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13 May 2021

J. R. Willett launched the first ICO… but still has a day job

J. R. Willett launched the first ICO… but still has a day job


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In the early days, he was worried that cryptocurrency would bring about a dystopia where either the late adopters became penniless or a one-world government would form to regulate everyone’s transactions.

Willett even brought up the idea of stablecoins, writing that “If you think Bitcoin has a reputation problem for money laundering now, just wait until you can store ‘USDCoins’ in the block chain!” This was a new idea — he invented the concept.

When Willett announced Mastercoin on the Bitcointalk forum, he thought of it as a one-time shortcut to get around the “proper way” of raising money.

Willett says that transparency was very important to him while creating the nonprofit, and explains how he used a public spreadsheet to record all expenses.

“The problem with that was that as we started running out of money, everybody knew we were running out of money, and that took some of the wind from our sails,” he recalls with a laugh.

“I’m sure there would have been things that were fun about it,” he says giddily, but goes on to explain that he is a minimalist who barely owns anything that his kids do not need.

Willett led what he calls an idyllic childhood with a father who “always had a knack for money and investments” and began teaching him coding on the family’s Apple II-GS computer when Willett was only 10 years old?

When Willett later learned that he could make a living doing “this thing I’d been doing for fun,” a degree in computer science at Seattle Pacific University was a “no-brainer.” He graduated in 2002.

It was around 2010 while working at Dynon Avionics that Willett “kind of fell in that [cryptocurrency] hole and never got out.” He watched the Bitcoin price rise up to $0.25, and remembers setting up a beige computer tower, which successfully mined a block of 50 BTC on its own over a few weeks with only a central processing unit, or CPU.

Willett admits that the idea of Bitcoin damaging the global financial infrastructure “sounded pretty crazy back in 2010–2011, when very few people had heard of Bitcoin, but I have always taken the opinion that the government-issued monies are much more fragile than they appear.” He adds that a bank run could happen if people lose confidence in fiat, and now, there is a valid alternative for it.

For Willett, money is a “shared hallucination” that works well if everyone plays along, but can fall apart quickly if people choose to “opt out.”.

Willett admits that back in 2012, he “vastly overestimated” the speed at which cryptocurrency adoption would happen.

“The longer it takes to get there, the less disruptive it’ll be,” he says referring to the view that a larger base of cryptocurrency owners will result in a less turbulent transition toward cryptocurrency.

Willett is confident that there will only be more crypto billionaires, as he expects the bull market to continue for some time.

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