Turning Paper Wallets into Faiā: Brendan Lee's Bitcoin Journey
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
In this candid semi-autobiography, Brendan Lee reveals an incredible journey from an engineer, to a Bitcoin specialist, to Head of Technology at Faiā. In a no-holds-barred fashion, Brendan shares his success, failures, and lessons learned to date.
Since discovering Bitcoin in the second half of 2017 I have been on possibly the wildest, most illuminating, most stressful, and most fun ride of my life. Like so many others upon discovering Bitcoin I fell straight into the rabbit hole becoming consumed with a desire to learn more of this amazingly unique and world-changing technology.
Like all the things I do, I decided to jump into Bitcoin with both feet. Three months after buying my first coins, I left my job as a specialist in the battery storage industry and embarked on my first ever business venture. Coinstorage Guru started out as a wallet set up and advisory service.
After helping a handful of friends and family I decided I needed a model with more global appeal and came up with the Safewords key backup system. Safewords is a secure paper wallet storage system that I developed and patented before re-branding and launching what is today Coinstorage Guru.
I don't make any claims as to the success of the venture and in fact, if I was to take an honest audit of my books since starting the company it's lost me a fair bit of money, but what it has done is get me noticed by the right people.
I still run Coinstorage Guru. My sales are consistent, coming predominantly from the United States and the UK, and it brings in more than it costs to run, but I never expect Coinstorage Guru to make me my initial investment money back. Still, I will keep it going because I am proud of the product and its unique place in the industry. I recently spent more money migrating my shopping cart to the Metanet because hey, why not?
Shortly before I launched Safewords, I was lucky enough to meet James Belding. He came to a meet-up that I ran in Brisbane and introduced himself as the creator of a real estate tokenization system he was calling bit equity. Part of my talk that night was on the Coingeek tokenization contest that had been announced several weeks before and our discussion focused on what these solutions might look like and how long we expected it to take to announce a winner.
It was not long after I came back from the Satoshi Vision conference in Japan that I heard from James again. He had been in touch with Coingeek and they had told him that they hadn't yet received any viable entries to the token competition and that if he had been working on a system to use for bit equity, he should submit it as an entry to the contest himself. So James, being James, had completely re-made BitEquity into a fully functional token protocol capable of managing any token type on the Bitcoin blockchain.
James asked me to join a team, which at the time was just him and myself, to implement the protocol in exchange for part of the prize money, with the majority being kept and plowed back into the Tokenized company he formed on the back of a successful contest entry.
Sadly, due to personal circumstances, I had to leave Tokenized prior to their successful entry being announced. As such, I was not part of the company that was formed on the back of the project. However, I had spoken to James prior to leaving and got him to agree to a deal, given how much time and effort I had invested in the project. If Tokenized won the contest, I would come back after receiving half of the agreed prize money and continue working until the product was delivered.
Amazingly, in August 2018, we found out that Tokenized had won the contest.
During this time I had been working with a group of people to bring the Bitcoin cash stress test to life. The goal of the project had been to create over 5,000,000 transactions on the Bitcoin cash network in one day however our tools, the network itself, and numerous other extenuating circumstances had combined to prevent us from reaching our goal. Subsequently, I reached out to the developer who had built the most capable machine that we had used during the stress test and asked him if he would like to go pro. Thus, the Satoshi Shotgun was born.
A new round of stress tests was planned with taste tests, warm-up tests, and more, followed by a grand crescendo that would come immediately after the network upgrade. This eventually became the Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV fork, which nobody wanted but everyone soon realized was needed.
I managed to secure a deal and some funding to run the Satoshi Shotgun from London. Leading up to the Coingeek conference, we spent weeks working on the system, to the point that it could handle over 7 million transactions per hour at peak capacity. This conference was only the second time I'd ever met the team from Tokenized, but seeing them there was amazing. I felt like we were rockstars backstage at our own concert.
Shortly after returning to Australia, the first payment came through and I got a call from James saying that I was needed back on the project full-time. I quickly wrapped up what I was doing and got straight back into it. Five months later, and shortly prior to the Coingeek conference during May 2019, we delivered the beta version of the Tokenized smart contract, a comprehensive website, and a documentation package. This would trigger the final prize payment from Coingeek and mark the end of my contract with James.
While I could have stayed in the project, it was with a heavy heart but a lightness of step that I made the decision to leave and forge a new path. I knew I was not meeting my full potential where I was and wanted to make sure I was in a position to apply 100% of my energy to building the collective knowledge of the Bitcoin Society.
Baptism By Faiā
Initially, I had planned to start my own consultancy and was halfway to creating a company, before I decided to call George Samuels, who I had met at the Satoshi Vision conference in Japan. I knew George was running his own company, which was a community-focused management consultancy. I wanted to get advice from him about how to present myself to corporate customers outside of Bitcoin.
What more needs to be said other than that George and I hit it off almost immediately. George happily informed me that he had been looking for someone just like me to expand the footprint of Faiā into technical consultancy. I looked at what I was trying to do and realized that George was already doing the parts I really didn't know how to do on my own, so at that point, the decision became very easy. George offered me the role of Head of Technology and I gladly stepped into it.
Around the same time, the Bitcoin Association got in touch and asked me if I'd be willing to come on board as a training and development manager. While this would be an excessive workload, if I was to be full time at Faiā, it was too exciting an opportunity to let go. So I spoke to George and we together agreed that it was important for me to find my own way and to discover what worked for me. With his blessing, I took on the role at the Bitcoin Association part-time, and am now doing both jobs.
While this is sometimes a stressful situation, as it splits my attention across many things at once, it's an invigorating pace that keeps me busy all the time. The Bitcoin society is an amazing place to be, and I love the fact that some of the smartest people I've ever met, or worked with, are a few key-presses away and almost always interested to engage.
It will be interesting to watch the footprints of our diverse communities expanding, shifting and merging over time as our proof-of-work encourages more and more people to dip their toes into Bitcoin SV.
As dipping turns to diving, and people all over the world start jumping headfirst into the Bitcoin economy, I can't wait to see what we create. Thank you all for being here on this journey with me. I look forward to talking, working, laughing, and otherwise being with you all as we race forward into the future.