An Interview with Jeremy Sturdivant aka “Jercos”, the young man who sold two pizzas for 10,000 BTC in what would come to be recognized as the first transaction involving a tangible good or service in bitcoin history. Now recognized as “bitcoin pizza day”.
On May 22, 2010 Laszlo Hanyecz now famously declared success in his four day quest to trade 10,000 BTC for “a couple of pizzas”, posting on a bitcointalk forum page:
“I just want to report that I successfully traded 10,000 bitcoins for pizza. Thanks jercos!”
At the time the transaction was valued at $25. A year later it was $57,700. Five years later the value is about $2.3 million after having been as high as $10+ million in late 2013. The transaction is now firmly entrenched in bitcoin lore, memorialized on several bitcoin history sites and inspiring a “pizza index” (at least for a little while). But there are questions that still remain about the historic event, so Bitcoin Who’s Who reached out to Jercos at his home in California for some answers.
Q. Five years after the event what do you remember most about that transaction?
A. Retrospectively, simply having that much bitcoin in one place is quite a crazy thought. Of course that wasn’t notable at the time, as bitcoin was just getting started, and it otherwise felt much like later (smaller) transactions: a simple exchange of currency for goods or services.
Q. What was the “temperature in the room” at that moment?
A. Pretty comfortable. The big factor in my mind at the time was a worry that Laszlo would have some trouble [with the delivery] that had been paid for online with an out of state card, but fortunately everything went smoothly.
Q. Did you know you were making history?
A. To a degree. I just happened to take a visible step as a part of the whole community’s growing trust in bitcoin, it didn’t feel unique in the sense that if I hadn’t accepted that offer, someone else surely would have… but at the same time I was certainly somewhat aware that this was setting a precedent for casual trade with bitcoin.
Q. This bitcoin wiki page says Laszlo bought two Dominos pizzas from you, but the pictures are of Papa John’s, what do you remember?
A. I’m starting to really regret not keeping chat logs of the event, as I clearly remember Domino’s pizza (right down to their particular web interface), but the pictures show Papa John’s.
Q. You don’t have a bitcointalk profile, how did you get in touch with Laszlo to make the transaction?
A. The actual transaction took place on IRC (Internet Relay Chat).
Q. Are you excited to be a part of this history?
A. Absolutely. Again I feel my part wasn’t critical or irreplaceable, but it was an important step to be taken, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to take it myself. Beyond that, I’m just as excited to take part in the future, and don’t have any intention of pining away for the “glory days” any more than early subscribers to Prodigy or CompuServe in the ’80s and ’90s would when looking at the wonders of the modern internet.
Q. Are you really only 24? How old were you when you first heard about bitcoin and this all happened to you?
A. I am, and I’ve been following bitcoin at least passively from late 2009, when I would have been 18. Bitcoin doesn’t discriminate against age any more than gender, race, size of business, etc., and it’s naturally up to the community to match those accepting standards in their personal conduct. Everyone’s experience and knowledge has the potential to be valuable.
Q. How were you first introduced to bitcoin?
A. I believe the first place I heard bitcoin mentioned was on IRC. It seemed interesting at the time, so despite being somewhat disappointed by the failure of e-gold, I wound up running a cpuminer on a Linode, probably mining several thousand coins that way. Beyond of course being impractical to cpumine these days, I believe it’s also now against Linode’s policies, so do try that at home rather than in their datacenter.
Q. Did you know Laszlo Hanyecz personally before you transacted with him? Or just over bitcointalk forum?
A. I’d seen Laszlo chatting in IRC, specifically #bitcoin and possibly #bitcoin-dev on Freenode. I wouldn’t say I knew him personally, but we were both somewhat visible in the growing community, with a level of public trust.
Q. What do you primarily use bitcoins for? Do you still control millions of dollars worth?
A. Bitcoin as a currency is meant to be spent. Those 10,000 BTC made it back into the economy fairly quickly, around the time they were worth some $400. A ~10x ROI from simply trading in a different currency is quite good, even if that factor could have been higher had I held on to said currency longer. Naturally there will always be people hoarding coins, trying to get rich, and quite a few people did get quite rich, but they wouldn’t have got that way without economic growth allowing it. To that extent my bitcoin holdings do usually measure in hundreds or thousands of USD, simply because I use them much as I would a checking account, to conduct business both online and offline when I have the opportunity. Notably the “humble bundles” and the attached store accepting bitcoins significantly bolstered my video game library.
Q. What do you think will be the primary use of bitcoins in the future?
A. I see the role of bitcoin mostly being similar to PayPal or Stripe, providing a link between card handlers or banks, and retailers. Bitcoin naturally allows some compelling extra features and removes many centralized aspects, but I typically acquire bitcoin either in payment for services or through an exchange, and spend them in the same manner. It’s never felt like an investment to me, despite great opportunities for interested investors, rather it’s a living currency.
Q. Are you invested in any commercial bitcoin enterprises currently?
A. Not beyond using it to do business myself. If the opportunity arose I’d be more inclined to invest in a bitcoin business than to hold on to coins, and I’d encourage any readers thinking about investing in bitcoin businesses to do so. Your coins will grow better in the hands of people making progress than in your wallet.
Q. Is it correct that you were living in the UK at the time of the transaction? Where do you live now?
A. I have yet to travel outside of the US, and am living on the west coast, near Santa Cruz, California. I believe Laszlo bought more pizza through others later on, and some of them may have been in the UK As they say, “give a man a pizza, he’ll eat for a day, let him buy pizza with bitcoin, revolutionize the economy.” Something like that anyway.
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I’m currently a product development engineer for Inovonics Inc., a manufacturer of professional radio broadcast equipment.
Q. Thoughts on Ethereum?
A. Ethereum has looked fairly promising since its initial whitepaper. While digital contracts are an exciting potential, bitcoin’s success has always been because of the community around it, so the most impactful short-term potential I see in Ethereum is in a distributed web of trust. Of course its additions to verifiable bitcoin gambling, and the potential to create some of the more obscure financial instruments both represent a positive factor for some important parts of the bitcoin community as well. Some of the functionality of Ethereum reminds me of Open-Transactions, a project that has the potential to add efficient microtransactions and currency exchange with a semi-centralized authority, without losing the distributed advantages of bitcoin itself.
Q. Do you follow the price of BTC closely? What price points are you watching for?
A. I keep an eye on the price simply as a value reference. The long-term trend is more important to me than any exchange’s spot price. If I wind up holding a large number of coins during a price dip, I can wait it out, while a longer downward trend reaching at same low point wouldn’t discourage my day-to-day business, as waiting would be less likely to counter any losses. With that in mind, the relation to previous price is more important to me than any particular number.
Q. Do you have a strong preference for a new BTC symbol? (B, ฿ or Ƀ)
A. Bitcoin has been “BTC” in my mind for a long time, and any of those symbols are easy enough to associate. I do have a weak preference for “Ƀ” simply because I like the aesthetics.