ICOs? He held the first. Stable Coins? He happened to dream about them. Vitalik Buterin tried to get him on board to start Ethereum, but he was too busy. He is J. R. Willett, one of the most fascinating men in the business.
In 2012, 41-year-old Willett felt he could improve on Bitcoin by allowing anyone to create interoperable tokens that are supported by the protocol. He published a white paper describing the new model and invented a way to fund the project with a token sale. He hesitated for the next 18 months, hoping someone else would take the bait. Eventually, he gave in and announced Mastercoin’s first coin offering, inspiring Ethereum and every subsequent ICO.
“It felt like I was just putting into words what was obviously going to happen – people were already talking about it and I was like, ‘Why didn’t someone formalize this a bit? ‘I was just sick of waiting for someone else. “
In the early days, he feared that cryptocurrency would lead to a dystopia where either the late adopters would become penniless or a one-world government would be formed to regulate everyone’s transactions. He is still concerned, but things are going better than feared.
In the sea of extraordinary and charismatic people who rise to the top of the cryptocurrency world, Willett stands out. Not in his absolutist belief in a set of principles not in his Journey from rags to riches, not in his “maniac drive “stay with a project, not in his oversized charitable activitiesand not even in his artistic endeavors or great Visions for the future. Willett stands out because, despite the incredible things he has set in motion, he remains a humble family man who has never forgotten what was most important.
The first ICO
When the world rang in 2012, Bitcoin was pretty much the only game in town. Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrency were one and the same except for the newborn Litecoin fork, which was less than three months old (LTC, like Bitcoin, was created via mining). This is where Willett has come to stir the pot. publication as he put it “The second bitcoin whitepaper. “
The Mastercoin prospectus is fascinating. It was the first ICO, and as far as white papers go, it’s really good. There are even risk warnings! It describes many ideas that would be implemented years later – DEXes, Stablecoins, Tokenization, Onchain Govttps: //t.co/noFt1PKzUD
– Nic Carter (@nic__carter) December 8, 2020
“We claim that the existing Bitcoin network can be used as a protocol layer on which new layers of currency can be built with new rules without changing the foundation,” he wrote. The idea was to make it possible to create new, functional tokens on Bitcoin so that smart contracts can regulate their interactions. “Mastercoin supports the creation of real estate tokens that can be used for titles, deeds, user-based currencies and even stocks in a company,” the white paper explained.
This sounds similar to Ethereum today, complete with interoperable ERC-20 tokens and smart contracts. This is no accident when you consider that Ethereum was partly inspired by Willett’s ideas.
“Vitalik originally came to us with his ideas and we told him,” We have some other things that we want to do first. “He didn’t want to wait and it’s good for him that he didn’t. The Ethereum was the result of that.”
Willett even got to the heart of the idea of stablecoins, writing, “If you think Bitcoin is now having a money laundering reputation problem, just wait until you can store USDCoins in the blockchain!” This was a new idea – he invented the concept.
The launch of Mastercoin – and token sales – was announced in July 2013. It was the first ever ICO, and coins could be bought at an exchange rate of 100 MSC per 1 BTC. These first coins were obtained from the “Exodus Address” which served as the Mastercoin equivalent of the Genesis block – while Bitcoin was the beginning, Mastercoin was envisioned as the next era.
When Willett announced Mastercoin on the Bitcointalk forum, he viewed it as a one-off shortcut to get around the “right way” to raise money. “It didn’t feel like an innovation back then,” he says.
“I thought I had found a shortcut – I just didn’t have time to fly to California, put together a pitch deck, and speak to venture capitalists, most of whom hadn’t heard of Bitcoin.”
Ultimately, Mastercoin evolved into the Mastercoin Foundation and even the Omni Foundation, which Willett founded and of which he still serves as chief architect. Willett says transparency was very important to him in creating the nonprofit and explains how he used a public spreadsheet to keep track of all expenses.
“The problem with that was that when we started running out of money, everyone knew we were running out of money and that it was taking some of the wind off our sails,” he said with a laugh. Today, Omni Layer is a “fully decentralized open source asset platform that” allows “custom digital assets and currencies to be created and traded”.
When asked if he regrets not becoming a billionaire CEO, he laughs heartily. “I’m sure there would have been things that would have been fun,” he says, dizzy, but goes on to explain that he’s a minimalist who hardly owns anything that his children don’t need. “What’s the point of being super rich when you have a minimalist state of mind? You only get a few problems, ”he muses. Is there a hint of regret there, perhaps?
“Maybe it’s regret that I could have done a lot of good – but hopefully the people who become billionaires will do a lot of good.”
Willett had an idyllic childhood with a father who “always had a knack for money and investments” and began teaching him to code on the family’s Apple II-GS computer when Willett was only 10 years old.
While he was still in Oregon high school, Willett was a summer salesman doing nondescript chores like sweeping and cleaning toilets. He once wrote a bogus virus and made his employers believe they had been hacked. “They had an old IBM computer – I think I wrote it at home and then put it on a floppy disk,” he says with a laugh.
When Willett later learned that he could make a living “doing what I did for fun,” a computer science degree from Seattle Pacific University was a breeze. He graduated in 2002.
After two years as a software developer at the dot-com startup Alerio in Oregon, he moved to Dynon Avionics, where he was promoted to a managerial position. During his eleven-year career there, he developed flight planning software and calibrated instruments that were later used in such exotic applications as the SpaceShipOne Space plane, Which completed the first private crewed space flight in 2004.
In 2012 he moved to his current employer Cozi as a software developer, where he designs mobile calendar apps that help families stay organized. It seems to be a good fit. He says: “I always considered myself a family man – even before I had children.”
That’s right – Willett, the inventor of the ICO and algorithmic stablecoin, is still working for a day. “You can’t lock up all of your money in cryptocurrencies,” he said, pointing to parenting responsibilities.
It was around 2010 when Willett was working at Dynon Avionics [cryptocurrency] Hole and never came out. “He watched the Bitcoin price rise to $ 0.25 and remembered building a beige computer tower that successfully mined a block of 50 BTC in just a few weeks using just one central processing unit or CPU.
CPU mining soon became impossible as GPUs (graphics processors) and later ASIC miners (specialized software chips for mining) connected to mining pools dominated the landscape. “Even then, getting a block off a CPU was unusual, but it wasn’t unusual,” recalls Willett.
Unlike some others of his day, Willett did not see cryptocurrencies as the universal savior or liberator of humanity. Instead, he foresaw a dystopian future that troubled him deeply. He never wanted to metaphorically burn the banks or turn the system upside down because something like that has to hurt many, many people who rely on the existing structures.
“It looked to me like something that, if big enough, could harm the whole world’s financial systems. I thought that was the kind of thing that an insurance policy is better than defensively owning. “
Willett admits that the idea that Bitcoin is damaging the global financial infrastructure “sounded pretty crazy in 2010-2011 when very few people heard of Bitcoin, but I always believed that the money the government was spending are much more fragile than they appear. “He adds that a bankrun could happen if people lose confidence in Fiat, and now there is a valid alternative for that.
For Willett, money is a “shared hallucination” that works well when everyone plays along, but can fall apart quickly if people choose to “opt out.”
This is not necessarily what Willett desires, as such a situation would leave those without cryptocurrency in a desperate situation. Not everyone is knowledgeable about cryptocurrency, and not everyone has the money to invest or the confidence to risk their capital. It would be a tragedy for them to be left behind. But “If you think about this possible possible outcome, it would be stupid not to have at least one cryptocurrency,” he explains.
“If there is a tipping point where everyone is trying to get into cryptocurrencies with government funds … then’I would be on the scale of global war on the scale of human suffering. “
Willett admits that in 2012 he “grossly overestimated” the speed at which cryptocurrency adoption would occur. Some of his writings from this period were particularly dystopian, such as the prediction of governments “trying to destroy all decentralized computer networks (including the Internet)” in order to create a “strong, centralized” [blockchain powered] A world government that generates its revenue by strictly governing in the freedom of trade to collect taxes. “
“When I wrote this, I was expecting it to take a year or two,” he thinks back. He no longer looks so much like a doomsday hunter. “The longer it takes to get there, the less disruptive it is’It will be, ”he says, citing the view that having a larger base of cryptocurrency owners will result in a less turbulent transition towards cryptocurrency.
Willett is confident there will only be more crypto billionaires as he expects the bull market to continue for some time. “Usually there is about a hundred times the start, followed by about a ten-fold decrease. It happens over the course of months or even years, and then it happens again.” He thinks ether is the best choice today, and recently predicted an ETH peak of around $ 9,500 for this cycle.
“I’m optimistic that our crypto-billionaires, whoever they are, will eventually become crypto-philanthropists, especially if this world is what we are.”’Reconstruction causes a lot of pain and suffering for people who adopt late. “