For those acclimated to the world of cryptocurrencies, Roger Ver is a name that can conjure up many images. Some think positively of his strong advocacy efforts for Bitcoin; others think negatively of him, citing his abrasive personality and his felony stint in jail in 2002 for selling explosives. Regardless of Ver’s perception, his larger than life personality has been a contributor in shaping the growth of Bitcoin from an unknown commodity to a widely known and understood asset.
Roger Ver, Image from CCN.com
Born in San Jose to Christian fundamentalists,, Ver’s political and economic inclinations began to shine at an early age. As a junior high student, a copy of Ludwig von Mises’ Socialism paved the way to becoming a voluntaryist. Inspired by Mises, he devoured through the works of other authors, including Adam Smith, Fredric Bastiat, Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and others. Ver’s political inclinations continued into his adulthood, where he presented himself as a Libertarian candidate for California State Assembly in 2000. To summarize his beliefs Ver states that “…everything the government does makes the world a poorer place and that people … would be much better off if everyone were simply allowed to do anything that is peaceful.”
In addition, entrepreneurship played as large a role then as it does now. He started by selling candy bars and pocketing $50 per week. By his 16th birthday, he had saved enough money to purchase himself a white Ford Mustang. His parents largely disapproved of the purchase, and in retaliation, his father placed an ad in the local paper to sell the white Ford Mustang. When Ver called the police, his father was told that they would arrest him if he did not withdraw the ad. This sequence of events caused his parents to kick him out of his house.
From 1999 until 2012, Ver served as the CEO of MemoryDealers.com. Although widely known for his time as CEO, he is perhaps more famous for events outside of his position. In 2002, Roger Ver pleaded guilty to selling explosives on eBay, otherwise known as Pest Control Report 2000. Described as “a firecracker used by farmers to scare deer and birds away from their corn fields,” Ver claims he was unfairly targeted for his unsympathetic view towards the ATF. He was forced to spend 10 months in federal prison.
More importantly than his arrest for selling illicit materials on eBay, Ver is renowned for his promotion of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and frequently goes by the moniker of “Bitcoin Jesus.” Introduced to the virtual currency in a podcast in 2011, he immediately began vociferously consuming as much information as possible on the subject. His company, MemoryDealers.com, became one of the first companies ever accept Bitcoin as a form of payment.. Through this platform, he became a zealous advocate for Bitcoin.
The Scaling Debate
Ver is known for having a sharp take on a number of subjects in the cryptocurrency world. His most notorious opinion is on the block size debate. Ver, an ardent supporter of bit blocks, and argues in favor of this position because of the heavy congestion and long transaction times currently facing the Bitcoin network. As a result of the long waiting times, Ver argued, many large companies and investors have steered away from the digital currency.
The Scaling Debate, Image from Blockonomi.
“As someone who has 15 years of experience scaling enterprise networks before my involvement in Bitcoin, there is no doubt in my mind that the network can handle significantly larger than 2 megabytes blocks today,” Ver stated. In fact, he went on to state that “a block size limit of 20, 30, 40, or even 50 megabytes may be fine.” While some may balk at the prospect of 50 megabyte block sizes, Ver clarifies that the larger block size would not be implemented immediately.
The key, according to Ver, is to allow Bitcoin to scale to customer demand. Fearing negative results if Bitcoin continues on its 2 megabyte path, Ver’s intention is to not let potential users move away from Bitcoin due to its lack of scalability today. However, Ver fears that “the current [Bitcoin Core] development team doesn’t seem to realize this or care. Some of them were even openly advocating that people use credit cards instead of Bitcoin at a local Silicon Valley Meetup earlier this year.”
Critics have taken issue with several of Ver’s points. Some have argued that miners with stronger connections would have a larger incentive to create bigger blocks. By loading blocks full of transactions, said miner could potentially gain a competitive advantage over their peers.
Additionally, Ver’s zealous devotion to the implementation of Bitcoin rubs some the wrong way. LedgerX Bitcoin developer and Bitcoin Core contributor Bryan Bishop was quoted as saying that he feels “disturbed that some would consider it traitorous to mention that there exist systems other than Bitcoin that solve problems that Bitcoin doesn’t,” when asked to comment on Ver’s opinions regarding credit card use at a local Silicon Valley Meetup. Furthermore, critics mention the 10-minute confirmation time, and how a peer-to-peer Bitcoin system is not even suitable for purchases at brick-and-mortar stores. Ultimately, this is exactly what Ver is known for: stirring up sentiments with controversial statements.
Ver’s issues with the Bitcoin core team and Bitcoin’s scaling issues ultimately led him to help and promote a hard fork the cryptocurrency, creating a new alt-coin named Bitcoin Cash (BCH) which he claims to be the true Bitcoin. He is the CEO of bitcoin.com and recently purchased the Twitter account @bitcoin which is used to further his agenda of promoting Bitcoin Cash as the real Bitcoin, this is met with criticism and accusations of trying to mislead the general public about the newly created cryptocurrency.
The Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash and Block size debate continues to divide the community with no end in sight as the two currencies continue their separate paths with proponents of bigger block sizes on one side and proponents of off-chain scaling techniques such as the Lightning Network on the other.
Losing his temper over the name “Bcash”, Image from YouTube.
Amongst Ver’s most notorious acts involved his American citizenship. Growing unhappy with having to pay federal income taxes despite living outside of the United States, he rescinded his American citizenship, and since February of 2014, he has been a citizen of the Caribbean nation St. Kitts and Nevis. In fact, Ver had difficulty obtaining a Visa for a conference in Miami because he “could not demonstrate sufficiently that his ties to any country other than the US were strong enough for him to leave the US.” After his third attempt in eight days to re enter his country of birth, he tweeted that he was told that “[he] didn’t prove that [he has] strong enough ties outside of the USA,” and that he “secretly intend[ed] to live in the USA.” Although ultimately managing to gain entry back into the United States, this gambit by Ver is emblematic of his lifestyle and personality: controversy follows him wherever he goes.
Ver’s next prediction is that Ethereum will ultimately overtake Bitcoin in market cap and that Bitcoin will lose its status as the “top dog.” According to Ver, Ether, Ethereum’s native token, is well underway to surpass Bitcoin; after all, if Ethereum doubles in market cap one more time, it will overtake Bitcoin, assuming Bitcoin remains stagnant. While this prediction may take some time to come to fruition, Ver identifies a few notable advantages Ethereum has over its rival Bitcoin. It is cheaper to use the majority of the time, and much faster in terms of confirmations. Additionally, Ver remains impressed by Ethereum’s developers, particularly Ethereum’s decision to switch to to proof-of-stake. While Ver’s detractors paint him as a bogus opportunist , his opinion nevertheless carries significant weight in the cryptocurrency world.
The volatility of the cryptocurrency world means predictions can come and go, but Roger Ver remains a stalwart of the industry. Whether because of his unique past or his hot-take on a wide number of subjects, Ver’s voice carries significant weight and has the power to influence markets. Regardless of his polarizing characteristics, Ver is here to stay, and everyone better get used to it.