In the world of cryptocurrency, it's rare to find a major player who isn't also controversial. Roger Ver is exactly that type of individual. As one of the earliest, most vocal proponents of—and investors in—cryptocurrency and crypto-related startups, he gained the nickname "Bitcoin Jesus." In the past several years, though, Ver's opinions on and investments in cryptocurrencies have become even more polarizing, as has his personal story.
Early Life and Education
Roger Ver was born in 1979 and grew up in San Jose, Calif. He attended De Anza College, a community college in Cupertino from 1997-99, studying economics, math, and astronomy. He also studied physics at Stanford University in 1998, according to his website.
While in college, he started a company, Memorydealers, which resold Cisco-related memory and networking equipment, transceivers, and accessories. He dropped out of school to run the business, serving as its full-time CEO for more than a decade. He was no longer CEO of MemoryDealers.com from 2012 onward, and is listed as ending his relationship with it in 2018.
From 2004 to 2018, he founded and ran Agilestar.com, "a world leader in fiber optic transceivers with happy customers in nearly every country in the world."
Since 2011, though, Ver has been much more commonly linked with a growing variety of bitcoin and crypto-related projects.
Early Interest in Bitcoin
Ver claims to have discovered bitcoin in early 2011, calling it "one of the most important inventions in the history of humankind."
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 under $1, 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 the now-defunct BitInstant, the company founded by bitcoin millionaire and ex-convict Charlie Shrem.
Ver was also an early investor in a number of related blockchain projects, including Kraken, purse.io, Blockchain.com, and Ripple. In 2012, Ver launched bitcoinstore.com, offering thousands of items for sale with customers allowed to transact in bitcoin.
In 2015, Ver began managing Bitcoin.com, a web portal that provides various services for bitcoin and bitcoin cash. Ver served as CEO of Bitcoin.com until August 2019, at which point he transitioned to Executive Chairman.
In recent years, Ver has continued to remain involved in bitcoin projects. As one of the founders of the Bitcoin Foundation in 2012, a nonprofit aiming to try to restore the reputation of the crypto after several scandals, Ver has pushed for bitcoin's adoption worldwide and by mainstream businesses.
The worth of Ver's bitcoin holdings in 2019—up from $25,000 when he bought them in 2011.
Change to Bitcoin Cash
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. However, in later years, he seemed to be turning against it—or at least, adopted a view that some consider backward-looking.
For example, 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, and claiming "the developers have destroyed" its use as money.
Instead, Ver aligned his opinions with a minority of crypto developers when he spoke out in favor of a hard fork—a radical change to a network's protocol that makes previously invalid blocks and transactions valid, or vice-versa. "The fact of the matter is, the utility of bitcoin has been damaged," he explained. He pushed for an increase to the block size 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.
Hard forks also allow for the creation of new versions of a cryptocurrency. And in fact, Ver now seems to have become more of an advocate of bitcoin cash, created in August 2017. Ver has also gone so far as to suggest that alleged insider trading of bitcoin cash on the popular Coinbase exchange is a "non-crime."
Wealth and Philanthropy
Roger Ver regularly makes "Wealthiest People in Cryptocurrency" lists, though his exact net worth is hard to gauge, since he runs a privately held company. And of course, much of his wealth is tied up in rapidly fluctuating cryptocurrency. It's been estimated around $430 million.
In late 2013, Ver donated more than $1 million worth of bitcoin to the Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian think tank. In 2021, Ver donated an additional $2 million worth of bitcoin cash to the organization.
Ver's comments on insider trading not being criminal take on a different resonance in light of the fact that he's pleaded guilty to federal felony charges. In 2002, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison for selling explosives via eBay and mailing them, all without a license to do so. It is common for Ver critics to point to this part of his personal life as a means of portraying him in a negative light.
Ver identifies as a libertarian and an anarcho-capitalist; in 2001, he ran for the California State Assembly as a member of the Libertarian Party. To some skeptics, this sheds a sinister light on—or at least, a rationale for—his interest in cryptocurrencies, which aren't issued by governments and operate in a decentralized fashion.
Citizenship and Visa Issues
Another reason why Ver is considered controversial: his ongoing citizenship and visa concerns. Ver moved to Japan in 2006.
In 2014, Ver renounced his U.S. citizenship, becoming a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis. Ver went through this process as a part of the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment program, in which individuals may qualify for citizenship by investing in real estate or in the country's Sustainable Growth Fund.
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.
The Bottom Line
Born in California and now a resident of Japan, entrepreneur Roger Ver has a long history with cryptocurrencies. He was an early investor in bitcoin and bitcoin-related ventures and an early promoter of bitcoin—so earnest that he earned the nickname "Bitcoin Jesus." Around 2017, though, the multi-millionaire bitcoin advocate switched his allegiance to bitcoin cash, and this change—along with his libertarian views and brushes with government authorities—makes him a somewhat controversial figure.
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