When the founder of VISA Dee Hock
joined the advisory board
of Bitcoin startup Xapo
, it seemed pretty strange to me. After all, Bitcoin’s very existence appears to be a reaction to VISA’s shortcomings. VISA represents everything bitcoin fans hate: fees, centralization, archaic design, and more. The VISA network, it seems, is designed to make the banks more money by charging high fees to businesses that have little choice but to accept them. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is designed to empower people to use their money with no intermediary, no fees, and no central authority to get in the way. So what could the founder of VISA want with Bitcoin, and more importantly, what could Bitcoin want with him? It turns out the story of Dee Hock and VISA is more complicated (not to mention stranger) than the dominant narrative today would suggest. In fact, VISA is arguably the best example in the history of business in utilizing Bitcoin’s most vital characteristic: decentralization.