Many of us in the crypto industry were uneasily watching the slaughter of Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony before the US Financial Services Committee. We saw each committee member take their five minutes to ask questions, often using up the entire time to grandstand on their particular issues, from vaccines to elections to red-lining. But one congressman had some potent questions about the founding members of the Libra Association.
Whether the questions by Al Green of Texas were founded or not, they did touch upon a few issues. Among other inquiries and accusations, he asked: How many Libra Association members are white? How many are female? How many come from diverse backgrounds?
To try and answer these and other questions that may have arisen during the hearing, this article introduces the original twenty-one founding members. Just last week, they officially signed on to become members of the Libra Association. To learn the intriguing results, keep reading!
What is the Libra Association?
Before we get going, let’s quickly review what the Libra Association is for those of you that are new to this topic. (If you’re already familiar, feel free to skip through to the “Stats” section.)
The Libra Association is a network of partners (including Facebook’s Calibra) that was brought together by Facebook. These members of the Association will be tasked with running Libra’s permissioned blockchain and cryptocurrency. First proposed in February of 2019, the Libra project was originally set to launch just a year later, in 2020. However, regulatory and congressional pushback has quite possibly extended the launch date into unknown territories.
The white paper explains that Libra will gradually become more decentralized and its distributed leadership will come in the form of the Libra Foundation, a non profit organization based in Geneva.
The Libra Association members will lead the Libra Foundation as well as manage oversight and development of the Libra blockchain and coin.
Originally, Facebook’s cryptocurrency project would have 100 founding members and had 27 ready to sign up. But shortly following a letter sent by Congress warning potential partners against joining Libra, seven companies bowed out, including payment giants Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, as well as four other major players
This cryptocurrency could conceivably become available to Facebook’s 2.3 billion users via the Calibra wallet (which is also one of the Association Members). Because of this potential for mass adoption, regulators in the US and Europe have been vocal about quashing the project because of their fears of economic instability. Many officials also worry that it could become a Defacto central bank, while others have a major distrust of Facebook because of past data breaches and multiple privacy lawsuits.
Facebook forged on after the announcement that those partners were backing out and the Libra project continues to its development.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what’s going on with Libra, let’s get into who the Association members are and what they’re all about. We’ll start out with some statistics on the Members’ industries, level of diversity, regions represented, and which of them have previously been involved with “banking the unbanked” initiatives. Then we’ll close with a short description of each Libra Association member.
Libra Association Founding Member Stats:
Members by Industry
- Payments: PayU
- Technology/Ecommerce marketplaces: Calibra, Lyft, Buy Spotify Plays, Uber, Farfetch
- Nonprofits or academic: Creative Destruction Lab, Kiva, Mercy Corps, Women’s World Banking
- Telecommunications: Illiad, Vodafone
- Crypto/Blockchain: Coinbase, Anchorage (a subsidiary of Andreessen Horowitz), Bison Trails, Xapo
- Venture Capital: Andreessen Horowitz, Breakthrough Initiatives, Ribbit Capital, Thrive Capital, Union Square Ventures
Four Libra Association members are nonprofit organizations (Zuckerberg is on the board of one), or academic entities. Seventeen are for-profit companies
Regions represented by 21 founding members
- 13 members are based in the US (7 in the Bay area, 4 in NY, 1 each in South Dakota and Oregon)
- 6 are based in Europe (France, UK, The Netherlands)
- 1 is based in Canada
- 1 is headquartered in Hong Kong (but operates from Palo Alto, CA)
- 0 members are based in unbanked regions
Have any been involved with “banking the unbanked” initiatives before Libra?
The stated mission of Libra is in large part to serve the 1.7 billion unbanked people in our world with a payment system focused on inclusion and easy access. But were any of the partners or their leaders ever associated with initiatives to serve this demographic prior to Libra? Surprisingly, 12 of them had some association with the unbanked problem before this project came to light.
By doing a Google search with the member name and/or the CEO along with the word “unbanked”, the following members showed up on page one of Google as having addressed the unbanked problem prior to the initial announcement of the Libra project. Included in the list below is the linked source of the mention. (Some Libra Association members showed multiple mentions as indicated by an asterisk):
- Andreessen Horowitz
- Breakthrough Initiatives
- Kiva Microfunds*
- Mercy Corps*
- Ribbit Capital
- Union Square Ventures
- Women’s World Banking*
One thing that may be of interest is that in today’s congressional testimony, Mark Zuckerberg stated that even if Facebook could not be involved with the Libra project due to regulatory challenges, the Libra Association could still keep building. The founding 21 members signed the Charter last week and progress could continue with or without Facebook’s Calibra, according to Zuckerberg.
What was not mentioned is that Zuckerberg is also on the board of one of the other members (not just Calibra): According the the Breakthrough Initiatives website, he currently holds a board position on this interesting non-profit company (make sure to read about this project in the “Meet the Members” section!). Stephen Hawking also sat on the board of this organization prior to his death in 2018.
Meet the Libra Association Members:
Led by Co-Founder and President Diogo Mónica, Anchorage is the crypto arm of another Libra Association member, Andreessen Horowitz. Out of South Dakota, Anchorage is a digital asset custodian for native cryptocurrencies that targets institutional investors.
This US based, private venture capital firm was founded by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz in 2009, with Scott Kupor currently leading the helm as Managing Partner and CEO. Andreessen and Horowitz has its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, where the team focuses on seeding late stage technology companies.
Former Etsy founder, Joe Lallouz, leads Bison Trails as Founder and CEO. This blockchain infrastructure platform is based out of New York and runs on multiple proof of stake blockchains including Algorand, Tezos and Decred.
The board of Breakthrough Initiatives comprises of Yuri Milner (founder of DST Global) and Mark Zuckerberg. Stephen Hawking had served on the board as well. According to the website, Yuri and Julia Milner co-founded the project in 2015 to “seek evidence of life beyond earth.”
As Co-Creator of the Libra project, former Paypal CEO David Marcus leads development of the Calibra cryptocurrency wallet, which could potentially connect Facebook users to the Libra payment system.
One of the major US players on the cryptocurrency market front, Coinbase is a crypto exchange, trading platform and wallet. Headed up by CEO, Brian Armstrong, the company began in 2012 and lists Andreessen Horowitz as one of its leading investors.
Creative Destruction Lab
Canadian-based Creative Destructive Lab is another venture capital firm that helps science and technology startups that have scaling potential through seed stage funding. Founder and CEO Ben Goertzel leads the Creative Destruction Lab project, which launched in 2012 and whose mission is “Build Something Massive.
Billionaire José Manuel Ferreira Neves is Founder/CEO of Farfetch, which is an international, online platform for luxury fashions. The company is already displaying the Libra project front and center on its website homepage.
Out of France, Illiad is a telecommunications provider based in Paris and led by French billionaire, Xavier Niel. The company was founded in 1990 and provides a range of services for cell phones, pre paid cards, and web hosting.
As one of the non profit members of the Libra Association, Kiva Microfunds is a money lending online platform that targets low income entrepreneurs and students in 80+ countries. Their mission is to broaden financial inclusion to help struggling communities to thrive. Former publisher and now Kiva CEO, Neville Crawley, leads the team
Out of San Francisco, Lyft operates its online ridesharing platform in 640 cities across America and in 9 Canadian cities as well. The company’s valuation is currently at over $15 billion and is led by Co-Founder/CEO, Logan Green.
Over 5500 humanitarians collectively take on large scale challenges like world hunger and climate change at Mercy Corps. The non profit group focuses on regions that have been through (or are going through) instabilities caused by economic, social, political and environmental transitions. Beth deHamel just recently stepped in as Interim CEO after the former Mercy Corps leader resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.
Netherland-based PayU is a payment processor and financial services provider for online businesses. The company enables other businesses to receive payments through web and mobile applications. They started out in 2002 and target business owners in Russia, South and Central America and India. Formerly on the Nasper’s team, Laurent le Moal is now CEO for PayU.
This financial technology investment firm focuses on ‘ambitious entrepreneurs’ in the fintech space. It has invested in forward-moving cryptocurrency startups Robinhood and Coinbase. Out of the headquarters in Mountain View, California, Co-Founder and CEO of Ribbit Capital, Meyer (Micky) Malka, leads the team in supporting projects that elevate financial inclusion.
A Swedish company at its inception in 2006, Spotify now has its headquarters in Luxembourg. There, it operates its audio streaming services for music and podcasts from traditional media sources. Billionaire, Daniel Ek, leads the online media services company as CEO.
Joshua Kushner (Jared’s brother) is at the helm as Founder and Managing Partner of Thrive Capital. Interestingly, the website homepage for this Libra Association member is almost completely devoid of content, with just a few emails and a link for investors to enter. Thrive Capital is a venture investment firm that specializes in software and internet technology investments.
As a global ridesharing company, San Fancisco based Uber started out in 2011. Today they offer peer to peer ride services, food delivery and bike sharing, operating in more than 785 cities in 63 countries worldwide. Former Expedia Group CEO Dara Khosrowshahi now leads Uber as their CEO.
Union Square Ventures
New York-based Union Square Ventures describes itself as a “thesis-driven” venture capital firm. With eight partners and founded in 2003, USV has invested in more than a hundred innovative, internet-based companies.
Board Chief Executive Nick Read leads Vodafone’s telecommunications conglomerate, providing internet, mobile and broadband services across Eurasia, Africa and Australia. Headquartered in London, the company posted over $48 billion in revenue in 2019 thus far and has been in operations since 1982.
Women’s World Banking
The Women’s World Banking initiative runs a worldwide network of ‘independent microfinance institutions’ that bring technical and strategic support to low income women. Mary Ellen Iskenderian runs the non-profit project as President and CEO from their New York headquarters, out of which they serve women and their families in emerging markets.
As the only Asian based member of the Libra Association, Xapo provides bitcoin wallet, debit card and cold storage services. While the company headquarters are in Hong Kong, their operations are primarily out of the Palo Alto area. At the helm, is a native from Argentina, Wences Casares. As CEO, he leads the company drawing on his experiences of financial instability in his home country.
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to the Libra Association’s founding members. For more reading on the Libra project check out our other articles on the subject: