In last week’s article we gave Vinny Lingham the number 10 spot on our top 10 most influential people in crypto series. Vinny’s cryptocurrency wallet Civic uses AI technology to verify a user’s identity and tie their identity to the blockchain. Civic is also the first and only cryptocurrency wallet to offer $1 million in insurance against losses.
Coming in at number nine in our series is Kathleen Breitman, the co-founder of Tezos. The Tezos blockchain is a leading smart contract platform and a pioneer in on-chain governance and updates.
Kathleen and the Early Days of Tezos
A Cornell graduate (class of 2012), Kathleen Breitman has held positions at such notable firms as the Wall Street Journal, Accenture and Bridgewater Associates, Ray Dalio’s multi-billion dollar investment firm. Kathleen also worked as a senior strategy associate for R3, one of the largest blockchain consortiums in the world.
According to Kathleen she became interested in crypto because it “solves a problem that people have largely proposed hackish solutions around for centuries: moving value across the world without the use of an intermediary.” She goes on to say that although she’d known about blockchain since 2011, she only began to seriously research the technology in 2013.
On September 2nd, 2014, the Tezos whitepaper was publicly released under the name L.M. Goodman. By 2017 the Tezos Foundation was operational in Zug, Switzerland, otherwise known as Crypto Valley. In July of 2017 the Tezos foundation ran a fundraiser which brought in an astonishing $232 million in less than a month. The Tezos Foundation fundraise was the largest in crypto-history to date.
With that much funding it looked like the Tezos Foundation would have no problem launching the blockchain. However, events took a turn for the worse when Kathleen and Arthur discovered that although the Tezos Foundation had raised nearly a quarter-billion dollars, it was not going to honor its contractual commitment.
Tezos Turns Controversial
What started out as the highest-grossing fundraise in history quickly devolved into one of the most controversial power battles in crypto since the fight over the Ethereum DAO hack. The heart of the matter had to do with Tezos Foundation refusing to honor its contractual commitments.
The Tezos Foundation, which was controlled by three board members, failed to honor the contractual obligations that it had with Dynamic Ledger Solutions (DLS). DLS was the Delaware based corporation that the Breitmans had created in 2015 to oversee the development of the Tezos blockchain.
Unfortunately the Tezos Foundation, controlled by three board members, didn’t disperse the money as planned, delaying further development of the blockchain.
“It stinks. Like, we’re both really embarrassed about the situation, but we trust the process that we put in place and I think it will be resolved in due course.”
Although it took longer than she might have hoped, the situation did eventually resolve in Kathleen and Arthur’s favor and the legal problems between the Tezos Foundation and DLS were resolved. In June of 2018 the beta version of Tezos was released and the mainnet went live a few months later in September.
Lots of major cryptocurrencies encounter some controversy in their early days. A few examples include:
- Bitcoin - Who the hell is Satoshi Nakamoto?
- Ethereum - The DAO hack and subsequent hard fork
- Ripple XRP - The legal battle with Jed McCaleb (the creator of Stellar XLM)
What happened to Tezos was unfortunate, but as soon as the legal battles were over the Tezos foundation started preparing for the mainnet launch of a smart contract platform that they believed would be better than the competition. For anyone who wants to do a deep dive into the Tezos controversy, Wired is often credited with writing the definitive account of what happened.
The Tezos Advantage
Controversy alone couldn’t guarantee Kathleen Breitman a spot on our top 10 most influential people in crypto list. To make the list you need to have contributed something unique and meaningful to the cryptocurrency community. Why does Tezos meet that criteria?
Tezos’s self-amending protocol is its biggest advantage and the feature that sets it apart from almost every other digital currency. Tezos uses a governance mechanism to approve network updates, which are then instituted without a hard or soft fork.
Being able to push through an upgrade without a fork is a considerable advantage. Although most forks are uncontroversial, a contentious hard fork can split a blockchain in two. Most famously we saw this happen with Ethereum & Ethereum classic, as well as Bitcoin & Bitcoin Cash.
Rather than upgrading with a fork, Tezos uses a series of voting rounds that allow token holders to vote for or against a proposed upgrade. All upgrades require a 80% supermajority approval from network participants. This requirement sets the bar quite high for what types of upgrades and initiatives can pass.
In helping to create this unique piece of architecture, Kathleen has moved the blockchain sector forward and proven that forks are not the only way to upgrade a cryptocurrency. A deep dive on Tezos’s self-amending feature is available here.
To distribute playing cards, Coase uses bonding curves to create a liquid market. Although a bonding curve sounds like a bit of wizardry that requires a PhD to understand, in practice it’s fairly simple.
- A user can buy a card from Coase. The purchase increases the card’s price, since the supply is lower.
Although Coase’s current focus is trading cards, Kathleen believes that the future use cases for the platform are wide-ranging. According to Kathleen, “Gaming is the first application, but it’s not the last. If we do our jobs right, what Coase will do is eventually build software that lowers transaction costs on the internet writ large… The overarching thesis is making commerce on the web easier and better for people.”
As you’d expect, Coase is built on top of Tezos and requires the Tezos token XTZ to pay for trading cards and transaction fees. However, one of the Coase’s main objectives is to abstract away the cryptocurrency backend so that collectors can use the protocol with fiat currencies.
This is the type of innovation that we love to see in crypto. Fiat onramps can open up blockchain applications to millions of people who want to use a protocol like Coase, but don’t want to have to buy crypto to do it.
Kathleen Breitman is on our top 10 most influential people in crypto list because she’s bringing innovation to blockchain. Tezos was the first blockchain to introduce a self-amending feature and to this day it’s still one of the only digital currencies to have such a feature.
She also showed great poise and strength of character to get through the birthing pains of the Tezos blockchain, without resorting to a hard fork or simply walking away from the project.
On the subject of being a woman in the male-dominated crypto space, Kathleen has said: “the culture of the space has created a filter such that women who tend to stick around are either hard-nosed or smart enough not to look at comment sections.”
“A great part about cryptocurrencies is that you don't have to work on them to enjoy their benefits. I would rather that more women own cryptocurrencies en masse than work in the industry.”
Although she’s already done a lot, Kathleen has a history of entrepreneurship and we wouldn’t be surprised to see even more coming from her in the coming years.
Top 10 Most Influential People in Crypto, the countdown:
10 - Vinny Lingham
9 - Kathleen Breitman
8 - Gavin Wood
7 - Elizabeth Stark
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.