Though it seemed the room was closing in on him, Jimmy Nguyen put on a brave face.
The cryptocurrency he supported, Bitcoin SV, had been delisted from several major exchanges, losing twenty percent of its value. His company, nChain, had been derided as a scam. And his colleague and friend, Craig Wright, was essentially the cause of it—Wright had embarked on a vitriolic legal campaign against people who had begun to assert that he wasn't, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin.
But, speaking at a panel at the Paris Blockchain Week Summit today, Nguyen extolled the ailing cryptocurrency’s virtues. He spoke lyrically about an influx of developers from other projects and praised the ingenuity of the “BSV community.”
He insisted that nChain would replace the internet with a “Metanet” and populate it with apps like “Metaflix,” a Bitcoin-Netflix-ish hybrid.
He said that Bitcoin SV was fulfilling the original vision of Bitcoin’s inventor, and would scale at prodigious rates where other iterations had failed. Soon “block sizes”—the groupings of transactions that make up the Bitcoin blockchain—would hit unprecedented levels, “terabytes,” he said.
The other panelists shifted in their seats, regarding him suspiciously.
Speaking to Decrypt later that day, Nguyen expressed disappointment in the developments of the previous day, in which major exchanges Binance, ShapeShift and Kraken had delisted Bitcoin SV, largely as a reaction to Wright's spate of lawsuits.
“The responsibility of an exchange is to use their criteria objectively and not make personal decisions,” he said.
Among the throng of slovenly coders, he stood out by not standing out, sporting a creaseless suit jacket and grimly drab tie. He seemed a little tense, but spoke with poise. “[The delisting] reflects a sad commentary on the state of the cryptocurrency industry,” he said. “It reinforces how the cryptocurrency will grow up from a business perspective—this will never happen in the context of a stock exchange.”
“I would compare it to this: Can you imagine a world where the head of the New York Stock exchange says, ‘I don’t like that Jeff Bezos appears to have had an affair and is dating someone else, and I’m going to now delist Amazon?’” he added. “Because of something Jeff Bezos does, it hurts all the stockholders.”
One of the points raised elsewhere—even by detractors of Bitcoin SV—is that the delisting of BSV is a patent hypocrisy. Exchanges such as Binance grew rich off the fees from listing dubious tokens, which feeds Nguyen’s sense that the delisting was based on a personal dislike.
And unlike other, smaller coins, nChain—which employs Wright and supports SV development—never paid listing fees, or otherwise requested that exchanges list Bitcoin SV, he said.
Indeed, Kraken listed Bitcoin SV (when it was first born, of a contentious hard fork) with the express warning that it would be an “extremely high risk investment,” yet still opted to list it anyway. According to Nguyen, other exchanges—among them Binance—listed the cryptocurrency without taking a listing fee, implying it saw it as a profitable opportunity.
But to many, the decision to delist is a vindication—a sign that Wright’s efforts to insert himself into Bitcoin’s history have failed, and that the plummet in SV’s price will cast him out for good. The mood has been near celebratory.
“I'm really proud of CZ and Binance,” tweeted Charles Hoskinson, founder of the cryptocurrency Cardano. “They stood up for the entire community against bullying and fraud. I hope more exchanges follow and we can end this dark chapter in Crypto's history.”
But Nguyen says he’s unconcerned by the prospect of a calamitous price plummet, or of being laughed out of business. “We’re not one of those blockchain ecosystems that tries to pump up the price,” he said. “We’re working hard to build a chain with long-term usage and utility. While there may be a short term effect on the marketplace, the people who support Bitcoin SV believe not so much in Craig, but in his original vision for Bitcoin.”
Bitcoin SV developers portray the cryptocurrency as the “original Bitcoin,” claiming it is faithful to Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision and protocol. Nguyen, too, appears to truly believe that SV will form the basis of a single, blockchain network that encompasses everything other crypto startups are trying to do themselves, but more successfully.
“If our role is successful, the role of exchanges won’t exist anymore,” he said. “And that’s why they’re hostile to us.”
And what about Wright's recent spree of libel lawsuits, in which he'd "served legal papers" to a slew of popular Twitterers who had called him a fraud?
“You can agree or disagree with Wright’s actions," Nguyen said. "But that’s for the courts to decide, not for an exchange CEO." And he has sympathy for Wright. “He has lived for years with people attacking him, and at a certain point a person can say, enough is enough.”
Would he rather that Wright had never gone out on a limb, as he did?
"It might be tempting for me to say yes, but the answer is no. Like the hash war, the events have exposed a lot of things that need to be exposed.”
Few will deny that.