Board Nominee Amber Baldet - AMA

Hi all - Following in the vein of others, thought I would copy my nomination over to the forum to invite discussion, and also to add a bit more informal color based on the chat in the other Board thread.

###On relationship with Zcash (the company)
While I previously created a partnership between JPMorgan and Zcash (the Co), (a) I don’t work at JPM anymore and (b) the goal of that partnership was development of a completely separate product (a zero-knowledge settlement layer on Quorum).

I am not a holder of any part of the company (coins, shares, etc.) because that would have been a conflict of interest in my former position. And I agree, the very first suggestion I wrote in my nomination was that we need to reduce conflation between the two organizations.

I already spend a good bit of time already working on what I think the mission of the Foundation is, and that’s to actually educate people about ZKPs and advance their practical usage, for example during my keynote at Ethereal (8:50 - ~14:50).

Fortune recently covered my participation in the (Zcash Foundation Powers of Tau ceremony)[How JPMorgan Chase Learned to Love the Blockchain | Fortune]. Random side story: In addition to the ceremony I executed, I designed another one for the NY Women in Blockchain chapter which would have had 50 women participate, because Zooko had mentioned a lack of female participation to me. Unfortunately the meetup was canceled due to a snowstorm. :frowning:

###Why I want to be on the Board
To be honest, I was asked to nominate myself by four separate members of the current Board & community leadership. It wasn’t something I realized was open to the general public previously, and I couldn’t care less about aggregating power or experimenting with community governance.

I would really like to see this Foundation do something very meaningful for privacy at a global scale. Ensuring that the mission is driven from what the community wants is important, but a great mission with no execution capability is no mission at all. Pretty much all I do is get shit done, and I am all over the world talking about this stuff to people that can help deliver on the organization’s goals. It seems like we should make it official.

###Thoughts on decentralization
Much like privacy, this isn’t a binary on/off thing. From a governance perspective, decentralized governance tends to evoke images of direct democracy, which is great when you have an informed populous, and less good when people are ill-informed or single-issue voters. I abhor the cult of personality and appeals to authority all over the crypto space (which is why I’m not telling you who asked me to nominate myself; my work in the space is sufficient qualification as is), but also recognize that most people are not deep experts in the fields that are necessary to have an informed opinion. Thus, some following of qualified “thought leaders” is a useful heuristic. So… maybe? It’s incredibly important to try to stay as decentralized and open as possible, while recognizing that the worst outcome is a failure to move forward because of a complete lack of actionable leadership.

###Community organizing experience
I have a variety of experience in leadership positions of other non-profit organizations, usually doing grassroots organizing and logistics. I’ve done fundraising for venture capital but not for non-profits. I’ve run budgets in the millions of dollar per annum range and led teams of a few dozen. I’ve been approached to be on the Board of several crypto companies in the past months and turned them all down due to time commitments or lack of fit, even those that offered equity in exchange. This is the only one I believe is worth my time (and for free, at that, hah).

Below is what I posted on github previously. Please feel free to AMA. Looking forward to seeing you at Zcon0!

##Amber Baldet Nomination Form
I’ve been a supporter of the Zcash Foundation since its inception and have had extended chats with several of the current Board members about what the organization could/should be doing to ensure it meets its goals. I’d be thrilled to help in a more official capacity.

Obviously, I’m ideologically and ethically aligned with the mission. It is important to me, however, that I remain “protocol agnostic” - my motivation is to protect and advance privacy rights writ large (aka I am not a ZEC shill), and to contribute to more humane financial and communication systems at global scale. I believe that encouraging adoption rather than backlash from existing lobbies is possible but requires a nuanced approach. Hopefully that perspective provides some balance and value to the group.

###Goals for the Foundation
The Zcash Foundation has done and admirable job thus far of bootstrapping itself and beginning to affect real change (see: grants awarded). And yet, it is a young organization; there is much that could improve its reach and effectiveness:

  • Reduce conflation between the Zcash Foundation and the Zcash company, and focus more on the stated mission of “building Internet payment and privacy infrastructure for the public good” (which will benefit Zcash protocol users, regardless)
  • Become the most prestigious place for anyone to announce, contribute, and advance novel zero-knowledge and privacy-centric R&D
  • Increase focus on furthering usability and accessibility of ZK systems to drive adoption
  • Perform concerted, thoughtful outreach to corporate, government, and NGO actors that could benefit from and/or are in the throes of assessing the utility of strong encryption at systemically important scale
  • Coordinate more closely with (and provide educational materials to) similarly aligned non-profits (e.g. EFF, HRW, etc.)
  • Assess organizational branding, tooling, and resources for effectiveness in reaching beyond the “already converted”
  • Increase funding through fun & creative community outreach efforts as well as more traditional outreach to larger potential donors
  • More swag?!

###My Background/CV
In this context, what is most relevant is the work I’ve done to advance strong privacy within the banking sector. I brokered the partnership between JPMorgan and the Zcash company and co-designed the architecture of the Zero-knowledge Settlement Layer - the first practical implementation of Zcash’s zk security layer - which now exists within Quorum (a permissioned, privacy focused version of Ethereum). Since then, other enterprise blockchain projects (IBM, ING, etc.) have announced support for ZKPs, which they initially disregarded as too academic.

I speak often to global audiences about the importance of building next-generation networking & value transfer systems on privacy preserving architectures (e.g. MIT), and have advised corporates, central/investment/commercial banks, etc. on the same. My new venture, Clovyr, considers privacy management (as it is a spectrum, not a binary state) to be a core pillar of its design focus.

More stuff about me is on amberbaldet dot com



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Thanks for the support! :joy:

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