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Providing Some Clarity on Bitcoin Unlimited's Financial Decisions

Providing Some Clarity on Bitcoin Unlimited's Financial Decisions

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Providing Some Clarity on Bitcoin Unlimited's Financial Decisions

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Introduction

As promised in our previous article, we wanted to provide some extra clarity on Bitcoin Unlimited financial choices. We wanted to do this as there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation within the community as to the reasons behind these choices.

It has been claimed by a small number of influential people in the ecosystem that Bitcoin Unlimited does not support BCH (see the previous article debunking this claim) and that BU’s holdings are supposedly evidence of this. Background Bitcoin Unlimited was founded in 2015, and was set up as a response to the Bitcoin block size debate. More specifically, it was created to provide software that allowed on-chain scaling as originally proposed by Satoshi Nakamoto. As we all know, on-chain scaling is a vital component required for peer-to-peer electronic cash to serve the world’s population. Without it Bitcoin would be limited to serving only a small number of people willing and able to pay exorbitantly high fees. Our organisation was created to make Bitcoin unlimited. This prediction of high fees and limited capacity was played out in the BTC we know today as we predicted.

Bitcoin Unlimited received a large anonymous donation in BTC in 2016 from supporters of the ‘on-chain scaling’ movement. This donation allowed our organisation to remain independent and focussed on building software that allows on-chain scaling.

As you all know, in August of 2017, Bitcoin Cash was created after an unsuccessful multi-year effort to allow Bitcoin (BTC) to scale on-chain. Bitcoin Cash was created with the goal of on-chain scaling to support the world’s population right at its heart and BU has been supporting it since the idea was originally formulated.

Once Bitcoin Cash was created it also meant that all funds Bitcoin Unlimited held (BTC) were forked into two equal sets of coins, BTC and BCH. This put BU into a position where we had to make an important decision on how to handle these funds in a way that was in the interest of both BCH and BU.

Financial Prudence

Any organisation that wants to be effective in its goals must aim to always be financially sustainable. Without money, achieving anything becomes significantly more difficult. Cryptocurrencies only magnify this issue even further. Highly volatile asset values, opaque and dynamic tax and regulatory environments, and the unique properties of cryptocurrencies all contribute towards making the financial operations of an organisation an extreme challenge to say the least. Navigating this challenging landscape is a necessary requirement for the success of any organisation within our industry though.

While Bitcoin Unlimited’s primary goal is to make sure peer-to-peer electronic cash (as set out in the Bitcoin white-paper) becomes a reality, a secondary goal must be to make sure that it has the resources required to make its primary goal achievable, and an important part of these resources are its funds.

After Bitcoin forked into BTC and BCH, Bitcoin Unlimited then held an equal number of both. Although a BUIP was passed to authorize some extra conversion, significant practical obstacles to doing so exist (although this is still being worked on). However, since the overarching reason to convert a significant number of BTC to BCH is to maintain financial prudence based on the reasons outlined below and the poor BCH price performance has heavily skewed our holdings, we do anticipate some rebalancing when these obstacles are resolved.

We will further expand on these reasons below. Historic Volatility It is a fact that BCH has historically been more volatile than BTC. An organisation that wishes to maintain a lower level of risk must aim to hold a majority of funds in assets which will maintain their value over time, i.e. be less volatile in their price. It is unfortunately true that BCH has been a more volatile asset than BCH since its creation. While there has been lots of progress and maturation of the BCH ecosystem, this price volatility is likely due to BCH still being a smaller and less developed ecosystem than BTC. The graphs below show levels of volatility in the two coins compared.

BTC

BCH

This higher volatility in BCH has meant that to significantly increase BU’s holdings of BCH would expose the organisation to a higher level of risk for ideological reasons. BTC is already a high-volatility asset and to expose the organisation funds to even higher volatility and further risk is a decision that should not be taken based on simplistic ideology, but rather with the strategy of maximising the ability for the organisation to achieve its primary goals. This meant making the decision to not take on a higher exposure to price volatility, and instead maintain a more conservative risk profile.

Lack Of Say In The Protocol

One argument that has been put forward to suggest that this decision does not make sense because it is analogous to a CEO of a company holding more shares in their competitor’s company. This analogy does not accurately reflect the current scenario for BU or BCH. In this analogy BU is the CEO and BCH is the company. Ignoring the shareholders, A CEO is able to have the largest impact on a company compared to any other stakeholder. Their actions have a direct impact on operations of the company and therefore its value and the value of the shares.

Unfortunately, Bitcoin Unlimited currently has little to no input on the BCH protocol. It has no way to directly influence the direction or success of BCH. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, BCH has a mining software homogeneity that is as centralised as BTC (i.e. essentially all miners and pools run a single client, BitcoinABC). This means that, all though BU has a slight majority in non-mining and in-consensus nodes, BU has no say in protocol decisions unless a collaborative and decentralised development model were to be used by BitcoinABC. This is an unfortunate situation considering the fact that the community split from BTC for this very reason and is strongly in support of decentralised development. Secondly, BitcoinABC does not take a collaborative approach to development. All decisions and features are dictated by BitcoinABC.

In fact the situation is unfortunately even worse than this. BitcoinABC has decided to take an actively hostile position against Bitcoin Unlimited (and many other valuable participants in the ecosystem) and would rather that it did not exist at all.

While a number of members of BitcoinABC were previously members of BU, they unfortunately used their privilege as members to try (but fortunately failed) to sabotage the organisation.

https://www.bitcoinunlimited.info/voting/render/proposal_vote_result/7eb0ded0487a6593ac3976b63422294e1a84b209be1307c46f373489922212a0

https://www.bitcoinunlimited.info/voting/render/proposal_vote_result/6285fcef8fa44416b8e83f25bfebe79aff502c1446a7b60bfab28ec58c35b609

https://www.bitcoinunlimited.info/voting/render/proposal_vote_result/b10f54ece2ea3b9001086ebdde0001fbef9dc2fd83729a65ba207c0f1d9dfceb

These three voting records show members of BitcoinABC voting for the purchase of BSV coin, voting for an unfeasibly large block size increase (10TB), and voting for implementation of and miner-activation of BSV features into the BU client. None of these actions were implemented in the ABC client, and the inclusion of BSV features is likely the single biggest criticism certain ABC affiliated people have made against BU, yet members of BitcoinABC voted for it.

While it is important to assume good faith, under no interpretation can this be seen as anything other an act of bad will towards BU. Unfortunately this kind of behaviour is rather the rule than the exception and has likely been a major factor in BCH’s struggle to attract quality developers into the ecosystem.

Regardless of the hard work done by members of BU to create useful software for Bitcoin Cash, and its continued commitment towards peer-to-peer electronic cash for the past 5 years, ABC will unfortunately never allow any of BU’s work to go into the BCH protocol willingly.

If BU were to invest all its funds into BCH it would be making a highly risky bet on BitcoinABC’s leadership, a leadership that has not only been historically unsuccessful (when looking at the price of BCH since its creation, both in dollar terms and BTC/BCH ratio terms), but also actively hostile to our organisation. A more cautious approach that takes these factors into account is to keep the funds held where there has been less volatility.

Regardless of all of this, BU is still 100% committed to supporting Bitcoin Cash.

Game Theory: The Strategy of Betting Against Yourself

Counter intuitively, a strategy where you bet against yourself can provide a beneficial low-risk profile. When you bet against yourself, if you lose you win and if you win you win. With BU’s current asset holdings of BCH and BTC the organisation is financially hedged in a way that it wins if BCH wins, and if BTC wins then BU lives to fight another day for worldwide peer-to-peer electronic cash.

If BTC goes down and BCH goes up then it means BCH is succeeding, and our funds in BCH will sustain us for longer. Not only that, but there would likely be more funds available for BCH development in this scenario. If BTC goes up and BCH goes down then BU will be sustained for longer to continue the fight for BCH and peer-to-peer electronic cash.

This is very similar to the strategy of BCH-supporting miners mining on BTC and then converting the BTC block rewards into BCH in an effort to use BTC gains to support BCH price. BU is similarly using its gains in BTC and converting them to efforts and initiatives in support of BCH. In doing so Bitcoin Unlimited is able to turn any BTC win into a positive for BCH.

Incentives

It has been suggested that the situation created by holding a larger portion of funds in BTC than in BCH creates negative incentives that push BU towards supporting BTC. It is important to keep in mind that Bitcoin Unlimited is not a profit driven organisation. While an increase in value of its assets is of course beneficial to the organisation, our primary goal is to accelerate the global adoption of peer-to-peer electronic cash as described in the Bitcoin white-paper, and the officials, membership and founding articles of Bitcoin Unlimited are the driving force for this.

It is also important to point out that there is no evidence to support the claim that BU is in support of BTC (or BSV). In fact the voting record clearly shows the opposite of this. BU has continually worked in support of peer-to-peer electronic cash, and specifically in support of BCH since it was created. This is thanks to the strong commitment by the BU officials and members, all of whom are long time Bitcoiners and supporters of the ‘on-chain scaling’ movement. The only members who receive any payment from the organisation are those who provide significant value in the form of various skilled services, and all of these are voted on by the membership. The BUIP record also shows that compensated individuals are often compensated at far under market rates for developers of their caliber. Should the price of BTC increase, no member receives any direct benefit from this beyond any appreciation in value of any BTC they privately hold. Therefore there are no strong incentives for BU to drive the price of BTC up and push the price of BCH down as this would be counter to our primary goal.

Has This Strategy Been Successful?

Bitcoin Unlimited and its members, all being long-time Bitcoiners, are acutely aware of the need to play the long game to make sure a globally adopted peer-to-peer electronic cash becomes a reality. BU is the oldest entity within the BCH ecosystem and with good reason. The financial strategy of BU to date has been highly effective in sustaining the organisation over a long period of time, and allowing it to independently support BCH development initiatives. This is made clear by the fact that BU continues to have enough funding to provide value to the BCH ecosystem for the foreseeable future.

Had BU converted all funds to BCH at, or at almost any point after, the time of the BCH/BTC fork in August 2017, then for much of the time since it would have been forced to either scale back operations or shut down support for BCH developers completely. We now see development teams such as BitcoinABC facing the prospect of being unable to fund their development of BCH, and their financial strategy may have contributed to this reality. This is despite the fact that nearly all the funds donated in the recent community funding drive sponsored by bitcoin.com were directed towards BitcoinABC.

Lack of a sustainable funding model also seems to have been a major factor in pushing BitcoinABC to make the highly controversial decision to support a change to the BCH protocol that would divert 12.5% of the block reward to themselves. Being financially prudent and sticking to its principles (as defined in the founding Articles of Federation has allowed Bitcoin Unlimited to steer clear of any conflicts of interest such as this.

Summary

Through its financial strategy Bitcoin Unlimited has been able to maintain its independence and financial sustainability and has therefore remained in a strong position to support Bitcoin Cash. BU’s officials and membership have continually made good decisions that have allowed BU to provide long-term support for the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem.

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