Since Bitcoin’s launch in 2009, reporters have been unsuccessful in locating its founder or founders. A “Satoshi Nakamoto” gets top billing under the list of Core developers on the Bitcoin website, and the first question of the site’s FAQ, “What is Bitcoin?,” advises the curious to “consult the dedicated page and the original paper.” The author of that paper is one “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Quite simply, Bitcoin was founded by the person or people behind this name. On Thursday, the question of who was behind this name seems to have been answered in the form of a Newsweek cover story. Hours later, the ensuing media frenzy created further intrigue in the story as the supposed Bitcoin founder led a car chase in Los Angeles that ended, of all places, in the local office of an Associated Press bureau.
Who is this mysterious founder or founders, and what is the deal with the car chase? The answer to the first part of that question is quite interesting. According to the Newsweek story the cryptocurrency’s founder, who holds an estimated $600 million in untouched Bitcoin riches, is a lone man. Satoshi Nakamoto is a very private, 64-year-old Japanese-American model train enthusiast who lives with his mother in a Southern California suburb. The reporter says even his children and brother were unaware that he was Bitcoin’s founder. However, these interesting details are not what makes many doubt that the Newsweek reporter has indeed found the real deal. After all, a Finnish programmer who had worked with Nakamoto on the code for Bitcoin tweeted the following: “Fascinating. Satoshi seems not much different than how I imagined him.” Why do many involved the elusive world of cryptocurrency treat with deep skepticism the man Newsweek has reported is Bitcoin’s founder? It is this and only this: his real name is Satoshi Nakamoto.
People who worked on the coding of Bitcoin said evasiveness was a hallmark of their interactions with the person or “entity” known as Nakamoto. Gavin Andresen, the volunteer programmer who is said to have worked the closest with him on the cryptocurrency project, says that Nakamoto only used untraceable email addresses and would not communicate by phone. Andresen also said that at the time, the legality of creating Bitcoin was not yet clear and that Nakamoto “went to great lengths to protect his anonymity.” Adam Draper, CEO of a company called Boost that incubates Bitcoin startups said he remains unconvinced. Noting Nakamoto’s dedication to anonymity, Draper asks, “If Satoshi Nakamoto wanted to be anonymous the whole time, why would he use his real name on the paper?”
As for the car chase, the motivations behind that event are much more predictable, if also infuriating as well as amusing. The Newsweek article printed the city Nakamoto lives in as well as his brother’s place of employment, and it also showed a picture of the house Nakamoto lives in. Reporters thus figured out where he lived and camped outside. When Nakamoto came outside, he announced to the pack of waiting journalists that he was not involved with Bitcoin. Perhaps after some pleading and friendly cajoling by the journalists, he agreed to go to lunch with one of them. He made it a point to say that it was, however, going to be expensive. Picking someone at random, Nakamoto said, “I’m going to go with this guy.” They got into a car and headed toward Mako Sushi in Arcadia. When the other reporters followed them to the restaurant, they got back into their car and headed toward downtown Los Angeles. The fact that Nakamoto’s lunch companion was an AP journalist probably had some bearing on the fact that the two took shelter in the office of the local AP Bureau. Many things remain unclear about Mr. Nakamoto, including whether or not he ever got his free lunch.
by Donna Westlund