Blockchain Pioneer David Zimbeck: 'People don't have to feel afraid of being cheated'

The founder of blockchain platforms BitHalo and BlackHalo talks with us about his journey and offers advice on becoming a successful crypto entrepreneur.

Leah Zitter
Read +
Follow Us

How do you become a blockchain developer? How do you run a winning ICO? How do you make your blockchain startup succeed?

David Zimbeck’s life story answers each of these questions. Over a period of three weeks, I held a series of phone and email interviews with the very first person who developed a prototype of smart contracts, five years before Vitalik Buterin locked his into Ethereum. Zimbeck created blockchain platforms BitHalo and BlackHalo, and was a major developer at BitBay.

BitBay is the world's first fully-functional decentralized marketplace that helps you buy and sell goods and services securely and anonymously. As is typical with blockchain pioneers who tout a broad range of interests, David came to blockchain from a “production, acting, real estate, web design, film editing, events, and promotion” background.

Oh, and he defeated ten chess grandmasters, worked on an oil rig and played a minor role in Pirates of the Caribbean 2, all before age 19. His adventures contributed to his programming. Chess helped him visualize code, plan, memorize and problem solve. Property negotiations helped Zimbeck develop BitBay’s double escrow smart contract program, while the oil drilling taught him how to muscle his way through fatigue and discouragement.

“Being well rounded,” he said, “is critical for perspective and insight.”

Why Did Zimbeck Choose Blockchain?

Zimbeck rose to prominence at a young age
Zimbeck rose to prominence at a young age.

Since he was nine-years-old, Zimbeck sought to make the world a better place. He explained: “What got me into blockchain was my search for solutions to world problems. Bitcoin didn't impress me since the decentralizing of money won't stop the media from [brainwashing us how to live]. However, I saw a lot of interesting potentials with Blockchain and that is what got me into [blockchain development].”

Zimbeck planned to make transactions transparent.

“I thought if I could make a contract where both parties lose if one cheats, it would be impossible to break your word because the investor is doing it at his expense. People don't have to feel afraid of being cheated. You don’t need lawyers to protect you. My idea was to restore some innocence to the world before innocence is lost forever.”

According to early Bitcoin investor, Puneet Gupta, blockchain development takes, at least, a year to learn. Articles on the topic specify a shopping list of requirements that include languages like LLL, Java, C++, Serpent, and Solidity. Zimbeck was a high-school dropout who only knew basic QBack and C++. 

He taught himself programming through Google in three months.

“I secluded myself in a trailer, in North Dakota, teaching myself to program from scratch. This was mid-winter, minus 13 degrees weather. I worked 16-hour days. A friend bought me a Taco Bell spicy potato burrito and a Mountain Dew every night. That with almonds, chocolate, and sunflower seeds kept me just about alive. I would wake up, roll out of bed, code and sleep. I developed a cough that was so bad I had to fly to Florida after my prototype was done to have my parents nurse me back to health.”

What drove him?

“It was what was needed,” Zimbeck reflected, “to make the world's first smart contracting platform when I was literally a nobody in cryptography and I came completely out of nowhere.”

In 2014, Zimbeck launched BitHalo with its double deposit escrow, where both parties deposit security funds into a two-party escrow joint account. If either party defaults on the deal, both parties lose their money. “This is how our contracts differ from Ethereum. We enforce it in real-world situations and do so in a way that is peer-to-peer. This prevents all that bloat that Ethereum suffers from.”

Zimbeck found blockchain pioneering a rollercoaster ride. There were the ups – the bone-tingling zang from producing something important. And there were the lows – such as when Zimbeck was hired by a band of connivers for Bitbay. And he, along with BitBay’s investors, was scammed.

“That was the lowest. It took me months to get out of bed. I learned that in the blockchain world, there are certain types of people who are sociopaths. Bitcoin has no regulations. These people control the supply and push up prices. You wouldn't know it, but some of these people even work for governments, some work for banks. They are really bad.”

In time, David polished BitHalo into BitBay. He introduced his most recent innovation, the rolling peg that stabilizes the crypto price to the US Dollar and started promoting its ICO. One of BitBay’s investors who had been scammed by the original founders wrote:

"I'm a former holder of a BitBay but it's good to see it go on a bull run like this. Logic would dictate that I'm regretful and I would be lying if I said I wasn't. However, I'm feeling more joyful than anything else. This is an undervalued project with a highly committed lead dev. Congrats to all holders."

From what I’ve seen, BitBay offers something solid... the chance to make deals without mediators and get your money’s worth without ever meeting or even communicating with the other via phone or email. 

BitBay’s impregnable smart contracts and its double escrow mechanism confirm that both buyer and seller profit from their transactions.

On the other hand, BitBay still has a way to go to market itself and to appeal to a lay audience, which is part of David’s plans.

“I want to finish the peg and templates. Then I want to see where things go and hope new devs take over the project, refactor it, make it into JavaScript, so my baby will be able to survive and defend itself without me.”

As for himself: “I want to go into construction, farming, and off-grid stuff. Also, I might choose to continue my service to others and promote good technologies like water from air machines, solar and wind, Tesla and Royal Rife, 3d printing, and so forth.”

So how do you become a blockchain developer, start an ICO, and succeed? Zimbeck’s LinkedIn Education reads “School of Hard Knocks.” It also says “street smarts” and “hustling.”

This is the advice he leaves for you, readers:

“Set your standards as high as possible. Look at yourself. You are gifted with a soul and a body with an awesome design. You have all the tools at your disposal. So why shouldn't you have the potential to excel if you apply yourself? You need to fight your own battles, make your own road to self-mastery. You must face challenges without fear, with strength, passion, creativity, and humor. Above all, you must be honest with yourself and be willing to look at things from other perspectives. To move forward, take actions and let your errors be your teacher and intuition your guide.”