David McFadzean speaks with the modesty and contemplative cadence of a professional who has built a career shaping software cultures. The last company he helped build, developing software for neurosurgeons, he was employee number four (it is now over 250 strong). A startup he co-founded during the tech bubble, he says, first got him interested in secure Internet identities, a feature that then predated Reddit, PayPal and other now tech giants who used the idea of an Internet identity to secure interactions and or transactions. This was fifteen years before the proliferation of blockchains and online identity security, built by public ledger, became de rigeur.
In our ongoing series profiling the people working to deliver the world’s first decentralized securities network, we chat with David McFadzean on Bitcoin, transhumanism, and why, after a 30-year career successfully building startups from scratch, he decided to join the team at Equibit Group.
What about startup culture excites you?
I’ve spent my entire career working with small and startup-sized companies. What most excites me about them is the ability to develop software engineering culture from scratch. I get more out of a process when I have some autonomy over it, when I can apply what I’ve learned throughout my career, then being able to integrate those lessons into an idea and combine it with the approach of other talented minds - the kind that typically congregate at startup companies.
Once a company gets too large, too bureaucratic, this opportunity’s gone like a plume of smoke. The early stages are the most innovative and opportunistic of a company’s development; once that’s gone or a company gets too big, my CV shows that it’s time to move onto another company whose engineering culture is still young.
You’ve collaborated with big names in cryptocurrency throughout your career - tell us about that.
It’s true. I’ve been fortunate to work with, partner or rub shoulders with some pioneers of Bitcoin, a number of whom are now well-known futurists. For example, I was a director of the Extropy Institute in the 90’s, which was founded in California (pre-Internet) and published a print journal and online discussions of cryonics, life extension, space colonization, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, mind uploading and the technical, social and political aspects of cryptography. I provided the technical infrastructure for the organization.
While I ran the mailing list for Extropy, subscriber names were people like Hal Finney, the second programmer on Bitcoin after Satoshi, and Nick Szabo, the inventor of smart contracts, Julian Assange and many others. These interactions and experiences really helped to shape and further some of my views on crypto and futurism.
"...more companies seeking decentralization and efficiencies will only help to stabilize people’s confidence in new ways of thinking, transacting and living."
I bought my first BTC in 2012, following the space very closely ever since. With blockchains, we’re really seeing the maturation of the Internet alongside ideas of secured decentralization. HODL? Yes, I believe the ups and downs we’re seeing with currencies will smooth themselves out over time.
With Equibit, and generally speaking with the industry, more companies seeking decentralization and efficiencies will only help to stabilize people’s confidence in new ways of thinking, transacting and living. A lot of the companies you see today need greater decentralization of power, Facebook and Twitter being two examples of companies, even tech companies, exercising too much control over their niche, in this case, public discourse. This is all set to change, in my opinion.
What is your focus at Equibit Group?
Equibit Group is actually my tenth startup in 30 years. I’m originally from Calgary, and having worked in many tech markets at home, Toronto and in California, I’ve accrued a lot of experience with developing different software, whether it’s working with robotics, different technology applications or just coding an idea into early or late stage commercialization.
That said, my role at Equibit Group will be to apply what I’ve learned and contribute to whatever is needed. There aren’t any hierarchies here; the company is growing quickly and has an immensely talented team. Whatever I can do to strengthen that talent, even accelerate its development and the company’s commercialization and quality, that’s what I’ll be focusing my attention on.
I’ve had exposure to many companies, ones focused on using mobile devices for medical imaging to others in fintech using software to evaluate extremely large portfolios. Being part of the core development team, I’m excited to apply some of the lessons learned and help get some critical software integrations off the ground.
I’ve been acting as the organizer for the Toronto Transhumanist Meetup for while, a group that comes together to look at and discuss the intersection of humanity and technology, something I’ve been interested in since the ‘90’s.
Examples of transhumanism are all around; it’s an interesting space with parallels between some of tech we’re pioneering, inside Equibit and beyond, of processes that were previously manual and unsecured and the opportunity to make those processes, combined with other technologies, more efficient and more modern. Like blockchain and cryptocurrencies, it’s a movement coming into its own. We’ll see where it goes.