This is an opinion piece by Obi Nwosu, a full-time lawyer for Bitcoin and a board member of ₿trust, a non-profit organization originally conceived by Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z to fund the placement, education and remuneration of Bitcoin developers from untapped parts of the world, starting with Africa .
Who knew a flight could change the future of Bitcoin?
There I was, on my way back from Lofoten in northern Norway, after some incredible and exhausting days of discussing how the Bitcoin community could support the goals of voluntary organizations (NGOs), charities and human rights defenders from around the world, and I was shocked.
Most people on the plane slept fast – rightly – but I could not rest, so was my excitement after the last three days. I noticed that some people in front were having a conversation, and I decided to join them. Jeff Booth, Lyudmyla Kozlovska and Leopoldo Lopez excitedly discussed how Bitcoin could be rolled out in the regions where their human rights defenders operate on a large scale.
I listened to the conversation. They explained that with the right app, they could increase the use of Bitcoin exponentially and in that way help the people they cared so deeply about.
NGOs, charities, human rights defenders and activists have come to the realization that many of their challenges have an economic root. The people they try to help are prevented from accessing the global financial economy and locked into using the regime’s currency – often with two, three, four or even five – digit inflation – making it impossible to save, plan or escape their money links. .
By having easy, secure and private access to Bitcoin, anyone anywhere can access a currency that cannot have its inflation manipulated by any regime for their gain and the loss of its citizens. Having access to the Lightning Network will enable these people to quickly and inexpensively receive money from NGOs, charities, their relatives in the diaspora or trade with international merchants and each other – all while protecting their privacy. However, existing options were too limited so that target users could not access them, or they were too complex and expensive, or they were not designed to scale globally while protecting privacy.
With the right solution, these highly efficient operators already had the facilities, knowledge and expertise needed to get hundreds, thousands, even millions of people in some of the most oppressed countries in the world to learn about Bitcoin and use a wallet . And if this wallet was simple enough to install and use, it would simply be a matter of letting the power of network effects do the rest. What would start with a million users would quickly become 10, then 100 and more. It sounded bold, but it was possible that we could have one billion users of Bitcoin in a very short period of time.
Strengthening the economic tools available to oppressed communities and NGOs fighting for their cause ultimately strengthens democracy. This ultimately creates better futures for countries struggling under oppressive regimes, making the world a better and fairer place.
Ever since I met Elsirion at Hacker’s Congress in Prague almost a year earlier, and discovered Fedimint for the first time, I had devoted my time to promoting, sponsoring and securing growth. Now, what was crystal clear to me was the recognition that Fedimint was the technology specially built to make the vision of quickly reaching a billion Bitcoiners a reality.
One of the biggest challenges for bitcoin adoption today is custody – it’s scary for people to take care of themselves, and custody solutions pose problems, including unclear and ever-changing regulations or the risk of loss. We just need to look at some of the recent stories of regulated exchanges losing, using or risking the assets of their clients for warning examples. The need for a solution like Fedimint is greater than ever.
I have explained what Fedimint is in a previous Bitcoin Magazine article and during my talk on Bitcoin Miami 2022, but in summary, Fedimint is:
– A form of shared Bitcoin custody.
– It uses federations, a Byzantine fault-tolerant multisig wallet technology similar to Blockstream’s Liquid Network).
– It is run collectively by groups of trusted community members we call “parents”, for and on behalf of their communities.
– Has privacy through Chaumian e-cash.
– And is tightly integrated with Lightning Network.
(more details can be found at fedimint.org website and frequently asked questions)
The result is a system that is simpler and more private than using a stock exchange or hardware wallet, and that allows communities anywhere to take control of their bitcoin. Simply put, Fedimint is a form of bitcoin depot that was designed from the beginning to work on a global scale, so that billions of people can receive, hold and use bitcoin.
I shared my solution with Jeff, Leo and Lyuda, and in the discussion that followed, the idea was born for Fedi, the world’s simplest, most secure and private bitcoin wallet.
We wanted to use Fediment’s custody protocol as the secure, simple and decentralized core to which everything else would be connected. Equally important was that there had to be an equally strong user interface. I wanted to work with the key people involved in Fedimint to form a commercial company to accelerate development. For rapid global growth, we will leverage the experience and skills of a group of NGOs, charities, activists and human rights defenders to bring Fedimint to their communities.
When I returned to my hometown of Lisbon, Portugal, work began. Up to this point, Fedimint had developed as an open source protocol project with a long-term plan to build a company around the commercialization of the user interface. Oslo changed everything. I described my experience to Elsirion, the inventor of Fedimint, and Justin Moon, the founder of one of the largest Bitcoin hits in North America, explaining the desperate need and the bold new vision. They quickly saw the key role that the Fedimint Protocol would play in helping the most needy around the world, and agreed to join me as co-founders.
We then reached out to each Bitcoin-focused VC in search of capital partners who would understand the vision and were ready to join the journey. The response was phenomenal. We started with Kingsway Capital, a prolific investor in technology companies serving the global south and, more recently, Bitcoin companies. I contacted Ten 31 VC who had long been supporters of Elsirion, the Fedimint protocol and me. And of course, I was talking about ego-dead capital, as Jeff Booth was a key reason why I had come up with the growth strategy that catalyzed the project. Within a week we had not only raised our goal, we had exceeded it and had to increase it twice. Within a month we had finished the round. In addition to our leading investors, we were also fortunate to have investments from Trammell Venture Partners, Hivemind VC, Timechain, Recursive Capital and Steve Lee.
It’s not just risk financing. The open source Fedimint protocol project has attracted the support of a wide range of organizations. Blockstream was the first to discover the potential and has sponsored the project for years and has recently renewed its commitment. Long before they made an equity investment, Ten 31 VC had given a BTC grant that signaled to the team that we were up to something. Recently, Spiral, which is part of Block, agreed to provide a number of grants to developers who work full time with the project. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has generously donated to Fedimint and I have Alex Gladstein in HRF to thank for inviting me to the Oslo Freedom Forum, where all this happened, in the first place. And finally, I had made a small donation to the project.
The reason for the rapid response – even in this period of bearish sentiment – was simple. Everyone could see that this was Bitcoin’s missing link – decentralized, privacy-preserving, Bitcoin-safe. Furthermore, it solved a problem for a group of people who needed it most, and it solved it in a way that would send a signal to the rest of the world and prove once and for all that Bitcoin was not only useful, but important for making the world a better and freer place.
Today, my incredible partners, Elsirion and Justin Moon, work with a growing list of talented open source protocol engineers and designers, working furiously around the clock to make Fedimint and Fedi a reality. A year ago, Elsirion guessed that he would need 24 months or so to make the first prototype of Fedimint work. But within a few months of our combined lecture on Bitcoin Miami 2022, and the influx of dedicated and talented developers that came as a result, we had a working prototype. They continue to work on development, and the funding and support we have will drive the progress of the Fedimint protocol and the Fedi app further and faster.
Finally, I want the privilege and honor of working with some of the most productive and skilled activists in the world. These include Lyudmyla Kozlovska, who has a track record of defending the rights of people in Ukraine and post-Soviet Europe as
the president of the Open Dialogue Foundation. We also have Leopoldo Lopez, who for years has defended the freedoms of Venezuelans and other Latin Americans under the yoke of oppressive regimes, even when it cost him his own freedom; Farida Nabourema, the founder of Afro Bitcoin 2022, the first West African Bitcoin conference, which speaks eloquently about the challenges of places like her homeland Togo that suffer from the weight of monetary colonialism due to the colonial franc; and Fadi Elsalameen, which has helped raise awareness of the challenges facing people living in the Middle East. I will work with them to formulate deployment strategies tailored to the challenges of each region, and use their wealth of knowledge and experience on the ground to ensure that Fedi is designed to meet their needs.
In the coming months, we will all work in parallel to complete and roll out the first version of the Fedimint protocol, launching the Fedi app – which as far as we know will be the first Bitcoin wallet to be built using the human-centered the design method that was developed. by IDEO, and to plan, test and implement our rapid global growth strategy – driven by freedom-loving people around the world. Bitcoin has been waiting for a technology for global Bitcoin adoption, and Fedi, powered by Fedimint, is.
This is a guest post by Obi Nwosu. Expressed opinions are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc Bitcoin Magazine.