For the past three weeks, the Augur team has been on a crazy, and (at least for me) ridiculously productive, roadshow. It was so crazy, in fact, that there was a point at which we had to be two places at once and (partially succeeded.)
Our trip began, as most all of our trips do, at the Crypto Castle, Augur’s San Francisco headquarters. With unusual prescience, I decided to pack my bags more than an hour before we left, and my decision paid off handsomely, when all I managed to forget for the entirety of the trip was my European power adapter.
Joey and I began the first leg of our trip at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami. Despite having our pool/house reservation cancelled on us upon arrival, and the price of bitcoin being dismally low, the event was far from a failure. At the request of the organizer, Moe Levin, I emceed the entirety of the conference and had the opportunity to plant the Augur seed with some subliminal (and not-so-subtle) messaging over the course of the weekend. As an added perk, one of Moe’s colleagues, who I harassed for her British accent, agreed to be our tour guide in London the following week.
Joey presented Augur on the Pantera startup stage, and to our delight, he was, perhaps, the only presenter not chastised by at least one of the venture capitalist or developer judges (I refuse to speculate whether that has to do with my amicable relations with all of them.)
Joey’s presentation drew a variety of interested parties, ranging from former professional poker players and venture capitalists, to die-hard prediction market fans eager to buy Reputation and begin to seed our software with forecasts.
I had some more obscure conversations, including a discussion of the project with one of President Obama’s top tech advisors (who apparently has written a White House memo on bitcoin and the blockchain) and a former chairman and commissioner of the CFTC. The latter of who was not only the sole head of that agency not to prosecute or reject prediction markets, but he, in fact, also likes them! That, of course, is a conversation I plan to resume shortly.
Unfortunately, after being booked for Miami, I was asked to present the legal research I conducted for Augur at a bitcoin 2.0 powwow of lawyers, entrepreneurs, and academics at MIT and Harvard. Instead of using a telepresence robot (á la Roger Ver or Charlie Shrem), our good pal Tom Ding, from Koinify (who are conducting our crowdsale), was at the event and able to give a basic explanation of my work. Apparently, the arguments were well received, and it is clearer than ever that the legal ground on which our project stands is, in fact, quite solid.
After catching rays in Miami (although never actually swimming, tragically), on Monday, we headed off to my hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, for a couple days of R&R. And by R&R, I mean rocking and rolling… on work (and sending in preorder tickets for the Grateful Dead’s final shows.) I did a whole bunch of accounting for both Augur, and the College Cryptocurrency Network (which just received tax-exemption, to my delight.) Joey wrote code and worked on his presentations.
On Thursday, which was my birthday, we headed to New York City, where we were to present Augur to the Bitcoin Center there. Before our talk, we met with the esteemed law professor, Houman Shadab, of the New York Law School, who has testified before the CFTC about bitcoin, and has written about the legality of crypto-tokens. I explained to him the findings of my legal research (desperately hoping not to sound like an idiot), before introducing Joey and our project to the audience. With more time to explain the underpinnings of Augur than in Miami, we were able to successfully convey the sheer magnitude and potential of this project. After, we had the honor of meeting with one of Ethereum’s cofounders and also a cofounder of Fairlay, a bitcoin PM website that hopes to harness our API. Most importantly, after giving our presentation, we spoke further with Professor Shadab, who, to our team’s delight, accepted a position on our advisory board. Birthday celebrations ensued.
Before flying out, we had the pleasure of meeting Ron Bernstein, founder of InTrade and TradeSports; a man to whom I personally owe much (having made a killing on the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.) Mr. Bernstein, it turns out, is a big fan of Augur! We spoke for well over an hour about the potential applications of the software, in addition to discussing his personal experiences with prediction markets. By the end of the meeting, it had become clear that our visions are mutually aligned, and the Intrade founder agreed to join our advisory board as well; rounding out a board that includes the foremost experts in our undertaking, coming from the worlds of business, academia, and law.
Despite the incredible amount accomplished over the past week, our work was not yet done. Indeed, next on our agenda was London, for the Bitcoin Expo there. We flew out of NYC on Friday evening, though I just barely made the flight, as I managed to forget my backpack (containing my passport), of all things, at a bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Regardless, time zones conveniently landed us as the conference began on Saturday morning. Jetlag not being an issue for strapping young men such as us, after a change of clothes in our hotel’s bathroom (our room wasn’t ready), we zipped right over to the conference… once we figured out how to get around without cellular service.
The conference was in the most peculiar of locations, at a Catholic boys secondary school (right across from a bangin’ nightclub.) Talks were in the auditorium, where the PA system may not have been used for twenty years. Indeed, when we arrived, Bitcoin Jesus himself, Roger Ver, was standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by his disciples, as the speaker system had long since been given up on. Inspired by our first encounter with Mr. Ver, Joey and I then went off to lunch with the CEO of his most darling investment, Nic Cary of Blockchain.info. Intended to be a catch-up, as Nic and I go back, we ended up, as we often do, discussing Augur and its potential applications at length.
On Sunday, Joey gave a full-length presentation on the project to a large audience, and his talk drew some interesting characters, including the former CIO of Nadex, a top market seeder from InTrade’s heyday, and several investors, as per usual. The response was unanimous: If Augur works, it will change the world.
Our sentiment is similar, particularly after this trip. However, we are more confident than ever that this project will work. And thus, could not be more thrilled to have you be a part of it.