With the value of most coins tumbling steeply over the past weeks, there has been a sharp downturn in the optimism surrounding the industry. This may not be a bad thing — we’ve also been seeing a shift from avarice to altruism.
I met Alex Zaidelson on a crypto-cruise out of Malta — one of the non-sensational crypto-cruises of 2018 — and he told me all about BEAM’s goals. Alex told me that they had raised $4 million from funds like Continue Capital, 1kx, Ceyuan, Node Capital, and others, and that they were winning the race to launch the first blockchain based on Mimblewimble.
Mimblewimble is a technology that provides privacy on a blockchain. The funny name comes from a spell in the Harry Potter world that prevents people from telling secrets. Here’s a wonderfully simple explanation of how it works.
A weakness of Bitcoin is that it doesn’t live up to the promise of a fully anonymous transactional currency. In the early days, most of us believed in the anonymity of Bitcoin, but after ten years, it’s become clear that Bitcoin transactions are not that private, after all.
BEAM is a blockchain protocol built on Mimblewimble that solves the problem of privacy while still providing auditability. It’s a brilliant innovation that involves adding a separate secure BBS system that allows the sender and receiver to exchange additional information needed to make the transaction happen privately, and thus protect the anonymity of the transaction.
I was impressed, but I was about to be surprised — because then he told me that they had donated some of that raised capital (3.14 BTC — ~20K at the time of donation) to their competitor, Grin, to help Grin fund a security audit of their source code. (Did you notice they gave them pi?)
Wait a minute, what happened to all-out competition? What happened to making it to the top and jeering at all your loser competitors? Haven’t they watched Silicon Valley? Don’t they know the proper crypto-bro attitude?
Alex said that he believed competition was important, and Grin wasn’t in line to get anything like the funding BEAM received, but they were fighting for the right ideals. In his thinking, the more people in the space, the better everyone’s product would become out of necessity.
I’ve been focused on how the blockchain industry is likely to evolve from a dog-eat-dog world of flaunted success, crude trolling, and brash claims to a more unified, collaborative world of goal alignment and partnerships. Another big part of that evolution is corporate social responsibility, which has been almost non-existent in the current landscape. We are finally starting to see the emergence of foundations started by big tech names, such as the Sandberg Goldberg Charitable Support Fund. This is the first wave.
The next wave will be composed of organizations that bring the big companies together to achieve something that benefits the whole industry — things like digital-currency adoption or global regulatory standards that favor blockchain development. These things are coming, and they will transform more than just the blockchain industry — they will transform the world.
Kudos to BEAM for leading the way. I’m keeping a sharp eye out for more evidence of crypto altruism.