Holmes Wilson for MGRC

Hi everyone!

I’m the founder of the messaging app & Zcash wallet Zbay and the former co-director of the privacy & freedom activism organization Fight for the Future. I’d like to announce my candidacy for the MGRC.

I’m running because I believe that the success of Zcash depends on the user-facing apps that build on it, and that having a wallet developer’s perspective on the MGRC will help it make the best possible use of scarce funds, to bring the privacy benefits of Zcash to as many people as possible.

About me…

For the past 20 years I’ve been a technically-aware activist working for an Internet that helps people dismantle unaccountable power. I’m from the northeast U.S., but I’ve lived in Italy and Brazil and speak Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. I’m a free software advocate and once worked at the Free Software Foundation, though most of my work has been on my own open source projects or activism organizations. I have always been a huge believer in the importance and power of free software, with an especially strong interest in peer-to-peer free software since 2003, and blockchain networks since 2011. My recent talk at HOPE, Zbay, Fighting FAANG, and the Quest for a Peer-To-Peer Messaging App That “Just Works” and my writing on why I’m building Zbay are two great artifacts for understanding my thinking on all of this.

Two fun facts about me: I’m a very good karaoke DJ (“KJ”) and am currently raising ducks.

Here is a partial list of projects I’ve co-founded:

My experience building on Zcash…

As the founder of Zbay, I’m one of a still pretty small number of people who’s seen Zcash from the perspective of a development team outside Zcash Foundation (ZF) and ECC. And my commitment to making Zbay a smooth experience for users has made me familiar with many of Zcash’s rough edges and the work required to smooth them over. There are still a lot of issues that bite developers, from performance, to stability, to places where a user’s expectations clash with what’s happening under the hood. So this perspective can help inform where funding is most needed, and keep conversations about what to fund grounded in the gnarly details that teams trying to bring Zcash to mass adoption are facing and working through.

My experience with nonprofits and grantmaking…

In addition to my perspective building on Zcash, I bring a lot of relevant experience in the nonprofit and policy space that I think will be helpful—both to getting MGRC on solid footing and to winning a global regulatory landscape that’s safe for Zcash and efforts like it. As co-founder and co-director of Fight for the Future, I built a nonprofit that was both self-sustaining and extremely effective at achieving its goals. All nonprofits face a hard problem: how do you hold yourself accountable to impact without customers and a balance sheet as the ultimate metric? Businesses that don’t deliver some value will usually fail, but ineffective nonprofits can linger on indefinitely. For grant-making nonprofits this problem is even more serious, since bad grant-making decisions can distract and distort entire fields. At Fight for the Future we raised the money we needed to, but we always put campaign outcomes first and established a remarkable track record, changing the course of tech policy in the US and globally with a small team. On the MGRC, I would focus on building a similar culture and process to hold our community’s grant-making accountable to impact.

My experience with regulatory battles…

The regulatory landscape for privacy-focused cryptocurrencies affects Zcash in significant ways; my experience will probably be helpful there too. From the Apple vs. FBI case to the EARN-IT Act, U.S. law enforcement agencies have made it clear that they want a backdoor requirement for encryption, which would be a complete disaster for security and privacy. ECC, ZF, and many key individual participants are U.S.-based, so this threat affects Zcash. In a more mundane way, regulatory uncertainty and FUD also seems to be inhibiting the availability of shielded-to-fiat exchange. It seems prudent for MGRC to invest some small portion of its funds (perhaps up to 10%) in advocacy work to address issues like these—provided there are projects and teams that could credibly make an impact. (Finding and vetting effective advocacy projects and teams is really hard, and I could be helpful for that too. I know the tech policy ecosystem very well, and recently ran a grantmaking process for policy work called A-Teams that solicited proposals for and screened thousands of candidates.) There’s a tendency in the tech world to pretend that government is irrelevant while the policy defeats keep piling up, changing the course of tech for the worse. The cryptocurrency space is no exception. If Zcash needs defensive or proactive public policy work, I’m uniquely positioned to find good teams for the MGRC to fund.

On the importance of user-facing apps…

Right now, Zcash faces a chicken-and-egg problem. Anyone trying building a user-facing app with Zcash will run into issues specific to their use-case that make it hard to build a compelling product. But meanwhile, until popular user-facing apps exist, how can Zcash “core” developers know which issues merit focusing on? Without real-world use-cases to narrow it, the Zcash problem space is almost impossibly large.

If the Zcash ecosystem is something like a pipeline, delivering privacy superpowers from cutting-edge research at one end to individual end users at the other, that pipeline is still in a very formative trickle. The tech works, and early adopters are using it. But we don’t yet have enough user-facing apps to give the research and engineering teams a clear enough idea of what to build for.

My biggest hope for the Major Grants program is that it will join ECC and ZF in working to get this pipeline flowing, turning this chicken-and-egg problem into a virtuous cycle. That is, a cycle where user-facing apps with real traction are uncovering bugs and bottlenecks, clarifying what problems the engineering and research teams should solve—and where the resulting solutions make it ever easier to build successful user-facing apps.

I think the MGRC should fund up and down this pipeline, from basic research and engineering, to developer tools, to user-facing apps, and perhaps even to marketing, business development, or advocacy work. I also think it’s important for MGRC to fund a mix of straightforward (low risk, known reward) and speculative (high risk, potentially game-changing) projects.

The MGRC isn’t alone; ECC and ZF have been, and should be, pursuing similar objectives. It’s great that ECC has been “eating their own dogfood” by building mobile wallets. It’s great that ZF has been building Zebra and funding Zecwallet. Overlapping scope is fine when there’s also coordination and collaboration, which there has been. My hope is that ECC, ZF, and MGRC are different enough institutionally that they’ll each bring a different perspective to what the focus and approach should be, and that together we’ll succeed at unclogging enough bottlenecks to unlock the world-changing potential of Zcash.

On conflicts…

In June of this year Zbay was awarded a ZF grant and we may apply to the MGRC someday, but I would recuse myself from any decision to fund Zbay or any organization I have a formal relationship with (I’m on the board of Fight for the Future, for example.)

I think part of the reason why we don’t have more wallet developers running for MGRC is that many would reasonably hope to receive funding from the MGRC, and being on the MGRC makes applying for grants more fraught. Serving on the MGRC is also a time commitment and potentially a distraction. But to me it’s important enough to have some representation for wallet developers on the MGRC that it’s worth it to be involved, and my hope is that any distraction will be outweighed by what I’m able to learn from and contribute to the space!

I don’t own a significant amount of Zcash (less than 5% of portfolio.) That might change, so I’ll follow whatever policies are in place for disclosure and conflicts, and recuse myself from any discussion about what those conflict policies should be.

Thanks for reading this far and considering my candidacy! Please reach out here or privately with any questions. I’d be happy to meet on a video call or, if you like, over encrypted memos in Zbay :slight_smile:

—Holmes

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Nice to see your application @holmesworcester I am a fan of the work that you are doing with Zbay!

I have added a link to your thread to the top post of the MGRC Megathread, Good Luck!

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Thank you!

Thanks for applying! I haven’t been in Zcashland for long, but the lack of commitment towards getting shielded transaction use has been frustrating to see. This was/is a major difference from Bitcoin and to see it neglected for so long is frustrating. I think before we get sidetracked on cross-chains or DeFi or whatever hot new thing comes along we should get shielded use and education under our belts first. Also, glad you are making Zbay because this is a great usecase for zcash :smiley:

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Thanks for applying! I haven’t been in Zcashland for long, but the lack of commitment towards getting shielded transaction use has been frustrating to see. This was/is a major difference from Bitcoin and to see it neglected for so long is frustrating. I think before we get sidetracked on cross-chains or DeFi or whatever hot new thing comes along we should get shielded use and education under our belts first. Also, glad you are making Zbay because this is a great usecase for zcash :smiley:

I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. The first priority should be making it straightforward to send and receive money with strong privacy guarantees. When it comes to consumer-facing privacy tools, Tor and Signal are the leaders, so they’re the benchmark users will measure Zcash against.

This is one of the reasons why I believe user-facing apps are so important for Zcash, and why it’s so important why that have a wallet developer’s perspective on the MGRC. For Bitcoin, centralized services like Coinbase are likely to dominate, or at least serve as a friendly starting point for new users. But for Zcash, using a site like Coinbase undercuts many privacy benefits, even with shielded transactions. Unlike Bitcoin, Zcash depends on correctly implemented, user-controlled wallet apps just to deliver on its basic “send money privately” value proposition. Users must have access to such apps. For that to happen, it has to be clear enough to both users and app developers what counts as a correctly implemented Zcash app—so that any app that falls short feels pressure to meet the standard (the way a popular website that didn’t use SSL would, say.)

That said, rigid prioritization might not be possible or desirable. If there are strong teams proposing projects to bring wrapped ETH, BTC, and stablecoins to Zcash, that’s really valuable to mass adoption too, so it might make sense to fund them even if it’s not as urgent a priority.

In practice, this question of focus is a bigger problem for ECC and ZF than MGRC. Unlike ECC and ZF who have to choose what issues go in their sprints (a task I don’t envy them for!), MGRC will choose from the proposals we receive or succeed at actively soliciting. We can try our best to push forward in certain areas, but it will depend on what teams we find—unless we decided to give all the money to a third centrally-managed team like ECC or ZF, which would be a wasted opportunity, in my view.

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Hi @afterconnery ! I have found https://www.zecwallet.co/ provides a very useable, intuitive, highly available (app stores) interface to shielded transactions, including the use of memo-fields. Are you familiar with it?

I’m not sure exactly what aspect of shielded transactions are frustrating you, but it might very well be the case that https://www.zecwallet.co/ has solved your issue!!

Anyway, if you haven’t already checked it out… I recommend it!

Also it’s worth noting that with the “Heartwood” activation the size of the shielded pool is growing with every block!!

Hiya @holmesworcester big fan of Zbay and the defeat of SOPA-PIPA. I’ve been excited about (and by) FFTF for many moons. I am also pro-karaoke (though I confess some ambivalence about ducks).

I have some questions for you:

  1. What can/should/will you do as an MGRC-candidate (maybe member) about the migration of Rust from Mozilla? It seems like a pivotal moment… can the MGRC somehow direct events for the great benefit of all?

  2. What do you think of 1-year terms?

  3. If elected, are you willing to accept Zcash on a vesting schedule?

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Hi @zancas, thanks! It’s always great to run into FFTF supporters, and the process of defeating SOPA/PIPA was one of the most proud and joyful moments of my life, so it’s nice to meet other people who were tuned into the moment!

  1. What can/should/will you do as an MGRC-candidate (maybe member) about the migration of Rust from Mozilla? It seems like a pivotal moment… can the MGRC somehow direct events for the great benefit of all?

So, one thing I learned working at FFTF, in the politics & tech news cycle, is that some changes can seem very huge in the moment and seems smaller or less of a big deal afterwards. I’m not sure if this is one of those changes, but I do think it’s worth considering the possibility that it is. For instance, Rust seems to have a significant amount of traction and stakeholders, which creates a virtuous cycle independent of Mozilla or—in the short term—its own governance structure. Ultimately it’s the people that matter, and while it’s not a community I’m part of I’ve heard really good things about Rust in this sense. Also, while Mozilla is shrinking and its future may be uncertain, it doesn’t seem like it will go away. As painful as they are individually, moments of big budget cuts like these can be really healthy for organizations large and small, since they force a kind of focus. It could very well be that Mozilla, and its ability to advance the Rust ecosystem, come out stronger from this.

So as an MGRC member I’d be inclined to let the people most engaged with Rust take this on.

But I would also listen to the Rustaceans working on Zcash tools like librustzcash, zecwallet-lite-cli, and zebra. If they felt strongly that MGRC could support their work in some concrete way by supporting Rust, that would carry a lot of weight.

  1. What do you think of 1-year terms?

First, let me understand the question better. Do you mean term limits? Or do you mean that there is an election every year? Or something else?

To hazard a quick answer, I don’t think there should be term limits, and I think there should be 1 or 2 year terms at first, so that the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) gets into a regular rhythm of voting. 1 year might be dysfunctional if the composition of the entire committee changes after just a year, since 1 year is very little time to see results and evaluate the success of a grant-making organization. That said it also might be fine, especially if voters choose to re-elect some members. Waiting more than 2 years for another election marginalizes voters on the CAP, I think. I think it’s super important for the CAP to be engaged. I also think we should pay a lot of attention to the criteria for allowing people into the CAP, and try to grow the CAP to include as many people as we can who have a deep perspective on some part of the Zcash, and care about its success. This is complicated, but it’s worth trying to do well.

If elected, are you willing to accept Zcash on a vesting schedule?

I would be willing to, yes, but I’m not sure if compensation matters. I think the MGRC will be able to involve the best people if the time commitment is kept to a level where people can fit it into a typical full-time role elsewhere, since the people in the world who have the most insight to offer the MGRC probably gained those insights through intense work in more-than-full-time roles, and few will be able to simply drop everything if they are elected. Most of these people will be well-compensated in their other roles, so compensation won’t be necessary.

@sarahjamielewis made the case for full-time, compensated roles for some members but not for others, but I’m worried this would create an undesirable power/interpersonal dynamic that will muck up decisionmaking. In practice it will be really hard for the part-timers to vote against the proposals of full-timers who are “putting blood sweat & tears” (for lack of a better phrase) into the project. And it’d be really demoralizing to be a full-timer whose proposals get blocked by part-timers, and who then have to sweat away supporting projects they didn’t think should be funded.

I agree with the assessment that the grantmaking process and projects themselves will need support, but I think the MGRC should use full or part-time staff who are not MGRC members to fill these roles. One immediate option would be to look to the Zcash Foundation for this kind of staff support, since the ZIP puts the Zcash Foundation in the role of administering MGRC grants. It might also make sense for the MGRC to decide to fund this kind of support role itself.

Re: vesting itself, as an incentive or “skin-in-the-game”, crypto markets swing so wildly and unpredictably that it’s a hard signal for a typical human to process. Meanwhile, many participants in the Zcash ecosystem are motivated by deep-rooted values and hopes for the world, build their life’s work around that, and will keep doing that even if Zcash drops 15x—just as the leaders of the Ethereum project are, and did. I suspect compensation and vesting won’t matter, but if there’s a “vesting schedule” it should be unusually long. Say, ZEC set aside that’s claimable after 10 years.

Startups typically use vesting to keep people on the team. Perhaps there’s some formal or informal expectation that you keep helping out in some way after your MGRC term is over in order to fully vest? The MGRC will probably have an amazing alumni network after just a few years, and this might be a way to reward them for staying engaged? Just an idea!

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I have used zecwallet since I started using Zcash at the beginning of this year. My remark was in regards to this project being 4 years old and only now, past few months specifically, is there a greater focus on shielded use. Now that we actually have shielded mobile wallets I think there needs to be a big educational push as to why private transactions are important and how Zcash addresses this issue really well.

I mean why should Zcash focus on other things? Komodo does blockchain security well for other coins, Horizen seems to be doing really well with sidechains, so what should Zcash’s focus be? I think we should go with private transactions because that was baked into the reason for creating this coin.

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I agree. Privacy is the core value proposition, so that should be the focus.

At a minimum, that means making sure there are apps for all major platforms where non-technical users around the world can:

  1. On-ramp from BTC, ETH, or fiat
  2. Hold funds
  3. Use funds / earn funds
  4. Off-ramp to BTC, ETH, or fiat

…Without leaking data that could be used against them.

Achieving this will require a focus on wallet apps.

  • How do wallets encourage shielded use whenever possible?
  • How do wallets send and receive transactions without leaking an IP to the network or being easy to fingerprint in some other way? (See: Bitcoin over Tor isn’t a good idea)
  • How can wallets let users onramp/offramp in a range of jurisdictions? (Exchange support)
  • How do wallets encourage users to onramp/offramp in ways that don’t reveal what they are doing? (i.e. if you buy $1337 of ZEC and send it to someone who immediately buys $1337 of USD, that leaks the transaction graph to the exchange or anyone who can monitor multiple exchanges, even if both exchanges support shielded transactions!)
  • How do wallets do note management in ways that balance usability while protecting against dusting attacks?

When it comes to privacy, wallets are where the rubber meets the road. This is why it’s so important for the MGRC to include a wallet developer’s perspective—and this is why I’m running.

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people have been MITMing btc transactions via tor for ages now. I will try to find the article. its quite large sums that are being taken. Mainly from people using darknets and thinking tor + btc is super secure… double DES anyone? :slight_smile:

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Yes. I think some people when seeking privacy online end up straying off the beaten path and using cutting edge tools in exotic, untested combinations. That’s not going to go well!

We need to help ensure that the Zcash wallets most people are using are doing as much as they can—up to the limits of our imagination and what’s practically possible—to protect users from data leaks.

Given the MGRC’s position as a grantmaker that can support and influence a range of projects and products, the MGRC is in a unique position to make this a reality.

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Here are my responses to the “big open questions” that have been distilled from community discussions.

  1. ZIP Ambiguity: The ZIP-1014 language has some ambiguities. Where would you stand on how to interpret and implement operational activities when there is no explicit language to guide you? How should the MGRC consider community will/preference?

The goals here are legitimacy and efficacy. Zcash holders are trusting the MGRC with their money. This money is not coming out of thin air; it’s the result of work and sacrifice of real people. So Zcash holders deserve a clear, transparent implementation of the intention of the ZIP. Zcash holders also deserve an effective use of their funds. This pool of money is just too precious to waste. Finding funding for privacy tech is hard. This funding pool is historic, and it’s crucial for Zcash. We can’t mess this up!

Legitimacy requires that all steps flow clearly from reasonable common-sense interpretations of the ZIP and the intentions behind it. But efficacy requires MGRC members holds themselves accountable to impact—not blindly following a set of steps because it seems like what the ZIP authors wanted. (The community doesn’t want the MGRC to waste their money.)

So if there’s ever a tension between efficacy and legitimacy, that is, if MGRC members ever feel the ZIP is holding them back, I think the solution is that MGRC members should push for the best possible answer within reasonable interpretations of the ZIP, explaining their interpretation and listening / responding to outside feedback. And if MGRC members believe the ZIP is holding them back, they should write this up and propose a change for the community to vote on, rather than stretching the interpretation of the ZIP. (But no idea that makes sense should be permanently set aside just because the language in the ZIP seems to preclude it.)

  1. MGRC Role: Should MGRC be a “driving actor” or provide sourcing, oversight and review? [context]. Should MGRC be more of a bureaucracy (with hierarchy, continuity, defined rules, and expertise) or can it be an adhocracy (decentralized and flexible)?

We don’t want to create another ECC or ZF. But I think the MGRC will need to do more than simply reviewing grant applications to be successful. For example, I think we’ll need to do a lot of work to build a pipeline of high quality applicants, and this might require some support staff. That said, it should still be pretty flat, i.e. MGRC committee members with support staff who report to the MGRC.

  1. Teamwork: Have you had previous experiences of being put together rather arbitrarily in a team before? If so, how did you manage? How will you go about managing disagreements between 1) yourself and another MGRC member and 2) other MGRC members with each other?

My response to this question is here: MGRC candidates teamwork questions

  1. Processes: If you were elected to the MGRC, what processes and frameworks would you attempt to set in place in order to allow frictionless collaboration between the members of the MGRC?

I think it makes a lot of sense to have a part-time staffer working on recruiting, outreach, screening calls, and generally moving candidates through the pipeline, with decisions from all or some of the committee at each stage in the process. There’s a basic requirement where you want applicants to be getting timely responses, and that’s hard when the work is spread across a group of people. When we ran a grantmaking program called A-Teams at my previous organization Fight for the Future, having someone in this role was hugely helpful, and I don’t think it would be too hard to find someone excellent.

In our candidate call, @LizBoomLiz mentioned the approach of some kind of scoring system for applicants given a set of criteria we decide on. That sounds like a good idea too, once the volume of applications gets to a certain point.

Is it a conflict of interest for a member of another cryptocurrency project to be on the MGRC?

If they’re a good fit for the role, and they follow standard practices for conflicts of interest, I don’t think there’s an issue here. A role working in another cryptocurrency project could bring experience and connections that would benefit the MGRC.

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Hello @holmesworcester For my vote, please answer my questions frankly:

  1. Are you pro BTC? If yes, Why? If not, Why?
  2. What is the largest account size you’ve handled in USD? How many end users did it impact?
  3. MGRC will control 8640 ZEC per month or 25920 per quarter, how will this be roughly spent? (provide napkin calculation).
  4. MGRC announcement attracts 100s of applicants from all over the world with all random ideas, all matching your goals, how would you evaluate them?
  5. KPIs aren’t entirely possible on a privacy preserving payments protocol project’s level, it’s all z2z, how will you evaluate funded team’s impact?
  6. DeFi fever made ETH run 2x compared to every cryptocurrency this year, thoughts?
  7. What locals, regions, languages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds of people have you worked with? What are your preferences of assembling teams that deliver?
  8. We live in a remote world now, how do you evaluate applicants for grants?
  9. Projects in Zcash are going to go through a huge change beyond the handful, driven teams funded via Zcash Foundation, thoughts?
  10. Zcash is a protocol at its core, ZEC price is volatile. How will you handle a single digit ZEC? ($9 x 8640/month = $77,760) How will you handle a 5 digit ZEC? ($21,000 x 8640/month = $181.44MM) Thoughts…
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Will reply later today! Thanks for your questions!

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Are you pro BTC? If yes, Why? If not, Why?

This is a really interesting question and there are a lot of ways I could answer it.

One way to answer is to say that I used to have a meaningful amount of Bitcoin, and now I don’t. Bitcoin was the first real investment I ever made, and I was really excited about it for a while. But at some point in the past few years I stopped being excited about it, so I got out.

In terms of whether I think Bitcoin is good for the world, I definitely think it is, for now at least. Its carbon footprint is a real problem, but I think we need to see that in the context of the carbon footprint of its brick-and-mortar alternatives (one of which, buying real estate, is literally brick and mortar!) and remember that Bitcoin can and will be replaced by something better if its carbon footprint continues to grow.

How Bitcoin is treated by governments will impact how cryptocurrencies like Zcash are treated, and I obviously really care about that, so if we’re talking about a regulatory battle I am very pro Bitcoin. In the arena of law and policy, we are all Bitcoin.

From a user perspective, I think Bitcoin is really useful as an easy, universal global onramp. Whether it’s Bitcoin ATMs, or extremely smooth Bitcoin purchase experiences in apps like Square’s CashApp, Bitcoin right now plays a role as a way into the cryptocurrency space. (For example, in the context of my own project Zbay, I could let people deposit directly into a built-in Bitcoin wallet, and then seamlessly trade it for ZEC on a cross-chain DEX like Ren and autoshield it in the background. That way, Zbay can benefit from all of the smooth onramps that already exist for Bitcoin all around the world.)

One of my goals for the MGRC would be to make Zcash onramps just as smooth and ubiquitous as—or better than—Bitcoin onramps are now. But in the meantime I think it’s good to recognize that Bitcoin can play this role.

What is the largest account size you’ve handled in USD? How many end users did it impact?

My background is a bit different because the bulk of it has been in nonprofits. At Fight for the Future, which I co-ran for 8 years and where I’m now on the board, the combined annual budget of our two organizations was around 2 million USD when I left. So, less than what the MGRC will be giving out, and hopefully a lot less someday, but same order of magnitude right now.

(Nonprofit organizations of that size also have very stringent requirements for tracking how funds are spent, so as an executive director of a nonprofit you get exposed to a degree of process and overhead that you would only see at a much larger company. We had to do full audits every year, for example. We were required by law to have robust processes in place to ensure that funds weren’t misused. We also had an additional complexity of running two organizations in parallel, since our 501c3 could receive tax-deductible donations, but couldn’t engage in certain activities. All of this is somewhat specific, but I include it just to say that I have experience working with accountants and bookkeepers to build processes for careful and responsible use of funds.)

In terms of impact, our larger campaigns would directly reach high 10s of millions of people and generate millions of conversions, such as emails or calls to policymakers. Because of the way we worked, some of this reach would happen in a sudden burst on a single day, so we had to prepare very carefully. We operated an email list that hovered around 1 million subscribers.

In terms of software projects I’ve been responsible for, I co-founded and product managed the open-source, crowdsourced subtitling platform Amara when we were preparing to be the platform TED Talks used for volunteer translation. That product was later used by Google, Netflix, and others.

MGRC will control 8640 ZEC per month or 25920 per quarter, how will this be roughly spent? (provide napkin calculation).

I expect we’ll decide to hire one or two part-time support staff at market rates to help us attract high-quality applicants and move applications through our process.

I’d expect this to cost between 50k and 300k per year, depending on how much specialized in-house technical review capacity we feel we need, which I think depends on patterns in the kinds of applications we receive.

I could be totally wrong about this. Some people might have a clearer sense of this than I do, but I don’t think any of us really know what will make sense until we get into it.

Also, if the price of ZEC increases significantly throughout the year, we’ll start making more and possibly larger grants, so the cost of having an appropriate amount of support could increase.

Whatever we’re not spending on support staff we’ll spend on grants and prizes. If the community formerly approves, some funds might also go to investments in companies building on Zcash.

MGRC announcement attracts 100s of applicants from all over the world with all random ideas, all matching your goals, how would you evaluate them?

You know, I think it’s actually pretty unlikely that we’ll attract 100 applicants right off the bat. The Zcash Foundation has been accepting grants for over a year I believe, and there are less than 30 proposals in its portal if I’m counting correctly. We shouldn’t expect to just sit back and pick the cream of the crop. That would be great, but I don’t think it’s realistic. We’ll need to do a lot of work to attract quality applicants in order to make the best use of MGRC funds.

In applicants I expect we’ll look for projects that have a great idea, a great team, and a significant win for the Zcash ecosystem if they succeed.

Beyond that, these characteristics would give projects a boost, in my book:

  1. They make the core Zcash offering better (librustzcash, zcashd, zebra, lightwalletd, lightwallet SDK, wallets, etc) as opposed to building some new parallel product or infrastructure—because in these cases Zcash users will benefit directly and we aren’t gambling on whether a project can attract users.
  2. They are a one-off lift with no ongoing cost, e.g. a significant one-time improvement to a basic tool or library that makes the project no more costly, or less costly, to maintain for existing Zcash teams—because in these cases we aren’t gambling on whether the project will be able to sustain itself, or implicitly signing up for a multi-year funding commitment.
  3. They enhance Zcash privacy for common threat models—because privacy is our core value proposition.
  4. They create or improve user-facing tools that strengthen the Zcash brand—because I think Zcash needs built-specifically-for-Zcash user-facing tools more than other non-privacy-focused cryptocurrencies do, and we don’t have enough of them.
  5. For high risk projects, projects that, if they succeed, could single-handedly make the MGRC successful in bringing financial privacy to the entire world. VCs try to invest in companies that can single-handedly make the entire fund a success even if all other investments fail—this is the mission-driven version of that idea!

I think we should develop other criteria like these as we move forward. And I look forward to working with other MGRC members to figure out our criteria and our focus.

KPIs aren’t entirely possible on a privacy preserving payments protocol project’s level, it’s all z2z, how will you evaluate funded team’s impact?

By the time we get to the point of funding a team, we’ll have an idea of what they want to achieve and what their milestones are, and metrics for those milestones. So we’ll evaluate them by those, and those goals will need to be updated as their project progresses. Shielded transactions isn’t the only way to measure Zcash usage or the success of a given project.

I believe the harder question is how we evaluate our own performance as grantmakers, and to some extent how you, as a member of the CAP, evaluate our performance as participants in the MGRC. Even the best funding decisions we make could easily take months or years to have an impact, right?

I think the important thing will be to have as clear as possible an idea with what’s happening with all of our funding decisions at any given point, do whatever we can to make them go as well as possible, improve our future decisions based on that, and talk about all of this with all of you, through regular community calls and written updates.

DeFi fever made ETH run 2x compared to every cryptocurrency this year, thoughts?

Ethereum’s core value proposition is programmability, which on blockchain means programmable money, so when people suddenly have more free time and an increased savings rate, it makes sense that people and money will flock to Ethereum.

Zcash’s core value proposition is privacy. There are moments when the world flocks to privacy tools. Usage of private search engine DuckDuckGo increased 7x after the Snowden revelations and installs of the private message app Signal skyrocketed during this year’s protests for George Floyd and China’s crackdown on civic life in Hong Kong.

Privacy tools often see long periods of slow growth, spreading in small niches, until one of these moments hits, at which point users flock to whatever tool offers the best privacy and a good-enough user experience. Our goal should be to make sure Zcash has the best possible privacy protections and offers a good user experience for most users. I believe our biggest spikes in growth will come from that.

What locals, regions, languages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds of people have you worked with?

I’ve lived in mostly in the US and Brazil. In the US I’ve lived in the Northeast, which is also where I was born. In Brazil I’ve lived about 50/50 between the center-south and the north, which are almost as different as the US and Brazil. I lived in Italy for a year as a student.

I speak Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, though I’ve only worked full-time in English.

I’ve worked in remote teams for almost my entire career, with people living in Brazil, Poland, Albania, France, the UK, and various parts of the US.

What are your preferences of assembling teams that deliver?

Great people! For the political activism work I did it was very important that everyone was working synchronously, because the playing field changes a lot from day to day. But even there we had some people working -3 or +6 our time zone. For software projects where (ideally) your work isn’t being redefined daily in ways that require active discussion, time zones don’t seem to be important as long as there’s some overlap that allows for voice calls.

We live in a remote world now, how do you evaluate applicants for grants?

Written proposals, relevant examples of past work, calls. I’d be open to thinking about Y Combinator-style video applications too, but I’m not sure if it’s a fit for all of the kinds of applications we’ll be getting, and it’s a lot of work for the applicants.

Projects in Zcash are going to go through a huge change beyond the handful, driven teams funded via Zcash Foundation, thoughts?

One general thought I have is that it will be good to find projects that can enhance core Zcash tools without requiring a lot of communication with existing teams at ECC and ZF. This won’t always be possible but we should look for places where it is.

Zcash is a protocol at its core, ZEC price is volatile. How will you handle a single digit ZEC? ($9 x 8640/month = $77,760) How will you handle a 5 digit ZEC? ($21,000 x 8640/month = $181.44MM) Thoughts…

Some thoughts:

  1. We should be moving to USD or a stablecoin whenever we make grant commitments, to protect grantees.
  2. We should be aware of the potential for market-wide bubbles and we may want to sell reserves of ZEC (to the extent we have any) at intervals on the way up.
  3. We shouldn’t take any steps in secret. It should be possible for an interested observer to follow whatever we’re doing to manage funds.
  4. If ZEC goes to single digit, we’ll be grantmaking on whatever reserves we have. If we have no reserves, we can use the time to prepare for when the value goes up. If ZEC dropped to single digits because of some specific crisis, we should use our time to address that crisis.
  5. If ZEC goes to 5 digits, I expect we would build up reserves to last past the four year time horizon defined in the ZIP. If we feel Zcash has not yet achieved its mission in a decisive way, I would bias towards spending funds over ~10 years even if that implies a high spending rate, rather than creating a permanent endowment. Tech moves fast and achieving the mission is more important than being able to make grants forever :slight_smile:
  6. If we are flush with ZEC but feel Zcash has achieved its mission, we should consider proposing a new ZIP that ends the MGRC and burning whatever funds we have to effectively return them to the community. I’m not saying we should do this automatically, but it should be on the table as an option.
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Good Luck Mr. Wilson

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Thank you!

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