The story of bitcoin, told by those who lived it…
CoinDesk is excited to present “The Milestones: Bitcoin’s Biggest Turning Points.” Our inaugural essay series, “The Milestones” aims to provide up-close-and-personal commentary on some of the most pivotal moments in the tech’s near 10-year history.
Curated by CoinDesk Editor Pete Rizzo and author Brian Patrick Eha, the series, inspired by Eha’s new book, How Money Got Free, will run twice weekly and complete in time for a special presentation at Consensus 2017, the world’s largest blockchain conference held annually in New York.
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4 April 2017 CoinDesk
One of bitcoin’s earliest angel investors, Roger Ver has backed a number of startups including BitPay, Purse and ShapeShift, and is the owner of resource portal Bitcoin.com. Ver is noted as both an outspoken evangelist for the technology and one of the first ‘bitcoin millionaires’.
In the first entry in CoinDesk’s “Bitcoin Milestones” series, Ver discusses his initial brush with the technology and recounts the watershed moment when a single bitcoin became more valuable than the US dollar.
I first heard the word ‘bitcoin’ in November or December 2010 thanks to a mention of it on thepodcast.
It sounded interesting enough. I maybe spent a few moments Googling it. At the time one bitcoin was worth about $0.10. I thought to myself, “This is interesting, but if no one is using it, it isn’t worth anything.”
I moved on with my life after only about five minutes of research…
In February 2011, I heard bitcoin mentioned again, so I decided to Google it once again. The price was now around $0.40, and this time I started to see the bigger picture.
I began to understand that:
- The supply of bitcoin is limited
- They could be sent anywhere in the world for free (no longer true)
- They could be sent anywhere nearly instantly (no longer true)
- They could be used almost anonymously (less true than we thought)
- It was impossible for governments to stop.
That’s when the dots (helped by years of studying Marx and Mises) connected in my mind.
I realized that people were going to start using bitcoin as money and that I needed to buy some, but that was easier said than done in those days.
There was no Coinbase, Xapo or Blockchain. In fact, the only wallet was the Bitcoin-QT full client that still had the option of CPU mining in it. The only option for buying bitcoin was a website with a strange domain called Mt. Gox.
I contacted the website and received a personalized response rather quickly from the site’s owner, Jed McCaleb (he hadn’t yet sold the business to Mark Karpeles). After an email exchange or two, I decided to send $25,000 to what I recall was a personal bank account in New York.
I waited for him to credit my account at Mt. Gox… and the price of bitcoin rose… and then it rose some more…
Several days went by, but Gox still hadn’t credited my wire transfer.
I began to grow impatient… The price was rising ever closer to $1.
As the price rose, so did my frustration at not having had my wire credited… but I wasn’t deterred. My excitement for the future potential of bitcoin was rising as well – and I was openly telling friends about bitcoin.
One of them was less than convinced.
When I explained bitcoin to him, and how I had just initiated a purchase of $25,000 worth because they were so amazing, he sarcastically replied, “If you think bitcoins are so great, why don’t you buy more of them?”
As soon as he said that to me, I knew he was right, and that I should buy more of them! That very same day I initiated a second wire to Mt Gox.
Somewhere in between, bitcoin passed $1…
As anyone who has owned bitcoin before knows, the moment you have some yourself, you feel much more connected with the cause and the people in the ecosystem.
I couldn’t help but tell anyone who would listen to me about all the wonderful ways in which bitcoin was about to change the world for the better.
I would literally tell anyone who would listen.
From strangers in a restaurant, to cashiers at convenience stores, to everyone at family gatherings or weddings, whether they wanted to hear about bitcoin or not. (Many of them did not!)
I paid for the world’s first bitcoin billboard and national radio ads. I set up the first major store to accept bitcoin as payment. I was involved with many other projects. The more bitcoin companies I invested in and the more bitcoins I bought, the more fun the whole experience became.
I knew that we were all working on a fundamentally world-changing technology, but the rest of the world still had no idea.
But, the real turning point for me though was owning my first bitcoin, and watching the price cross the $1 barrier for the first time.
I still remember the naysayers claiming that a bitcoin could never be worth a whole dollar each. They claimed that bitcoin was just a bubble, a Ponzi scheme, or no different than digital Beanie Babies.
They were all wrong, and I gladly told them so.
Today, many people still dismiss bitcoin. Bitcoin isn’t guaranteed to be the winning cryptocurrency in the end. But its invention is guaranteed to have changed the world forever.
Bitcoin and US dollar image via Shutterstock
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.