Bitcoin is a powerful brand. Even uttering its name – or that of its underlying technology, blockchain – can be enough to revive tired companies and send stock prices soaring. But Bitcoin isn’t the only name strategically deployed for marketing purposes: companies are also shamelessly cashing in on the name of the cryptocurrency’s founding fathers.
Hijacking the Bitcoin Brand
Pseudonymous, enigmatic, and unknowable, Satoshi Nakamoto was bound to leave a legacy. Responsible for one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century, Satoshi’s name has kept resonating long after he submitted his final Bitcointalk post and went AFK for time indefinite. His name has come to be used for everything from the smallest unit of bitcoin – a satoshi – to educational initiatives such as the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute, an organization set up to share cryptography ideas.
These instances, and many more which take the pseudonym of bitcoin’s creator, demonstrate the respect that the community has for Satoshi, whoever they were. There are other cases of “Satoshi dropping” though where it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s more about brand hijacking than crediting Nakamoto’s genius. There’s Satoshi Brewery, for example, a Russian project that promised to create the world’s first brewery token. Its ICO page has since disappeared, and the brewery’s website is just a holding page, which doesn’t bode well for the project. Uttering the name of Satoshi is no protection against mediocrity.
Preying on the Defenceless
It’s not just Satoshi Nakamoto whose name has been exploited for capital gain. The same has happened to Hal Finney. Like Satoshi, Finney is no longer around to defend himself. The computer scientist, who was the second person ever to use bitcoin, died in 2014 following terminal illness. After his death, his body was cryopreserved. Finney is held in high regard by the bitcoin community, but more recent entrants to the crypto space seem to care less about what Finney did for bitcoin and more about what he can do for them.
Cryogen is an ICO that, in faltering English, offers to “safe your body, brain, or even pet” by cryogenically freezing them. The homepage of its website attributes a false cryonics quote to Hal Finney. Even if the bitcoin pioneer had uttered those words, it is hard to imagine him consenting to endorse a cryo-crypto project. In December, Sirin Labs raised $157m via a crowdsale for its blockchain smartphone, named Finney. This invocation of Hal Finney’s name is at least more tasteful than that of Cryogen.
There’s nothing to stop startups from ambushing the bitcoin brand and adopting the names of its founding fathers. While some instances are respectful, others, unfortunately, feel outright cynical.
How do you feel about companies using the names of Nakamoto and Finney? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Cryogen and Satoshi Brewery.
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