The recent “Hodlonaut” trial between plaintiff Marcus Granath and defendant Dr. Craig S. Wright has brought up more interesting details about Wright’s past work and interests. In this testimony video, friend and former colleague Shoaib Yousuf sheds some light on Dr. Wright’s research activities and tells of his reaction when he found out Wright had created Bitcoin.
Yousuf is currently based in Dubai, where he is the Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group. He leads on cybersecurity, digital, and technology transformation-related topics within the firm.
Yousuf’s testimony does not reveal any groundbreaking details about Dr. Wright or his role in Bitcoin. However, it does serve to complete the picture of his past interests and work in cybersecurity and where they might have been leading.
He first met Dr. Wright in 2006 while Yousuf was completing a Master of Information Systems Security course at Charles Sturt University. He noted that Dr. Wright was his classmate in one subject and his lecturer in another—something he found unusual at the time. He says he was also impressed at Wright’s depth of knowledge across various topics, and particularly that he had over 70 certifications in cybersecurity, pretty much all the certifications he could think of in that field.
Over time, Dr. Wright became a kind of mentor to him. Their friendship grew when Wright mentioned he had a farm in Port Macquarie, where Yousuf was based at the time. He visited the farm, expecting to find something remote, perhaps with cows, but instead found server rooms and a satellite internet connection, something more like a research lab than an agricultural operation.
“It was quite a bit of an unusual experience for me, because I had a different understanding of farms,” Yousuf said.
During his visits to the farm, Yousuf discussed many topics with Dr. Wright, including cybersecurity and problems within the industry, broader technology issues, and politics and religion. One particular interest Wright had was digital payments. He was critical of systems like Visa and Mastercard (NASDAQ: MA), saying they were inappropriate for global online payments. The world needed a new standard that was universal and accepted everywhere and which could also be decentralized and secure to fix this. Such a system would take power away from fee-charging payment behemoths, returning power to the people who held the assets.
However, Yousuf never saw any document that looked like it could have been the original Bitcoin white paper or any version of it.
The two stayed in touch and, in 2010, decided to work together and start a business. Yousuf found that Dr. Wright wasn’t fully committed to building the business and instead spent a lot of time on his research projects. Running out of cash, Yousuf decided in 2011 to take another job offer in Malaysia.
When he returned to Australia in 2012 and visited Dr. Wright’s office, Yousuf says he was surprised at how big the company had grown. The business now had about 3-4 different projects, one of which was the company called “C01N”, and others involving supercomputing and Bitcoin infrastructure.
Under cross-examination from Granath’s counsel, Yousuf appears to have only a basic understanding of what those businesses were doing. Despite being officially a company director from 2012, he wasn’t involved in the minutiae and had spoken to others about ending his formal involvement. Nor, he says, did he know anything about the Australian Tax Office’s investigation or claims Dr. Wright’s companies had not engaged in any of the claimed research activities (the matter has been one of the main topics of dispute between Dr. Wright and the ATO).
He learned of Dr. Wright’s “outing” as Satoshi Nakamoto through the news but said that given his past experiences with Wright, none of it came as any surprise. A system like Bitcoin matched many of the discussions they’d had about digital payments.
Dr. Wright, Yousuf said, had been burned in the past and faced many challenges. He feels Wright had never received proper recognition within his chosen industry, despite being so credentialed, possibly because he did most of his work in private. Given all these, Yousuf expressed it wasn’t surprising he’d tried to be anonymous when creating Bitcoin.
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