German entrepreneur and Bitcoin enthusiast Vitus Zeller began his Team Satoshi athletic initiative in January 2019. By virtue of the #TeamSatoshi hashtag (now popular among Bitcoin sports enthusiasts), a worldwide torch is passed on Twitter between marathon runners who embrace and promote the values of sound money. In this exclusive Bitcoin Magazine interview, held on the second day of The Lightning Conference in Berlin, Zeller explained how it all started and how a personal challenge grew into a global phenomenon.
From Tour de Satoshi to Team Satoshi
It all started with Zeller’s desire to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin’s Genesis Block, so he embarked on a 10-day challenge to bike across the Swiss Alps. His journey, which he called the “Tour de Satoshi,” was more than a personal tribute to Satoshi Nakamoto: Every night, he paid for his hotel room with bitcoin as a way of raising awareness and spreading adoption. Zeller’s trial also bears the symbolism of transformation: He began riding his bicycle in the defining city of the Renaissance (Florence, Italy) and stopped in Frankfurt, Germany, at the European Central Bank.
“Tour de Satoshi was a winter bike tour through Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and Germany. I went from Florence to the European Central Bank, trying to pay every night with Bitcoin.”— Vitus Zeller
In August 2019, Zeller upped the stakes by inviting other athletes to join a triathlon challenge across Switzerland and Germany. Seven Bitcoin enthusiasts would run, cycle and swim over a distance of 222 miles and pass a torch along the way. This effort gave birth to the Team Satoshi concept.
“We had a triathlon through Switzerland and Germany. It was joined by other bitcoiners, including Jeremias from LocalBitcoins and Anita from the ‘Bitcoin & Co.’ podcast,” said Zeller.
A Tribute to Hal Finney
Less than a month later, Team Satoshi became even more popular thanks to a tribute to Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney. As a way of remembering the day when Finney ran his last half-marathon prior to entering a phase of ALS-induced physical deterioration, bitcoiners all around the world have been encouraged to go out for a run and publish a screenshot of their performance on Twitter under the #RunForHalFin hashtag.
“We also did the memorial run for Hal Finney during which we asked bitcoiners to join for a run in memory of Hal. Ten years ago, in 2009 he ran his last half-marathon.”— Vitus Zeller
Just a couple of months on, Team Satoshi is still expanding and spreading the word about Bitcoin and the cypherpunk values of freedom of information, human rights, free speech, privacy and freedom of transactions.
“We also started a Lightning Torch called #TSTorch or #TeamSatoshiTorch, and it’s being handed, just like the Olympic torch, from athlete to athlete,” Zeller said. “The idea is that each athlete adds the kilometers run during the trial or competition and sends that amount of satoshis to the next athlete. Yesterday, for example, we had an athlete who ran an ultramarathon in Singapore and is now handing the torch to another bitcoiner who’s running a marathon in Slovenia in the name of Team Satoshi. A week later, somebody else is running at the New York City Marathon. There is quite a lot going on and we are planning an event for the halving.”
Anyone Can Join Team Satoshi
As Zeller explained, there are no physical trials or financial requirements involved in becoming a part of Team Satoshi. Participation is voluntary and is only based on ideological compatibility and the willingness to reveal one’s identity to the public.
Furthermore, the organization is decentralized enough to allow athletes and enthusiasts to create accounts on teamsatoshi.org and create pages of their own, containing personal initiatives and trials. In the long term, this can become a fundraising platform through which athletes get funded with bitcoin.
“You just need to be a Bitcoin enthusiast who likes the cypherpunk ideas, and you need to want to put your face out there,” Zeller explained. “If you fulfill these two criteria and truly want to join Team Satoshi, you can create a login at teamsatoshi.org. You can create a page there and maybe even get your own donations and your own event sponsors.”
Vlad says that he's a political science graduate with a fascination for Bitcoin and free markets. His profs say he's a crazy anarchist who probably doesn't deserve his degrees. His parents say he's wasting his potential on a pipe dream.