I’m DC and I’m running for MGRC as the nominee from the Electric Coin Company team. I have a technical background, significant business and non-profit experience, and a track record of working to protect and defend electronic privacy. I have strong opinions about what the Zcash project needs going forward, and as a member of MGRC I would push hard to synergize efforts from the ECC, Major Grants, the Zcash Foundation, and other stakeholders.
If I’m chosen to serve on MGRC, I will focus on the following high level priorities:
Broadening the Zcash community. We lost a massive amount of active users and community mojo when the ASIC miners came onto the network and the GPU miners were pushed out. I’m not advocating for ‘ASIC resistance’, but I would encourage contributions from people with novel ideas for how to reward people with Zcash for contributing to the network/platform/ecosystem.
Relentless focus on product, design and usability. Zcash is amazing, but until recently it’s been impossible to use to its full potential. I would encourage contributions from people who appreciate the power of great UX and design while not compromising on performance and security.
Discovering and supporting use cases in support of the mission. Today, Zcash is widely used, but the most popular use case appears to be speculation. I would encourage contributions from people that explore and promote use cases that make use of Zcash for good.
Encouraging diversity and inclusion. Diverse teams are stronger than monocultures. Tech is bad, but crypto is even worse when it comes to D&I. I helped to create the D&I program at my previous company, and successfully hired several outstanding candidates from underrepresented groups into technical roles in multiple departments. I believe it’s important that MGRC be composed of people that represent the numerous stakeholders of the Zcash community, and that MGRC benefit from geographic, economic, ethnic and gender diversity. A diverse MGRC will do a better job of soliciting grant applications from and awarding prizes to underrepresented candidates.
I believe strongly in digital liberty. To me this means that people should be able to use technology to get leverage over their lives without that technology enslaving them into a system of surveillance capitalism or worse.
I grew up around computers, and developed a knack for figuring out how systems break early on. This “security mindset” gave me a natural fear of social technology, and I sat on the sidelines while my friends got on Friendster and Facebook, etc. I was first drawn to the intersection of technology and privacy when I saw Moxie Marlinspike’s talk at Defcon in 2010. In this talk, Moxie explains that choosing not to be on social media, or have a mobile phone, has profound implications. He argues that, for example, not having a phone is not a choice simply not to carry a piece of consumer technology in your pocket, it’s a choice not to participate in society. This talk opened my eyes to the impact of the (then) nascent practice of surveillance capitalism, and I leaned in to help normal people understand what was going on and how they could protect themselves. I worked with the team at the Wall St. Journal to analyze the data security and privacy dynamics of the top 100 apps in the Android and Apple app stores. This feature was one of the first times that mainstream media focused on digital privacy, and our team was pleased to see that in response to this work, Apple and Google overhauled some of their privacy practices, making it harder for apps to spy on users.
I continued to lean into developing privacy preserving technology, building a mobile transparency product called MobileScope in 2011 with Ashkan Soltani and Aldo Cortesi, which was acquired by the privacy-centric company Evidon (now Ghostery). I later served as the Chief Security Officer for SendGrid, a cloud based email provider. During my time at “The Grid”, I worked cross functionally to enable encryption for the email pipeline, which meaningfully increased the security and privacy of the platform, encrypting password reset emails for dozens of sites you probably use every day.
While the majority of my professional experience was in the for-profit sector, I did serve as a volunteer for the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) for four years. I initially served as a local chapter leader, and went on to serve on the project’s Global Industry Committee, helping to raise awareness around the importance of software security as a fundamental tenet of digital development.
I had become familiar with Bitcoin back in 2011, leveraging GPU horsepower from my security consultancy to mine blocks in between pentesting engagements. In 2016, I worked as a Techstars mentor for the team at Bridge21, who were among the first to use cryptocurrency to provide high speed, low fee cross-border payments to the world. I was particularly enamored of the potential for cryptocurrency to right some of the wrongs of the financial system that had spectacularly melted down in 2008 and led to populist uprisings in cities all over the world. The crash exposed that legacy financial systems extract more value from people than is appropriate. I had met Zooko at the University of Colorado law school when he was still working primarily on Tahoe-LAFS. I was very excited to see the progress he and his team made on bringing Zcash to life, and participated in the project as a miner initially, and then as an advisor to, and finally as an employee of the Electric Coin Company.
Zcash represents the realization of potential that Bitcoin originally promised. Zcash is private, decentralized, innovative and resilient. Zcash is poised to do for Internet Money what HTTPS did for electronic commerce.
I believe that the Zcash project has done a superb job of productionizing cutting edge cryptography, creating an altcoin that clearly has a raison d’etre. The project enjoys first class liquidity and broad exchange support. The magical “shielded” technology that differentiates Zcash from other altcoins has become dramatically easier to use recently, thanks to effective collaboration between the ECC, the Zcash Foundation, and community developers such as Aditya from the Zecwallet project. Upcoming collaborations with organizations like Gitcoin will breathe new life into the Zcash ecosystem, and encourage developers from all over the world to contribute to the project. That said, I believe that the biggest threat to Zcash at this point is relevance. As other projects begin to add meaningful privacy capabilities, it is important that we work hard to identify and support (legitimate) use cases, while investing in things that we (as a project) have not historically prioritized, like community outreach and developer engagement.
I believe that the MGRC will be most effective if it is composed of people from diverse backgrounds; people that represent the various types of stakeholders of the Zcash ecosystem. I believe that it’s important for MGRC to work to expand “beyond the crypto bubble”, and seek engagement from candidates that are experienced not just in technology or cryptography, but in areas like governance, funding public goods, public policy and law. If I am chosen by the Community Advisory Panel to serve on the MGRC, I believe that I would be an effective conduit between the ECC and the MGRC, helping MGRC to focus on funding work that the ECC cannot or will not prioritize.
The Zcash project has a ton of potential that is not yet realized in the world. I believe that I have a unique combination of organizational, technical and communication skills that would make me a good choice for the MGRC, and humbly request that the community give me the chance to serve in this capacity.
What kind of time commitment is expected from MGRC members?
I believe that MGRC will represent a big lift for the initial members, as much bootstrapping work is required to set the stage for future productivity. That said, once steady state is achieved, I imagine MGRC taking up about a week per quarter, per member.
What compensation structure and amount is appropriate given this level of commitment?
I believe that MGRC membership represents a significant amount of responsibility and accountability, and that members will bring specialized skills to the table, and commit non-trivial amounts of time, and that this time should be compensated accordingly. In venture backed startups, external directors are usually compensated with common stock of the company, which generally vests over time. The director has “skin in the game”, as the stock becomes more valuable as the company performs better. MGRC members compensated in ZEC have a similar upside. The amount of compensation is usually proportional to the stage of the company. I’m not sure what the right comparison is in this situation.
Will MGRC members be indemnified from liability, using D&O insurance or similar? If so, who should pay for this?
Given that MGRC will be making decisions related to the disbursement of material amounts of funding, it intuitively makes sense to me that MGRC members should be indemnified against liability for decisions that they make acting in this capacity. Seeking individual D&O policies for each individual would be prohibitively costly and would unnecessarily exclude some individuals from serving. Thus I believe that a D&O policy should be obtained to cover MGRC and that this policy should be paid out of the MGRC funds. I am open to suggestions as to alternate solutions.
Since DC is nominated by ECC, does that mean that the opinions he will bring to the MGRC discussions and decisions will be unduly influenced by Zooko?
As mentioned above, I have a long track record of caring about, and doing something about electronic surveillance and privacy concerns. I have strong opinions about the future of Zcash, and these opinions don’t always align with Zooko’s. That said, I expect that I would show up to the MGRC as a representative of the ECC, and would exert influence on MGRC in such a way that properly balances my personal conviction with the ECC team’s perspectives.