In the world of cryptocurrency superstars, it's rare to find a major player who isn't also wildly controversial and polarizing. Roger Ver is exactly that type of individual. Born in California and now a citizen of Saint Kitts and Nevis (and a resident of Japan), Ver has a long, murky history with cryptocurrencies. (See also: Who is Bitcoin Jesus?)
Ver became interested in cryptocurrencies early in bitcoin's history. He invested a large amount of money in cryptocurrency-related startups as the industry was beginning to emerge. As one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of bitcoin, he earned the nickname "Bitcoin Jesus." In the past several years, though, Ver's opinions on cryptocurrencies have become even more polarizing, as has his personal story.
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Business Background and Jail Time
According to Ver's website, he "served as the full-time CEO of MemoryDealers.com" for more than a decade. He was no longer CEO of MemoryDealers.com from 2012 onward.
Under Ver's direction, he claims the business "has grown to become a world leader in the used Cisco memory and networking equipment industry." Since 2011, though, Ver has been much more commonly linked with a growing variety of bitcoin and crypto-related projects.
In 2002, Ver was sentenced to 10 months in prison for selling explosives via eBay. It is common for Ver critics to point to this part of his personal biography as a means of portraying him in a negative light.
Citizenship and Visa Issues
Another reason why Ver is considered highly controversial is because of his ongoing citizenship and visa concerns. Although born in the United States and raised in California, Ver moved to Japan in 2006.
In 2014, Ver renounced his U.S. citizenship, becoming a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis in the process. Ver went through this process as a part of the St. Kitts and Nevis "Citizenship by Investment" program, in which "an investment in designated real estate...or a contribution to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation" allows wealthy individuals to purchase citizenship.
In 2015, when attempting to secure a visa to reenter the United States for a conference, Ver was denied entry by the U.S. Embassy at Barbados over concerns that he wouldn't leave at the end of his visit. Later in 2015, his visa was approved by a different U.S. Embassy, and he was allowed to enter the United States in 2016 to speak at a conference in Colorado.
Early Interest in Bitcoin
Ver claims to have discovered bitcoin in early 2011, calling it "the most important invention in the history of the world since the internet." (See also: Cryptocurrency Billionaire Rankings: The Richest People In Crypto.)
An early adopter of the first digital currency, he integrated bitcoin payments into MemoryDealers.com, allowing customers to make payments in bitcoin. By moving to collect bitcoin in its earliest days, when each coin was valued at a fraction of its price in early 2018, Ver amassed a total collection of more than 400,000 bitcoins by some estimates. In the process of spreading the word about bitcoin, it's likely that Ver reduced his collection through payments and funding projects.
Ver's financial support helped a number of popular bitcoin projects and startups launch. He was an early investor in BitInstant, the company founded by bitcoin millionaire and fellow ex-convict Charlie Shrem. (See more: Who Is Charlie Shrem?)
Ver was also an early investor in a number of related blockchain projects, including Kraken and Ripple. In 2012, Ver launched bitcoinstore.com, offering thousands of items for sale with customers allowed to transact in bitcoin.
Throughout the process of advocating for bitcoin and related projects, Ver earned the moniker "Bitcoin Jesus," as many saw him as an evangelist on behalf of the cryptocurrency.
Later Projects and Controversial Views
In recent years, Ver has continued to remain involved in bitcoin projects. As one of the founders of the Bitcoin Foundation, Ver has pushed for bitcoin's adoption worldwide and by mainstream businesses. He has also adopted a view of bitcoin that some recent proponents consider to be backward-looking.
In a 2017 interview, Ver explained that he was "really, really concerned about the future" of the cryptocurrency, lamenting what he saw as too much speculative interest for bitcoin to remain viable as currency. (See also: Teen Bitcoin Millionaire Erik Finman Dishes Investment Tips.)
In the summer of 2017, Ver aligned his opinions with a minority of crypto developers when he spoke out in favor of a fork and bitcoin cash. "The fact of the matter is, the utility of bitcoin has been damaged," he explained. He pushed for an increase to the blocksize limit, a shift he believes would allow customers to pay for goods and services in bitcoin while reducing fees. Detractors believe that such a step could disrupt the decentralization of bitcoin and negatively impact transaction processing procedures.
Ver has gone so far as to suggest that alleged insider trading of bitcoin cash on the popular Coinbase exchange is a "non-crime." Regardless of the future of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, it's likely that Roger Ver will continue to be an outspoken force.
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