Jimmy Song, one of the most experienced and respected developers in the field of cryptocurrency, has joined Blockchain Capital in January, as a venture partner, and this month he has already announced a new project: the so-called Platypus Labs for open-source developers.
Jimmy is known for his detailed and comprehensible analysis of the technical aspects of cryptocurrency. He recently joined Blockchain Capital to render technical assistance in the areas related to investment and research and establish connections between the company and the developers working with crypto.
When describing the new initiative, Jimmy has stated that he wants to reward the developers, because they bring great benefit to the ecosystem, and the company would like to see them compensated for it.
As part of this bridge-building process, Jimmy has announced a new project that aims at providing the open-source developers with a revenue stream and supporting them with a number of fellowships and residencies. The project, informally nicknamed “Platypus Labs”, will first of all focus on those working on Bitcoin Core, which is currently the most widely-used version of bitcoin software.
While the project is still in the early stages of development, some of the Blockchain Capital’s portfolio firms and investors have already shown interest and bought into the funds of the company. This hardly comes as a surprise, considering that the numbers of posted blockchain jobs are skyrocketing; for example, in the U.S., the number has increased by mind-boggling 207% in the course of 2017. Bart Stephens, the co-founder of Blockchain Capital, has confirmed that all the companies in the venture capital’s portfolio (62 in total) are in need of the engineering talent, and gladly welcome Song’s project which comes at just the right time. In the following two months, Song, avidly supported, already plans to launch a residency or fellowship program.
The Labs are located in San Francisco. The first objective is to create the developer ecosystem that is focused on the bitcoin, but in future the project will grow to support other types of cryptocurrency.
Not All Developers Agree
Despite all the enthusiasm and support, convincing the developers to take part in the project might turn out to be a bigger challenge than it seems at first.
Initially, when bitcoin was still a novelty known only to a relatively small number of crypto enthusiasts, the developers who worked with it were either fans working on the code for free, as a hobby, or owners of bitcoin (sometimes, fairly large numbers of it) who were eager to improve the code to protect their assets. Jimmy Song himself belonged to the latter group: he says that is was owing a lot of bitcoin that made him begin contributing to Bitcoin Core.
As bitcoin grew in rate and popularity, the developers started to get hired by various companies, from startups, such as BitPay, to educational institutions (for example, MIT). However, some of the developers declined these job offers, feeling that working for an organization would compromise the concept of altruistic work done autonomously, to contribute to the common good. Those who have chosen to work on bitcoin code for other reasons than monetary reward, are difficult, if not impossible, to catch for the project.
Train, Repair, Hunt for the Best Ones
Another focus of Song’s Platypus Project is to provide support and training for the developers who are interested in the blockchain technology but do not have sufficient resources to get the training on their own.
Jimmy, who has committed a total of fourteen changes to the bitcoin codebase, is first of all known as a tutor. He made himself known to the wider public through the two-day Programming Blockchain seminar that was aimed at teaching Python developers how to write code for the bitcoin apps. He is now planning to continue his educational activities at the Platypus Labs and teach the developers the skills of updating the core infrastructure (something that has been neglected for a while).
Song points out that there are many old open-source bitcoin libraries, such as bitcoin (already old when Mike Hearn, who had created it, stopped working with bitcoin in 2016), that are in a very poor state. These need to be repaired and maintained, for the good of the whole ecosystem, as well as for the sake of Blockchain Capital’s portfolio companies. Currently, Jimmy is contacting every one of these 62 companies to ask them which are the coding libraries that they use, what new instruments they need, and how the Platypus Labs may be of use to them altogether. After these interviews are over, he expects to be able to announce the official criteria for the developers who want to join the Labs.
Additionally, he plans to investigate which companies it would be advisable for Blockchain Capital to invest in. These companies are expected to be run by the business people who can code the basics “really well”. As Jimmy himself says, he likes seeing companies that are “innovating, not rent-seeking”.