Elected by a 5-to-1 vote, Fenton succeeds interim executive director Patrick Murck and outgoing executive director Jon Matonis, the latter of whom resigned on 30th October amid financial turmoil and ahead of staff cuts at the industry’s top trade organization.
In interview, Fenton stressed that his greatest asset to the Bitcoin Foundation would be his ability to serve as a “bridge” between the organisation’s individual and corporate members. He cited his full-time position as CEO of Atlantic Financial and involvement in bitcoin as a technology enthusiast as factors.
Further, Fenton did his best to express his desire that, with his appointment, the organization and its divided board would be able advance on the challenge of finding yet another new direction, less than six months after a pivot to focus solely on core development.
Fenton told CoinDesk:
”I am going to do everything I can to make sure it stays in the black. Certainly we are not in the situation we were in when [the price of] bitcoin was much higher. I’m not going to second guess past decisions, I’m sure there were mistakes made.”
The executive director said he expected to receive “a full picture” of the organization’s financials in the coming days, but focused on what he believes is its bright future ahead.
“I believe bitcoin is going to be very, very important in our world. I think the Bitcoin Foundation can and will have a valuable role in that process in terms of being an important part of our industry,” he added.
Notably, Fenton indicated he would be serving in the formerly paid executive director role as a volunteer.
Though the foundation’s formal announcement was short on details about the process, Fenton suggested he was one of a limited list of prospective candidates for the position.
Fenton did not divulge other contenders, saying only that the foundation’s board had “looked internally”, a development confirmed by the release of its latest board meeting minutes last week.
The publication of these documents, though contested, provided evidence that board members Olivier Janssens and Jim Harper had sought to position themselves as potential candidates for the role in meetings. Also considered during this time was BitPay head of non-profit outreach Elizabeth Ploshay.
Fenton did suggest that one board member will be elevated to the position of board chairman to work in conjunction with him on foundation goals.
No details were provided as to how this process may move forward.
Throughout the interview, Fenton suggested that he hopes to quell the recent arguments that have colored the wider conversation about the foundation even while recognizing that the ramifications of certain past decisions are still playing out.
Fenton indicated that core development, for example, is still expected to continue under a new entity, a proposal first put forward by Murck in March.
“The main focus [for the foundation] going forward will be things like education and advocacy,” Fenton continued. “Working on education, educating the public about bitcoin.”
Fenton stated his belief that much of the debate surrounding core development had been colored by the perception that the organisation is in control of this process.
“That’s the nature of the way development works,” Fenton said. “When you’re dealing with individual developers, you can only offer them a paycheck. They may accept it, they may want to do their own thing. Even if the board had unlimited capital, the most it could do is offer to pay.”
Active community member
Though his most high-profile industry position to date, Fenton has long been an outspoken, if sometimes controversial, member of the bitcoin community.
Perhaps most contentious have been his staunch opposition to attempts to regulate the bitcoin industry, as well as his spearheading of a secretive conference held in the Dominican Republic this February. Known as the Satoshi Rountable, the event’s limited guest list caused debate in the community given its long-time struggles with transparency.
Fenton is also acting president of Bitcoin Association, an alternative trade group to the Bitcoin Foundation, that he said he would be handing over to other members. The process of this transfer of leadership, he said, is already underway.
“I will remain in a more passive role,” he added.
Board meeting image via Shutterstock