Bruce Fenton, executive director at the Bitcoin Foundation, opened its Dec. 15 board meeting with a sense of urgency: “We need additional funds if we wish to retain employees.” The numbers didn’t look good. In two years, the foundation had seen at least $7 million evaporate. As of Nov. 30, its total assets stood at $12,553.06.

To sustain the Bitcoin Foundation’s operations, which have included lobbying, putting on conferences, and providing technical support for the digital currency, Fenton urged the group to find ways to raise money quickly. They considered cold-calling ex-members, and Fenton said he’s working on marketing materials for prospective donors to explain the organization’s purpose. “There is no material saying what the foundation does,” he said.

Eventually, Jim Harper, a board member and senior fellow at Cato Institute, a think tank, interjected. He questioned whether the foundation was offering its members enough value to warrant its existence, according to minutes released on Dec. 21 from the meeting. “Asking for money is just throwing money away,” Harper said. Olivier Janssens, another director, suggested that the organization may not be “fixable.”

The Bitcoin Foundation has become a symbol of the challenges facing the digital asset it was designed to steward. While advocates have promoted bitcoin as a global, decentralized currency for the Internet age, it’s proved to be more volatile than many penny stocks. Its role in money laundering and other illegal activity is a constant source of questions, and the price fluctuates with each regulatory clampdown or criminal investigation. In November 2013, it reached a high of $1,137 before falling to $183 in January 2015 following a slew of problems, including the collapse of Mt. Gox, once the world’s largest bitcoin exchange.  Read More…