Bitcoin, the international digital currency defined by its lack of a central issuing authority, now has something like a chamber of commerce.
A group of entrepreneurs, advisers and funders have launched the Bitcoin Foundation, which will work to promote acceptance of the currency. The group aims to help Bitcoin users and software developers exchange information more easily about the technology, which lets users move money instantaneously to others on the Bitcoin network. The virtual tender had an estimated 740,000 users worldwide in 2011.
"My hope is that the Bitcoin Foundation will be the organization that focuses and unlocks all of your energy and talents towards promoting Bitcoins, protecting them, and increasing their legitimacy through standardization," Peter Vessenes, the group's executive director and the founder of the Seattle start-up CoinLab, wrote in a letter posted on the foundation's website. "We can help solve or mitigate these problems as a community."
The foundation has set a series of goals for 2013, including hosting a Bitcoin conference in Silicon Valley next spring, publishing a set of best practices for businesses that transact in bitcoins, and creating a certification process for Bitcoin businesses.
The organization has a five-person board that will serve for a term of two years. The directors are Vessenes; Gavin Andresen, the lead software developer for Bitcoin (billed as the foundation's "chief scientist"); Mark Karpeles, the chief executive of Mt.Gox, an exchange based in Japan where bitcoins can be bought and sold for government currencies; Jon Matonis, a technology adviser, a former CEO of the encrypted-email provider Hushmail, and a veteran of Visa; and Charlie Shrem, co-founder and CEO of BitInstant, a start-up in New York. Patrick Murck, the founder of Engage Legal, is the foundation's general counsel.
The foundation is accepting donations via its website.