E560: Brian Hoffman’s OpenBazaar.org, a decentralized marketplace to buy/sell anything online with bitcoin, is a Big Idea with Big Backers

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On today’s show is Brian Hoffman, lead developer of OpenBazaar.org, a decentralized P2P open marketplace to buy and sell anything using bitcoin. Parallels to Silk Road abound, and Jason and Brian explore these in-depth, as well as discuss how this previously-believed unfundable idea secured $1m funding from heavyweights Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, dive into the marketplace itself so we see how exactly it works, how sites like reddit and other technologies might decentralize and what that means, how Brian went from being a security consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton to creator of this radical marketplace for trading freedom online and becoming CEO at OB1, its umbrella startup — and much more. It’s a fascinating and slightly scary discussion you don’t want to miss!

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  • Paul Towers

    A thought provoking episode. My thoughts on this are that there is a difference between perception and reality and it is the “perception” of those within government that may prove to be most challenging to a company like Open Bazaar.

    In my opinion even if Open Bazaar only sold 100% legal goods and services that would mean nothing if the perception within Government and those “three letter agencies” was otherwise.That is to say that the government only needs to THINK that illegal activity is taking place or could take place for them to cause issues for the company/founders.

    There are many examples of companies claiming they were only a portal or a method of connection people that have been shut down and hounded out of existence. The thoughts of those in Silicon Valley and the internet culture matter little if the mum and dads on the street and politicians believe that a site such as this COULD be used for the trading of illegal goods.

    If that thought takes hold then all it takes is one agent or one agency to make it a case they want to pursue for things to unravel. And as Brian said in the episode he is aware that government agencies are looking at their site. Given these agencies are mostly run by middle aged men who were born well before the internet existed you can argue with them blue in the face about the fact that the site is not being used for illegal activity and they simply won’t listen.

    While I wish the founder(s) all the success with their site and commended them for taking on something as bold as this. I can’t help but think they will soon find themselves in the same situation as many other marketplaces that skirt the lines of legality.