Bitcoin pizza guy: I regret nothing, also Satoshi was a weirdo
Spending $80 million on pizza is its own reward.
Laszlo Hanyecz has achieved immortality as the first person to use bitcoin to purchase physical goods. Those goods took the form of two pizzas for 10,000 BTC. Today that bitcoin is worth around US$70 to $80 million.
Jeremy Sturdivant was the lucky forward-looking pizza merchant, who cashed out the bitcoin into a trip when BTC was worth a couple hundred dollars.
In addition to a little slice of blockchain immortality, each of them has something else in common; neither regrets it.
Sturdivant takes the wealth that came and went philosophically. He was never going to hang on to peak price, he reckons, so he ended up getting pretty good value.
"It's easy to look back and say 'I could have been a millionaire,'" he said to CoinTelegraph. "I think it's more important to look at the mindset I had during the pizza transaction, not being that of acquiring an investment, but of making use of a form of currency. If I was looking to hoard coins, I very likely wouldn't have been in the right place at the right time."
Hanyecz is happy to have been a part of bitcoin's history, although he's slightly surprised that the pizza thing caught on so widely.
"You know, I don't regret it," he said. "I think that it's great that I got to be part of the early history of Bitcoin in that way, and people know about the pizza and it's an interesting story because everybody can kind of relate to that and be 'Oh my God, you spent all of that money!'... I've always kind of just wanted people to use Bitcoin and buying the pizza was one way to do that. I didn't think it would get as popular as it has, but it's gotten to be a really catchy story for people."
Hanyecz's involvement with early bitcoin didn't start with the pizza though. He also worked with anonymous bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto in the early days, exchanging hundreds of emails with the mysterious figure over the course of a year.
His take? It's no coincidence that Satoshi Nakamoto's identity was never discovered. He was paranoid, weird and thoroughly committed to anonymity.
"He or she or whoever it was never told me anything personal," Hanyecz said. "I asked a few questions, but he always dodged them. Those questions never got answered."
The name had Hanyecz convinced that Nakamoto was a "slightly eccentric man of Asian descent" in the words of Business Insider, but it was never confirmed.
A few people have stepped up to claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto over the years, but one of the most prominent is probably Craig Wright, the billionaire, philanthropist, early bitcoin adopter, alleged fraudster and probable serial liar who almost certainly is not Satoshi Nakamoto.
"There were a few times when I got messages that seemed off-base," Hanyecz said. "I brushed them off because I was like, who cares if this guy tells me to go pound sand and go away? This wasn’t my job or anything – it was a hobby. I was trying to be friends with him. He seemed very paranoid about people breaking the software. He kept calling it 'prerelease,' and I was helping him get it to release."
That paranoia and secrecy seems very well founded now.
"If anything had happened to the code early on, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today," Hanyecz said.
Plus, Nakamoto's secrecy and mysteriousness almost certainly helped bitcoin take off. Not only did it help the project take off, and get too big to fail before anyone had the chance to stomp it out, but it also adds an undeniable allure to bitcoin.
As they say, never meet your heroes. Although "gods" might be more appropriate in the case of bitcoin and its near-religious significance.
Nakamoto was also prescient enough to recognise the enormous riches that potentially awaited early miners, and didn't seem too thrilled by it, sometimes chiding Hanyecz on his mining pursuits.
"He said, 'Well, I’d rather not have you do the mining too much,'" Hanyecz said. "He was trying to grow the community and get more commerce use cases. He fully recognised that mining would become a thing where a few people would get wealthy."
It doesn't really matter who created it though, Hanyecz said. What they created is more important.
"It’s exciting because people love a man of mystery, but I try to steer people towards the fact that it doesn’t matter who made it; he could be a psycho killer," Hanyecz said. "People like to identify with heroes or villains, but in the cryptosphere, your code has to speak for itself. Charisma and being an interesting person only gets you so far when you’re a developer. Ultimately, you’ll be judged on the quality of your code and your idea."
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, BTC, NANO