchain space, check out the Aparna’s lecture! Zcon brought together lots of different people from different projects together, as is common within this small, and relatively tight-knit blockchain community. As projects build community and define culture, considerations like the above become fundamental.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Zubin Koticha and the Aparna Krishnan