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With buzz building and dozens of people flowing through the rented house in Miami daily, Ethereum officially added three more founders: Wood, Joseph Lubin and developer Jeff Wilcke. Lubin, who had previously run a hedge fund and worked at Goldman Sachs, remembers worrying that some people were getting a bit carried away. “We were thinking about which island we should buy, because we needed a place for this new society to take hold. We were a little bit giddy,” he says. “A few of us … started thinking, ‘Hey, wait a sec.’”
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One very good reason to “wait a sec” was to make sure they were complying with securities regulations. Taking money from unaccredited U.S. investors could open them up to charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “We thought it was possible we would land at JFK on a certain day and the FBI would tackle us to the tarmac,” Lubin says.
We thought it was possible we would land at JFK on a certain day and the FBI would tackle us to the tarmac
As a result, the founders decided to wait instead of starting a crowdfunding sale shortly after the conference. They hired lawyers to scrutinize the offering. They registered a corporation in Switzerland, which had a friendlier attitude than most countries towards a project with the potential to actively undermine legal and financial systems. They had long, agonizing debates about whether Ethereum should be modelled after Google, a giant for-profit corporation, or Mozilla, the not-for-profit foundation that makes the open-source Firefox browser.
As the weeks dragged on, tensions between the founders grew. The programmers and businessmen split into factions, with accusations flying about various people not pulling their weight. Di Iorio and Lubin were paying for costs out of pocket as the project went longer and longer without outside funding. Di Iorio says the idea of turning Ethereum into a not-for-profit was outrageous on multiple levels. After all, he had stepped away from a promising startup and loaned the project hundreds of thousands of dollars on the understanding the team would use it to build an Internet juggernaut such as Google, not accept charitable donations. Plus, it rubbed him the wrong way on an ideological level. “I’ve never been a fan of non-profits and foundations,” he says. “If you look at what Chrome can do and what Firefox can do, that’s the difference between a for-profit and a non-profit company.”