Zooko Wilcox

Zooko Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of the Electric Coin Company (ECC), the company behind , a privacy-preserving protocol. Prior to his current position, he was a junior coder at DigiCash and has been highly active in the and space, voicing his opinion on blogs and tweets. [1][2]


Early Career

Zooko Wilcox's journey into cryptocurrencies began in 1993 when he stumbled upon science papers discussing digital money. Recognizing the potential for economic freedom to complement political and informational freedoms, Zooko began studying about the technology behind cryptocurrencies while attending the University of Colorado, Boulder, eventually dropping out when offered a position at DigiCash. [3]

During the "What Bitcoin Did" interview, Zooko said:

"I discovered some science papers about cryptocurrencies, so I fell down the rabbit hole as we all do when we find out about cryptocurrencies - well I did that in about 1993 - and I started skipping class and sitting out on the lawn at CU-Boulder in Boulder Colorado, reading these science papers about how to have digital money because it seemed obvious to me that with political freedom and with informational freedom the next thing we needed was economic freedom in order to be able to assist each other"


Zooko's interest in learning about cryptocurrencies led him to DigiCash, where he became enamored with the idea and the scientific papers, largely rewritten by David Chaum and his co-authors. In 1996, he made a pivotal decision to drop out of school and join DigiCash as a junior coder. Working alongside some of the brightest cryptographers globally, Zooko contributed to the startup, initially optimistic about its potential success. Despite his efforts, DigiCash faced challenges, and was unable to continue growing, leading Zooko to leave the project. [3]

During the What Bitcoin Did podcast video on Youtube, Zooko stated:

"Yeah, I was totally in love with the idea of DigiCash. The science papers were mostly written - those ones that I was so enamored of - were mostly written by David Chaum and co-authors were great cryptographers of the era"

"I dropped out of school because they offered me the job of junior coder and I was terrible at school anyway because I was disorganized, I was procrastinating and I was depressed and had a bad diet, didn't sleep at night, played too many computer games, and I was doing a terrible a job of learning anything or getting my degree. So the best or one of the best decisions of my entire life was dropping out of school to go work for this startup chock full of the some of the smartest cryptographers of the world"


Then, the concept of first came across Zooko through the cryptography mailing list, where introduced it. Initially skeptical about its practicality, Zooko eventually recognized its significance and became one of the early contributors to the Bitcoin ecosystem. In 2013, he wrote the first blog post about Bitcoin on the internet, establishing his presence in the community, extended to various activities, including code reviews, blog posts, and contributions to the original Bitcoin Foundation. [3]

During the same What Bitcoin Did video he said:

"I think I heard about it on the cryptography mailing list where Satoshi posted it. Like a lot of the people on that list I kind of gave a quick read through of the white paper and said yeah, it's really cool but this will never actually work in practice you know it's fundamentally not gonna work. I then wrote the first blog post about Bitcoin on the internet like a month later and he thanked me for it"

"I contributed to security, I read the some of the source code looking for security problems found one reported it, I wrote quite a few blog posts, I was somewhat active on blogs, mailing lists, Bitcoin talk, contributed to the original Bitcoin Foundation. I went to conferences and hung out on IRC a lot I guess Bitcoin dev IRC and expressed my opinions about technical stuff with the other hackers"

Zcash and Electric Coin Company

Zooko's involvement in the space continued as scientists discovered a method to integrate privacy into an open public ledger. Tasked with transforming this innovation, initially known as ZeroCoin, into a reliable and scalable solution for global use, Zooko decided to help create . [3]

The initiative gained attention after a presentation at the 2013 San Jose Bitcoin conference, and despite initial reservations from the Bitcoin Core Devs, the Electric Coin Company (ECC) was founded and Zcash was created as a privacy-centric cryptocurrency. [3][4][5]

In the What Bitcoin Did podcast he said:

"Some scientists discovered a way to add privacy into an open public ledger and then they asked me to productize it and make it full scale and reliable for the whole world, that's how I got started."

"They proposed a give a talk about this innovation which at that time was called ZeroCoin it was a science paper and they gave that at the 2013 San Jose Bitcoin conference... A Bitcoin Core Dev whoever it was said, 'by the way we're hearing a lot of buzz about this proposal to add this new feature to add to Bitcoin, we just want to be absolutely clear that's not gonna happen anytime soon we're not gonna support putting this radical experiments the whole new thing right into the core protocol'."

Zooko Steps Down as CEO

According to a blog posted on December 18, 2023, by Electric Coin Co., Zooko Wilcox, the project's creator, is set to step down as CEO and be replaced by Josh Swihart. Wilcox has served as the project's leader since 2015, when the company, then known as "Zcash," was created. [6][7]

Swihart, formerly senior vice president of growth at ECC, will return to the company to take on the CEO role, responsible for all strategic and tactical decisions, according to the post.

"Now, it’s time to start a new chapter. Josh Swihart, formerly SVP of Growth at ECC, will return to ECC and take over the reins from Zooko as CEO. He will be responsible for all strategic and tactical decisions. Zooko will remain in his role as a director on the board of the Bootstrap Project, the parent company of ECC. And first, he will take some much-deserved time off. Together, we will fully support and enable Josh to lead ECC into a new chapter of service to humanity." - Electric Capital stated[6]

Wilcox will remain in his role as a director on the board of the Bootstrap Project, the parent company of ECC, according to the post. [7]

In a separate blog post, Wilcox wrote that " took over not only my life but also my identity."

"It was hard for others to see Zcash as something separate from me. sometimes it was hard for me to do that myself," Wilcox wrote. "However, in the long run, I don’t think this conflation of Zcash with me personally is healthy for me, and I don’t think it’s healthy for Zcash."

He also wrote that he was looking forward to a "couple of months to think about how I can best help," but that "anything that I would commit myself to in the future would need to include Zcash because the Zcash community is freedom’s best hope." [7]

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Zooko Wilcox

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Edited On

January 11, 2024

Reason for edit:

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