The wealthiest serving member of Congress, California congressman Darrell Issa, visited Airbitz, a Bitcoin wallet provider. The Airbitz team and Issa discussed legislation enabling startups to raise equity funding not only from accredited investors but the public as well.
Congressman Buys Bitcoin
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Airbitz focuses on enterprise software allowing companies to encrypt and secure consumer data. In day-to-day practice, Airbitz is a Bitcoin wallet provider, including a directory and possibly an exchange in the future operated by a third party. According to Airbitz co-founder Paul Puey, the startup and the Congressman talked about Bitcoin at great length.
“Our chat with the Congressman was full of Bitcoin discussion,” he told Bitcoin.com over e-mail. “We talked to no end about the role of bitcoin in balancing financial powers, its utility relative to gold and fiat, and how it redefines our notion of money.”
Airbitz raised $475,000 USD in traditional venture capital. According to the Union Tribune, the company will next raise $1 million from the public. This can be done thanks to Title III of the JOBS Act.
Airbitz, founded in San Diego, is a leading advocate of crypto-currency in San Diego. They host regular Bitcoin meetups. Airbitz CEO, Paul Puey, speaks at industry events in not only the US, but also New Zealand, Denver and Australia. Airbitz, while serving as a central point in the Bitcoin ecosystem, generally advocates for a decentralized future of Bitcoin. For example, an Airbitz wallet was the first involved in a Cuba Bitcoin transaction.
— Airbitz Inc (@Airbitz) August 5, 2016
Issa serves the northern coastal areas of San Diego county, including Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and Encinitas, including part of southern Orange County. Issa made an approximately $250 million fortune manufacturing car alarms and theft deterrent systems. He is ranked the wealthiest currently-serving member of Congress for three consecutive years.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Airbitz, the startup and the Congressman had a fruitful conversation about the importance of encryption and innovation. Issa repeated throughout his trips to startups throughout the day: “There are times in which your government is the problem and not the solution.” Airbitz agrees.
Issa’s visit is an interesting turn of events for the Bitcoin startup, Airbitz. In the past, the startup expressed its interest in becoming like “dark wallet but mainstream.” Dark wallet, the work of crypto-anarchists Amir Taaki and Cody Wilson, who once called Dark Wallet – the Bitcoin wallet Airbitz wants to be like – a “money laundering application.”; that is, the anonymity made possible by dark wallet and Bitcoin would allow people to enjoy privacy in banking with the digital currency.
Airbitz, whose lead developer William Swanson worked closely with Taaki on the anonymity-based DarkMarket for a hackathon, has long tried to bridge the gaps between venture capital and the Bitcoiners who “are trying to keep Bitcoin rooted in its anarchistic origins, with an emphasis on privacy and breaking away from conventional financial structures.” Then, and now, Airbitz highlights the importance of privacy.
“We have a core focus on incredibly high user privacy and financial autonomy,” Paul Puey told Motherboard in an email. “Yet at the same time we’re trying to deliver a product for the masses with very strong user experience and ease of use. Consider us the Dark Wallet for everyone.”
That might be a tough sell to a Congressman, and also not the kind of rhetoric that might sell Congress on a laissez-faire approach to encryption technology in general.
“We have no idea in the world what is going on with our users,” Puey added. “How much money they’re spending or what their public addresses are.”
That’s not an easy sell in the age of anti-money laundering and know your customer. It also puts Airbitz’ users at increased risk due to the scrutiny such anti-regulation rhetoric can garner for a fintech startup. Still, Airbitz holds firm. Puey told Bitcoin.com:
We do take pride in the strong privacy of our platform. Not just in the days of Dark Market, but up to this day. We fundamentally believe that security and privacy go hand in hand. And since we’re a private key security company, we not going to compromise security to reduce privacy.
Airbitz is still fundamentally a Bitcoin startup. It aligns itself with the likes of Cody Wilson, Amir Taaki and Dark Wallet, as well as plans to launch its own token sale, similar to Bitcoin wallet competitor Mycelium.
Apparently crowdsales and libertarian ideology go hand in hand.
Where do you stand on the issue of privacy? Should startups protect their users from gov’t? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of www.flickr.com, getty images, airbitz