Obi Nwosu is the CEO and co-founder of Coinfloor, the UK's longest-running Bitcoin exchange. He has over 20 years’ experience building online marketplaces and bringing virtual currencies to tens of millions of people. Obi writes The Road to Bitcoin Hegemony, a weekly recap of some of the most impactful developments in Bitcoin.
Money talks. It is the universal language of business, but when it comes to financial institutions, only a few, all-powerful actors have a voice. And a system that only suits the establishment stifles innovation and prevents the creation of new models and applications that would benefit the poorest and most marginalized in society.
This isn’t how capitalism was supposed to be. The innovation and risk-taking we see in other areas of the economy are distinctly absent in financial services. Businesses and individuals have to operate within long-fixed models reminiscent of Henry Ford’s dictum: “Customers can have any colour car they want, as long as it’s black.”
The language of finance is all too often a brake on innovation. Bitcoin was always going to burst this straitjacket, providing a completely different way to transact and think about value; now we’re seeing a new wave of financial applications which promise to do the same. On Thursday, Jack announced that Square is creating a new business focused on building an open developer platform aimed at making it easy to create “non-custodial, permissionless, and decentralized financial services.”
This speaks to what every bitcoiner understands: that Bitcoin is not just an investment, but also represents a radical new language for business, commerce, and anyone who wishes to transact wealth through time and space. Decentralization is — excuse the pun — absolutely central to this philosophy. It enables entrepreneurs and visionaries to build new models that will not replace existing financial structures, but improve them by giving people different ways to transact: a new, financial language that returns power to the people.
In doing so, they are creating a new system that is far less prone to corruption, cronyism, and capture by a few powerful participants.
Jack doesn’t need to do this. He’s already a wealthy man thanks to his serial entrepreneurship. He does it because he believes in Bitcoin and the ideals it embodies. Just as Twitter gave everybody anywhere a voice, so he wants to do with financial services, opening access to new types of payment rails, rather than see the levers of economic power remain in the hands of a few plutocrats.
Who knows how successful this and other experiments will be? Maybe they will be roaring successes, changing the face of finance for a century or more. Or perhaps they’ll fail. The point is not about individual projects, it is about the ability to take the risk in the first place; to build something that’s founded not on an increasingly stagnant financial system but which cleaves to the core principles of Bitcoin: a fixed, unprintable supply; open access to everyone; and protection for all, whether you count your investment in cents or billions of dollars.
Fiat money talks, but it’s not interested in dialogue. Bitcoin — and the decentralised philosophy that underpins it — is a different language altogether. It’s based on debate and discussion, where differences are hashed out in the public square, and where change can only come after the community has achieved consensus. “We’re going to do this completely in the open,” Jack pledged in his launch announcement “Open roadmap, open development, and open source.”
That’s what we’re building with Bitcoin: a better, fairer and more open financial system; a universal language that forms the foundation for every great endeavour in the years to come.