Crypto In Frisco #7 – What Is Decred?

Tai Zen: What’s up guys. This is Tai Zen. With me, as the Honorable, Grandmaster legendary worldly now,

Leon Fu: Hey there.

Tai Zen: Today, we have the lead developer for the Decred project, Marco Peereboom.

Thanks for joining us today. We’re broadcasting here from the great city of Austin, Texas. The second best to living in America, which is located in the southern part of the United States, in the great country of Texas.

Before we talk about Decred, could you share with our audience a little bit about your background? What was your background before you got into Bitcoin and blockchain?

Marco: Actually, I’m a double E by training. I went to  Double E school, so I know how to solder iron and make a circuit. However, I never acted on that. After graduation, I pretty much went to the software and stayed with software.

I’ve always been on the periphery of hardware. I worked at Dell for many many years, working on servers and storage. If it was made out of metal between the late 90s and early 2000s, I worked on it.

Tai Zen: We are in the City of Austin, the headquarters of Dell computers.

Marco: That’s actually how I got here really. They shipped me over from Europe, hence the funny accent by the way. I’m a Dutch citizen, but I moved here in 2000. I’ve been here and married a local, so I’m not leaving.

Tai Zen: I mean this one is the greatest city in America I live in. The southern part of Austin is actually was the fastest growing area in America.

Marco: Actually, all of Austin is growing dramatically. I think I saw some staff saying 200 families a week and it has been going on for 15 years.

Tai Zen: I lived in for 5 years before I moved to Dallas. Each time I come back, it’s like bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s the only city I go to where it just doesn’t stop growing.

You came here to work for Dell computers from Europe, what led you to know about Bitcoins? When did you first hear about Bitcoins blockchains?

Marco: A little bit more background. My biggest passion was always operating system design and programming, specifically in the security front. That’s what really made me tick.

Therefore, I was always in and around crypto although not always professionally. However, I was always in that cryptography space. I actually worked on vulnerabilities and some other security-related activities, so I was always involved.

In 2010, I started the company with Jake Yocom-Piatt, which is actually currently my boss and one of the guys that found Decred. He and I started a business doing the secure online backup, which was a really cool project, but we did not have enough sales so we shuttered that, while what was ongoing is the Bitcoin craze kind of started.

I heard of it immediately after it came out. Like most people, I would look at it next week. I downloaded the original code.I’m sure that I even mined something on my computer, but I never acted on it. That hard drive is long gone, so let’s not talk about it anyway. I did not return to do Bitcoin until 2012 when I started back in earnest to work in and around Bitcoin-related products.

Tai Zen: What made you decide to come back to it? What did you see in 2012 that you didn’t see in 2009?

Marco: As I said, we were still working at that time on that backup products. We were still hoping to make it, so we were working full-time on that. Once it became obvious that we were not going to be a successful venture, we pivoted into the crypto space.

Tai Zen: What was Bitcoin back then when you first got into it?

Marco: 10 USD.

Marco: Around that time, we actually did a product called Coin Boys, which was an invoicing service. It means you could use our websites to invoice a third party, then they would pay you either in Bitcoin or in USD. After that, we would pay you out in the other currency.

It was very helpful for people, for example, working across the bonds that wanted to contract something in America. In the end, they get pay in Bitcoin, not a big transatlantic fee and all kinds of good stuff.

That product we had to shutter for various reasons. At that point, we actually had developed not a piece of software called VTCBD or BTC sweet as most people know it. That is a full note Bitcoin. At that point, we had written it because we actually used it on the back end of the coin voice.

As you can see, we had already built up quite a bit of expertise in Boston technology and Bitcoin-related products.

Tai Zen: When you say we, you talk about you, Jake, Dave?

Marco: Most of the people that are working with us today were working with us back then as well. That’s why we all actually have several folks that work on blockchain-related products because we do have actual expertise.

Tai Zen: You guys were working on all these projects and then what made you and Dave and Jake and all these guys decide to come up with Decred?

Marco: Once we wrote BTC sweet, we expected people to embrace with open arms. However, the opposite happened.

Here we are. Writing fantastic software. I’m giving it away and people are saying you are got to stop doing that because it’s bad.

Leon Fu: Who said that?

Marco: Bitcoin core guys. They wanted to have sole possession of the technology essentially.

Tai Zen: Wait. Let’s call it timeout here real quick before we move any further. I’ve always been under the impression that the Bitcoin core guys are those made Bitcoin successful.

Basically, you wrote a different implementation of Bitcoin in a different language. Is it safe to say that I’m taking the Bible and translating it into a different language?

Marco: We were literally bug for bug compatible.

Tai Zen: Let’s say when somebody says that they’re Christians and want to promote Christianity, then you come along and you rewrite the Bible in a different language for more people can use it.

Marco: I honestly don’t think that it is a good metaphor. It’s going to make people upset.

A better way to look at it is by looking at the internet. What made the internet successful? Was it that there were a single web browser and a single TCP IP implementation?

Leon Fu: Basically, they were Mozilla and you came along and wrote Firefox.

Tai Zen: If somebody says that they want the Internet to succeed. Why would they be against somebody building an additional browser?

Marco: I have several opinions on this one, but the only one I think that is the valid one is they were unwilling to share their sandbox with some other people. That’s the only way I could read this.

Tai Zen: For the non-technical people and our audience that don’t know what a sandbox is, can you elaborate on that?

Marco: What I mean by sandbox is literally this is my sandbox and you guys are not welcome to play in my sand. I’m talking about an actual sandbox. Not that code sandbox.

Leon Fu: Don’t find how ironic this is since this is an open-source project, which means anyone can come in, contribute and add to it.

Marco: That killed us on the inside. I mean we are open-source developers and what we did is we gave it away and we were expecting people to say hey that’s great, thanks for helping.

However, we’ve got the opposite. That is actually what made us start to think about alternatives. That’s why I was actually leading up with that. Once we actually got smacked in the face, that’s when we actually started seeing what is happening actually today.

There is going to be a future crisis, where this is gonna come to a head because if you’re not welcoming other people to develop things, it means you’re gonna have 2 power structures, which happened at the time.

You had developers and miners. What has happened as time has progressed is all the developers are gobbled up by a single entity that controls Bitcoin for all intents and purposes.

Then, the miners will essentially have right access to the blockchain. They’re the ones who make the rules or ratify the rules.

We felt that was not going to be adequate and it would come to a head in the future, so here we are.

Tai Zen: What year was that?

Marco: 2013

Tai Zen: You saw dry land to muddy waters. You saw this problem coming down the pipe later on.

Marco: Sure. We work on Decred for years at this point. It went live in 2016, so we’ve worked outside of the public view for 2 years. We set it up in 2014.

Tai Zen: So you never did an ICO?

Marco: This was privately funded, so we never played the ICO game. Therefore, we didn’t know venture capital money. It was privately funded. We struggled for a couple of years and we are now at the end of the tunnel.

Tai Zen: We’re very happy for you cause Leon and I have always believed that was the biggest problem, which is Bitcoin does not have a final decision-making process and implementation process known as a governance process.

Every time we bring it up, people think that we’re trying to put the government on top of the blockchain.We just want a final resolution process where the community can vote on an upgrade to the blockchain and it gets implemented.

That’s why when we looked at the Decred project, we really liked it. The other thing was you guys didn’t run an ICO or crowd sale.

Marco: Yeah. Actually, we also did not have a lot of pre-mine either. Most of the pre-mine was actually given away to people as an airdrop to generate liquidity and some interests.

I think we’re a bit of an outlier when it comes to that. We have a non-traditional mechanism. We also actually tend to write code before we hype code.

We will actually write the feature, debug it, get it ready and then put it out for people to play with. Then, we start saying ‘hey look at how awesome’ instead of saying ‘hey give us a whole bunch of money and then maybe we’ll write this feature in the future‘.

Tai Zen: Was that your decision or Dave or Jake or was that a consensus agreement? Didn’t one of you say ‘hey man we can do an ICO, a crowd sale and raise money for this’?

Marco: No, we weren’t structured that way. We already had a company in place at a time. It was called Conformal Systems. It was already privately funded. We get that around for a little bit, then we restructured.

We created a company zero, but the same people are working for a Conformal to move to our company. There was just a different entity.

Decred, itself actually, has an organization that is sitting in Nevis, where the DAO is going to be incorporated.

I’m missing the last part of your question actually here.

We retained the same people that were working on the back of the project, and they started working on Bitcoin-related and then ultimately on Decred.

Tai Zen: During those first couples of years when you guys were trying to get the project up, and running and writing all that code, would it be safe to say that the project, in my opinion, did not hit the mainstream until 2017?

Marco: That was accurate. It was also pretty unknown at the time.

Tai Zen: We didn’t even know about Decred until…

Leon Fu: Charlie Lee tweeted about it, which is what very similar when I looked at Dash and I realized that they have some governance model. It’s not anywhere near as sophisticated as Decred but there is a treasury, a way to submit proposals and a way for the community to vote on it versus what we have in Bitcoin which is no mechanism.

However, that’s when I heard about Decred. It was shortly after the Miami or around Miami last year.

Marco: Sure. As I said, we really did not make a lot of stink about it at all. That was actually also by design.

We offer the airdrop to a lot of open-source developers, whom we’ve worked within the past that write cool software. We basically email blasts on a bunch of people to invite them to participate.

We really did not put it out there. I mean that is who we are cultural. We’re going to write code first and we were not comfortable hyping everything up before it was ready to go.

Leon Fu: By this time you had already seen what Ethereum had done and the big ICO that were raising money, there was no thought that hey maybe we can get some money…?

Marco: Money does not equal developments. That is I think.

Leon Fu: But it was equal to the ability to hire developers who can do development.

Marco: I have 2 thoughts on that or actually multiple opinions. They’re really conflicting opinions.

Blockchain developers are really hard to find. Most of them are actually true believers and it’s not about payment. It’s about doing cool technology.

You can have a hundred million USD in bank accounts, but if you cannot find the guy to write your code, you’re just the guy with a hundred million USD in bank accounts.

So yes, money would enable that, but at that time we really could not have actually added more people to it and actually be productive with it. We had enough people working on the right things.

Leon Fu: You are not capital constraints?

Marco: We’re not. It was fun obviously when you’re losing money left and right. Therefore, we actually did scale our team down a little bit. However, we were never at a point where like we’re going to flip the table and walk away from this.

Tai Zen: That never even came up.

Marco: No. I mean it was stressful. We’re yelling at each other, trying to figure out how to do this code. It was a lot of emotion and a lot of…

Tai Zen: When we were building our cryptocurrency market business, we’ve run through some hard times just like any other startups. There were lots of heated discussions and team debates, but we came through.

Therefore, I can respect how you had to go through all that same hardship in the beginning. I mean like there are some people saying that the price cuts up and you deserve it.

Marco: I appreciate a little people would buy some more by the way.

Honestly, I truly appreciate the number of people that have gotten into it. However, I think that Decred actually at this point is ready for much wider adoption.

By the way, 2017 days are also relevant because that’s when we actually. That’s when we felt comfortable. That’s actually also when the hard fork voting became active in early 2017.

That’s also when the hype machine got turned on a little bit. That’s when we started to become better known. We have been ramping that up and we’re going to continue to ramp that up.

Lightning Network has been activated, so we’re gonna have the tools done here pretty quickly. The off-chain voting portion is about to happen as well.

We have a lot of really exciting features coming down the pipeline.

Tai Zen: Before we talk about those features, can you talk quickly just talk about the few guys in your team? Who are the main founders of Decred?

Marco: Let’s call Jake the CEO of the company zero. He was the one who would employ us actually.

He’s a physicist. He’s really really bright in things and thousands of miles ahead of everyone else even though he doesn’t write code. He just comes up with these things and as I said, he’s always miles ahead of everyone else.

Tai Zen: Is he like a strategic leader for the entire project?

Marco: Yes

Tai Zen: What about Dave?

Marco: Dave is actually the lead developer. You called me that and I just didn’t want to be interrupted. He is a Decred lead developer.

What I do is actually new developments. I work on the features that don’t exist. For example, the voting system with one of the things that I wrote. I wrote the code for the hard fork voting as well. I did all the soft forking upgrades. I wrote all that stuff because that was typically the new development.

Dave is very meticulous. If you want to develop something quickly and have a feature out, he will sit on it and will make it perfect.

Tai Zen: In this particular case, this code actually has value as money. It’s not just like Microsoft Word where it crashes and you just reboot. This is where if it crashes, bad things happen, so we don’t want people that are meticulous…

Marco: I might have been misinterpreted here. I’ve said it wrong. Dave typically works on the hardcore, the consensus even portions, the ones that cannot go wrong and that require at that level of tenacity.

Typically, I typically work on the faster-moving, newer features that are not consensus critical. Obviously, once I cross my line, it’s always a duty of us are going to sit there and get it right.

For example, I wrote the initial soft forking code. Then, he and I spent another 2 to 3 months validating that code and writing unit test cases around that.

That’s also what happened with the hard fork. I wrote the initial version of that to make it work. Once it started working okay, now let’s go attack it from multiple angles. Does that make sense?

Tai Zen: That’s all the questions that I have.  I appreciate you coming down to this freezing weather outside to come in Austin, Texas.

Marco: Thank you so much for having me. If you have more questions, be pointed out for more information.

Come and find us on Slack or on Rocket chat. We are on all the platforms at this point.

We’re also ramping up our marketing stuff. We are not hard to find anymore.

Tai Zen: If you want to see how the voting system works, you can go to their test net and look at the proposal that Leon and I submitted, then follow along. We did it as an example to show what it can do, what the community can do and not do.

Regardless of the fact that if the proposal gets approved or gets denied in the future, it’s still a win for the entire blockchain community because we can demonstrate how a formal proposal should be done and how the community should vote on it.

Instead of sitting there bickering about it, arguing about it on Twitter and all that nonsense, people should vote on it and then get it implemented.

Marco: I really appreciate you doing that, by the way, because we only had that proposal to work. In fact, I’m probably going to start using that if you don’t mind.

I really appreciate it and actually maybe you should tweet it out so that people can actually look at it.

Tai Zen: I’ll definitely do that along with this video and put it at the bottom of this video too.

Thanks for watching this video. If you like our boots-on-the-ground type of investing approach where we go and talk to the actual development teams to make sure they’re real people, get real information, make sure you guys follow us at and we look forward you in the next video.

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