In a vote consisting of five ayes and one abstention, the Bitcoin Foundation Board has elected lifetime member Bruce Fenton to the position of Executive Director, replacing interim director Patrick Murck who held the position for the five months following Jon Matonis’s resignation.
In an announcement posted on Monday afternoon, the Foundation stated that it decided that “in opinion of the board, [Fenton] is the best candidate for the job.” In February of 2015, Fenton lost his bid to win one of the two open Board seats during the general election, finishing in fourth position behind Olivier Janssens, Jim Harper, and Michael Perklin.
“Bruce Fenton is a solid leader for individual and industry members,” Board member Elizabeth Ploshay told Bitcoin Magazine. “His experience is extensive and he has an understanding of the Bitcoin space and Bitcoin Foundation.”
Fenton posted a message to Bitcoin Foundation members via the Foundation’s blog. In it, he detailed the series of events that led to his election. According to Fenton, his position is part-time and volunteer (it had historically been a paid position), and his name had been put forward in consultation with the rest of the Board members.
The new leadership announcement comes at a time of uncertainty for the beleaguered Foundation which has been struggling with issues of solvency, transparency, and public image.
In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Fenton stated, “The first order of business will be both getting the most accurate picture of where we are [financially] and communicating with members and stakeholders on the best ideas and priorities moving forward.” He added, “I’m not sure how long it will take…but certainly I’ll work to get the most full picture as quickly as possible.”
The Foundation’s Financial Reality
Despite recent reports of the Foundation’s precarious financial position, Fenton is optimistic about its future. “I’m very confident the Foundation can remain in the black partly because prior to my joining as Executive Director, outgoing costs were cut quite a bit. We can do many things in a cautious and financially responsible manner that help the organization and its mission.”
“We need to adapt to our current financial reality — this means focusing on those activities with the highest impact and lowest costs,” Fenton says. “Spending has been reduced a good deal. One of my main goals is to have the Foundation operate at the right size for positive impact while being financially prudent.”
Pivoting Back to a Broader Role
Unlike his predecessor, Fenton anticipates a broader role for the Foundation. Where Murck advocated a “pivot” in the Foundation’s direction toward core development, Fenton aims to focus “on those activities with highest impact and lowest costs.”
“The space moves fast and I think that the Foundation found that a focus on core development has some challenges — for example, funding it is expensive and relies on large donors who may have their own ideas or plans which might not mesh with an elected board and member-driven organization.”
Fenton added, “Going forward, I think the Bitcoin Foundation can be an asset to Bitcoin by working in education, financial inclusion, advocacy and other areas.”
Transparency and Accessibility: Concrete Suggestions Welcome
Regarding issues of transparency, Fenton thinks that the most important areas of transparency are in finances. “I also plan to personally be very accessible on the internal and external forums and other means,” he says. “I want to see as much transparency as possible, provided we always respect the privacy of all members when it comes to membership, communications and other areas which individuals may want to keep private.
“What I’d like to have is people make specific, concrete suggestions on what [members would] like to see. Some of those we can and should implement — some of those suggestions may come at a sacrifice to privacy or have other drawbacks, so I’d communicate with the membership on any areas of a transparency push that I disagreed with.”
Fenton brings an extensive background in finance, as well as in the Bitcoin space, to the position of Executive Director. He is a prominent investor, consultant and advisor who helped to organize the Dubai Bitcoin Conference and Satoshi Roundtable retreat. His resume includes founding Atlantic Financial, a global-focused consulting and wealth management firm, and a stint at Morgan Stanley, specializing in emerging technologies and emerging markets. He is currently Managing Director of Boston Gulf Advisors Group and on the advisory board for Bitcoin Shop, a publicly traded e-commerce marketplace.
Christie Harkin is the contributions editor at Bitcoin Magazine.