In 2013, Billy Markus joined up with Adobe software engineer Jackson Palmer to launch the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. Markus left the company in 2015, but after the combined forces of Elon Musk, Twitter and Reddit sent the market value of Dogecoin soaring by 1500% in January, he's come back into the limelight with a bang.... and he's not happy about it at all. Find out more as we look at ten things you didn't know about Billy Markus.
1. He never had a master plan
When Markus founded Dogecoin, he didn't have a master plan. It all started in 2013 when Adobe software engineer Jackson Palmer became aware of the increasing number of altcoins like Magacoin, AnonCoin, and BBQCoin popping up to rival the dominance of Bitcoin. After Palmer jokingly tweeted that he was “investing in Dogecoin, pretty sure it’s the next big thing,” several of his friends encouraged him to do it for real. So he set out to do just that. After buying 'Dogecoin.com,' Palmer photoshopped the logo onto a coin and put it up. That's where it would have ended, but Markus, who at that time was working as a software engineer for IBM, happened to stumble onto the site. “I was tinkering with a coin that I had already made called ‘Bells,’ based off of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, that wasn’t particularly successful," he's since recalled. "I was mucking with it and I figured out how to change all the fonts to Comic Sans MS, then thought, ‘oh ok, this could be funny.’ So I had a mockup of the client with the Dogecoin picture Palmer made, and I just wanted to show that I wasn’t a noob and I could actually make coins… This wasn’t some weird master plan that we had.”
2. He wanted to reach a wider demographic than Bitcoin
When Markus and Palmer created Dogecoin, they didn't have a master plan. But they did have an intention, an intention to create a peer-to-peer digital currency that could reach a far broader demographic than Bitcoin was capable of. As Wikipedia explains, they were also determined to move away from the controversial history of other virtual currencies. Dogecoin was officially launched on December 6, 2013. It was an immediate sensation. Within the first 30 days alone, Dogecoin.com had received more than a million hits.
3. Dogecoin's rapid success put him on a backfoot
Within 2 weeks of launching, Dogecoin had jumped nearly 300 percent in value. Its success took its creators by surprise... much to their detriment. As Markus later explained to Vice, the rapid rise in popularity of the currency put him on a backfoot. As the first people on the Dogecoin network, it should have followed that its creators got the lion's share of Doges. However, Dogecoin gained popularity so quickly, neither Markus nor Palmer was able to collect a significant stash.
4. He credits the success of Dogecoin to its accessibility
Dogecoin's meteoric success may have taken Markus by surprise, but it didn't take him long to put two and two together and work out the reason for its rapid rise in popularity. Markus had always hoped that Dogecoin would reach a wider demographic than Bitcoin, and as it turned out, it was the currency's meme-based accessibility that helped it do just that. “In hindsight, it was obvious that cryptocurrency was ready for something that was more accessible, and a meme is obviously really accessible," Markus explained. "Everyone recognizes the doge meme. It’s based on a dog, and everyone loves dogs. It was a perfect storm.”
5. He's a big believer in charitable causes
From the outset, Markus and Palmer worked to distinguish Dogecoin from the legions of other virtual currencies that were around at the time. One of the ways they did this was by aligning themselves with noble causes. One of the earliest fundraisers they hosted was in January 2014, when they and the Dogecoin community raised $50,000 to help send the Jamaican Bobsled Team to the Sochi Winter Olympics. Shortly after, they raised $30,000 to build a well in Kenya alongside Charity: Water.
6. He wanted to change the way cryptocurrency worked
Markus may not have had a master plan in mind when he created Dogecoin, but after learning more about virtual currencies, he began to foster the hope that it would be possible to create a currency that, when mined, could do something useful and world-changing than simply use up electricity. “I think what everyone wants is a coin where the mining process is actually useful," he explained to Vice.
7. He sold all his Dogecoins in 2015
In 2015, just two years after launching Dogecoin, Markus stepped back from the project for financial reasons after losing his job at IBM. After selling all his Dogecoins, he managed to raise just enough to buy a used Honda Civic.
8. He leads a quiet life
Dogecoin may have turned Markus into a public figure, but since stepping back from the project, he's been happy enough to leave the spotlight to others. Having returned to his job as an engineer at IBM, he now lives a very quiet, very private life. If ever he does pop up on social media, it's only ever under the pseudonym 'Shibetoshi Nakamoto.'
9. He says he's being harassed
Since Dogecoin came back into the news with a bang this January after buying tips from Tesla CEO Elon Musk resulted in the cryptocurrency's value rising by around 1500%, Markus has been forced to forsake the quiet life and make his return to the spotlight - and he's in no way happy about it. As thecryptobasic.com reports, the sudden re-interest in Dogecoin has left Markus feeling harassed. 7 years after leaving the project, he's once again having to field endless questions about it. Taking to Twitter to air his disgruntlement, Markus vented, "I left Dogecoin seven years ago after harassment from the cryptocurrency community. These harrassment started again. My financial situation is in good condition. But people expect me to do something in a project with which I have no connection anymore."
10. He believes Dogecoin should be about kindness
As well as being upset about being asked about a project he left long ago, Markus is more than a little dismayed about the general direction the Dogecoin community has taken in recent years. As Business Insider India reports, Markus feels the community has become too greedy for its own good, and has forgotten about the true value of the cryptocurrency. According to Markus, Dogecoin should be about nothing more than "Joy, kindness, learning, giving, empathy, fun, community, inspiration, creativity, generosity, silliness, absurdity."
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee