Jonathan Wheeler, a former software engineer at Goldman Sachs, quit his job at the prominent investment bank to focus on a humanitarian economic effort—using Bitcoin to help Venezuela fight hyperinflation.
In a lengthy post onMedium, Wheeler announced his resignation from Goldman Sachs to focus his full attention on what he calls “Liberating with Bitcoin—Operation: Venezuela.” The plan starts with him raising $300 million worth of “hard-earned Bitcoin capital” and “airdropping” it into Venezuela.
“The intention is to teach Venezuelans ‘how to fish,’” he wrote. “For this to serve as a ‘skipping land-lines for cell phones’ moment for the world to observe.”
Wheeler then describes the situation in Venezuela: rampant inflation, food shortages, merchants weighing stacks of worthless bills rather than bother counting them. He then argues that two of the biggest pain points with Bitcoin—high transaction fees and slow confirmation times—have been solved by the development of the Lightning Network, enabling the cryptocurrency to serve as the backbone of an economy.
Wheeler predicts that Bitcoin will “explode into the mainstream over the next five years,” and that “Bitcoin will soon support an entire economy running on top of it and Lightning Network.”
Wheeler also told crypto news siteCoinDesk, “To give it the greatest likelihood of success, it has to be done en masse. We're trying to make this a large-scale collaborative mission to help people suffering from financial tyranny.”
Due to the fact that Wheeler wants the element of surprise on his side, he is keeping the exact plans a secret. The Venezuelan state has been known to be hostile towards censorship-circumventing technologies. This past June, the government-owned internet service provider CANTV (the largest ISP in the nation)blocked access to the Tor network, used to browse the internet anonymously and surf the Deep Web.
The Venezuelan government has also attempted to resuscitate their economy by issuing a state cryptocurrency backed by oil—thePetro. It’s likely that the Venezuelan government would interpret Wheeler’s plan as a threat to the success of their coin, and act against it.
Wheeler also compares his Bitcoin promotion strategy to one of PayPal’s early marketing schemes, “PayPal once incentivized people to sign up by giving them $5 in order to create network effects. Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, notes that when one receives an email indicating that they’ve received money, one will almost always expend the effort necessary to access the money. (e.g., by creating a PayPal account.) We’re leveraging the same idea to teach people how to accept and use Bitcoin.”
Wheeler originally pitched this idea to venture capitalists at theBitDev meetup in New York City, however he was turned off by the pressure the VCs placed on him to create a token and launch an ICO.
Wheeler and his partner Morgan Crena have formed a non-profit called thePale Blue Foundation, the stated goal of which is: “To empower people disenfranchised by economic instability in their home countries as the result of monetary crises, by providing humanitarian aid in the form of education and access to cryptocurrency and its markets.”
Wheeler and Cerna are hoping to partner with the United Nations and the Human Rights Foundation in their mission against hyperinflation and economic tyranny.
Attempting to predict the success of this experiment is virtually impossible, as nothing quite like this has ever been attempted. There’s no historical precedent for an influx of deflationary, decentralized digital cash into a hyperinflated, state-controlled economy.
Perhaps it would create a new, peer-to-peer economy within Venezuela. It might also destabilize the region and lead to heightened political tension, especially if the government does not take kindly to the experiment.
Or, it might have no effect—we simply have no way of knowing. Of course, that assumes this grandiose plan actually comes to fruition. There’s certainly no shortage of obstacles for the Pale Blue Foundation to overcome.
About the author
Cameron Carpenter is a student of economics and computer science at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He is the President and Portfolio Manager of Gryphon Capital Management, a student-run investment firm. In his spare time, Cameron enjoys reading and playing chess.