The Bitcoin Signing Session – When Gavin Met Craig

Reading Time: 4 minutes
  • Bitcoin ‘creator’ Craig Wright’s ‘proof’ meeting with Gavin Andresen in 2016 has come under the spotlight again
  • Wright was trying to prove he was Satoshi Nakamoto, but Andresen says he “has doubts”
  • Andresen says he could have been “bamboozled” into believing Wright’s ‘proof’

It is April 7, 2016. Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin pioneer of the cryptocurrency, is in a basement conference room in a London hotel. He has just arrived from the US and is watching Craig Wright sign some early Bitcoin blocks, a process he has repeated for Jon Matonis and would later repeat for the BBC, the Economist, and GQ, in his Satoshi Nakmoto signing tour.

Wright’s performances have come on the back of claims by Wired and Gizmodo magazines that Wright is Bitcoin’s creator following a series of ‘leaked’ emails. As a result of questions arising over the authenticity of those emails, Wright is now on a charm offensive to try and win over the doubters, including influential ones like Andresen and Matonis, a founder of the Bitcoin Foundation.

And he has achieved it. Following the signings, Andresen says that “I believe Craig Steven Wright is the person who invented Bitcoin” while Matonis states that “I have no doubt that Craig Steven Wright is the person behind the Bitcoin technology.”

Case closed?


Wright’s Reputation Takes a Battering

Fast forward four years and things look very different. Wright’s claims to be Bitcoin’s creator lie in tatters, to the point where all the media outlets to which Wright ‘proved’ his claims have since amended either their headlines or their attitude towards Wright’s claims:

Craig Wright BBC

Source: BBC

Craig Wright Wired

Source: Wired

Craig Wright Gizmodo

Source: Gizmodo

If the mainstream media has turned its back on Wright and his claims to have created Bitcoin, what of Andresen and Matonis? Matonis hasn’t spoken about Craig Wright’s claims since 2017, but the fact that he took a job working for Wright’s company nChain in 2017 speaks volumes. Andresen on the other hand has had something of a change of heart.

Andresen’s Deposition Illustrates a Change of Heart

Andresen was recently asked to provide a deposition in the Kleiman vs Wright case that has been rumbling on since early 2018. His deposition was published online last month and showed that the intervening years have seen seeds of doubt creep in about what he saw in that Covent Garden conference room.

In the deposition, Andresen confirms that he has four proofs that any candidate must pass in order to be genuinely considered a contender for the crown of Bitcoin creator – a message signed with the same PGP key that Satoshi used in 2010, a message signed with the keys from early Bitcoin blocks, a copy of an email or private forum post between himself and Satoshi, and a conversation about “technical things via email”.

When asked by Kleiman’s attorney Velvel Freedman if Andresen had received these four proofs from Wright, Andresen respondes that he “believed” he got a message signed with keys from early Bitcoin blocks and “did get a conversation about technical stuff”, although not in the form of private posts or emails, which Wright claimed he had deleted.

When asked what happened with the PGP signature, Andresen responds that Wright “gave me some reason why he either did not have the key or it would not be good proof”. Andresen says that at the time he found Wrights excuses credible, but now he has his “doubts”.

Bitcoin Founder, With VC Backing

The deposition also makes clear that Wright intended to monetize the Satoshi Nakamoto name, a process that he acknowledged would leave him “hated”:

Craig Wright was working with a couple of venture capital-type people. I’ve forgotten the name of their company. […] But he was one of those venture capital-type people who, I believe, were interested in helping Craig through this whole process of claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto.

It was this venture capitalist firm who contacted Andresen in the first place and arranged for his presence in London, as well as paying for his flight – a firm who, Andresen learned was intending to sell or license the intellectual properties and patents under the Satoshi name once Wright had been anointed the founder of Bitcoin.

Andresen Raises Other Doubts

Crucially, Andresen also corrects his impressions from 2016 and says that the laptop Wright used to sign the Bitcoin message was not factory sealed as he had originally thought, as well as saying that it is possible that Wright downloaded a “rogue version” of the Electrum wallet he used to sign the blocks. Andresen also states that he did not verify that there was no other software on the USB stick Wright used to sign the blocks, all of which suggests that some kind of technical foul play cannot be ruled out.

Andresen also admits to being “exhausted” from the flight, and summarizes by saying that he is still not sure about what he witnessed:

Sitting here today, I think it’s more likely than not that I saw a proper signature, but I — but I do have some doubt […] and my doubts arise because the proof that was presented to me is very different from the pseudo proof that was later presented to the world.

With Andresen, as well as the journalists and outlets who covered the ‘unveiling’ of Craig Wright in 2015 and 2016, all either changing their minds on Wright or at least wavering in their surety of his claims, it seems that Wright may well have a harder job than he thought in proving in court that he is the creator of Bitcoin.