Bitcoin mystery unsolved

By Heather Clancy
May 5, 2016

Mathew Ingram is a senior writer at Fortune.

If you were drawing a Venn diagram of finance and technology, nothing would represent the overlap between those two things quite as well as bitcoin. Depending on whom you choose to believe, the “crypto-currency” is either the future of money, or a breeding ground for scam artists, conspiracy theorists, and wackos. As of this writing, unfortunately, the latter seems like a more apt description.

The identity of bitcoin’s mysterious creator, a man known only as Satoshi Nakamoto, has been a closely guarded secret since the currency was first created in 2008. Newsweek magazine claimed to have revealed Nakamoto’s true identity in a splashy 2014 cover story, but the subject of the story denied being the currency’s creator, and experts on bitcoin were also unconvinced.

Last week an Australian man named Craig Wright claimed to be the inventor, and said he could prove it. His claims were widely reported by the BBC, The Economist and others, despite the fact that Wright was previously named as Nakamoto last year—claims that were more or less debunked by a number of leading bitcoin experts.

This time around, Wright lined up prominent members of the bitcoin community to attest to his identity, including Gavin Andresen, chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation, who took over development of the currency after Nakamoto disappeared. But a number of experts in the crypto-currency again blew holes in his claims, and Andresen admitted that he might have been too hasty.

Not to be dissuaded, Wright said he would provide conclusive proof that he is Nakamoto, by withdrawing bitcoins from a cache that was originally set up by the currency’s creator. The current value of that cache is estimated to be about $450 million.

Why does it matter so much that we know who the creator of bitcoin is? It doesn’t really. The digital currency functions just fine without that knowledge—after all, the whole point is that it’s a decentralized monetary system. But it does seem more than a little ironic that a payment method renowned for its trustworthiness was created by a shadowy figure with unknown motives. And so, the mystery continues.

Mathew Ingram
@mathewi
Mathew.Ingram@fortune.com

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BITS AND BYTES

Pivotal closes massive $253 million funding round. The lead investor is Ford, which contributed $182 million of that amount. The infusion values Pivotal at more than $2.8 billion. The software company specializes in technology for speeding and organizing open source application development. (Fortune)

Uber creates board to navigate public policy issues. The ride-share orchestrator is calling on international advisers with regulatory expertise. They include former U.S. secretary of transportation Ray LaHood, former director of the White House policy council Melody Barnes, and her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud (founder of social enterprise Alf Khair). (Fortune)

Tesla accelerates production plans. The electric car maker expects to manufacture 500,000 vehicles annually by 2018. Not only is that two years earlier than it originally projected, it is 10 times the number it produced for all of 2015. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the company just confirmed the departures of two executives leading its manufacturing and production strategy. (Fortune, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal)

Yahoo will no longer manage AT&T’s web properties. The telecommunications giant has awarded the contract for hosting its web and mobile portals to Synacor after counting on Yahoo to do it for the past 15 years. The relationship was originally seen as a counter to AOL’s dominance. The timing of the collapse doesn’t bode well for Yahoo’s ongoing auction. (Wall Street Journal)

Amazon reaches $1 billion run rate for business-t0-business marketplace. The site started last year specializes in contracts for everything from tractor components to office supplies to latex gloves. (Bloomberg)

Intel CEO will head FAA committee on drones. Brian Krzanich will chair a group established by the federal agency that will guide “the safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.” (Fortune)

The Zuckerbergs hire education specialist. The philanthropic foundation created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, has tapped former U.S. Education Department deputy secretary Jim Shelton to shape its strategy for education. (Fortune, New York Times)

Hulu is just like Netflix, only with ads! The streaming service is unique in that it intersperses commercials within its programming—unless subscribers pay an extra $4 per month to skip them. Another big way it hopes to differentiate: through live content such as sports, events, and cable TV shows. The company, which is jointly owned by NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox, and Disney, now reaches more than 30 million monthly. (Fortune)

GoDaddy CEO talks cloud computing. Blake Irving doesn’t view his company’s cloud computing service, introduced in March, as something that will become a money-printing machine, as Amazon Web Services is to Amazon. But he believes hosting will eventually be GoDaddy’s main revenue generator. For the first quarter, that business grew more than 14% to $160.4 million, not far behind the $218.9 million that GoDaddy generated for its traditional web domain services. (Fortune)


THE DOWNLOAD

Fitbit’s sound strategy doesn’t impress Wall Street. Fitbit CEO James Parks is doing what smart CEOs do, focusing resources on the best opportunities for future growth, but he can’t seem to get Wall Street to play along.

Despite reporting that first-quarter sales rose and again beat analysts’ expectations, Fitbit’s stock price lost as much as 12% in Wednesday’s after-hours trading. The culprit was Park’s profit forecast for the second quarter, with adjusted earnings per share of 8 to 11 cents, less than half the 26 cents analysts expected on average.

In an interview, the CEO said the company will be spending more in the short term on research and development for several upcoming new products and increasing the company’s marketing push outside of the United States, where fewer people already wear a fitness tracker. (Fortune)

 



ONE MORE THING

Is there such a thing as a Clinton Republican? Most staunch GOP supporters in Silicon Valley want little to do with Donald Trump given his inflammatory comments about women, immigration, and cybersecurity. What does the industry want from presidential hopefuls? Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and easier access to foreign high-tech workers. (Re/code, Fortune)


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.
@greentechlady
heather@heatherclancy.com

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