During the record price surge of Bitcoin (BTC) back in 2017, John McAfee, an eccentric English-American businessman, computer programmer, and crypto enthusiast, made a bold declaration in favor of the widely popular cryptocurrency. First, he stated on his Twitter account (@officialmcafee) that, given the current trend that Bitcoin was on, the price of the cryptocurrency would reach 500,000 USD by 2020. At the time, Bitcoin’s price was about 3,000 USD and rising. Social media users quickly took on the bet, McAfee went on to say the following:
Three months later, McAfee made yet another prediction for Bitcoin, doubling-down and stating that the price of one Bitcoin would be equivalent to 1 Million USD by 2020. Naturally, the bet to eat his penis still stood at the time. This declaration became so popular that a website to track the progress was created, aptly named the Dickening.
By January 2020 though, McAfee capitulated and stated on Twitter that he just made the declaration to onboard new users and that it worked. He even went so far as to declare Bitcoin outdated, renouncing BTC altogether in favor for Ethereum. But just who is John McAfee and why does his opinion have an impact in the world of cryptocurrency? ChangeNOW looks into the colorful life of the man who staked his penis on the success of Bitcoin.
The Rise of John McAfee
Born in the United Kingdom and raised in Virginia, USA, John had quite a turbulent childhood. His father was an abusive alcoholic and later committed suicide when John was 15 years old. This traumatic experience had scarred him for life, to the extent where he would wake up with the horrific memory every morning. Despite this experience, McAfee did not remain immune to the allure of liquor. While studying at Roanoke College, his alcoholic experiences became notorious, even though he was otherwise a bright student and a promising entrepreneur. McAfee’s first small fortune was from a business selling newspaper door to door.
John McAfee is best known as the founder of McAfee Associates and led the company from 1984 to 1994. McAfee Associates succeeded in creating the first antivirus software for commercial use, a widely popular program called McAfee. One of the major reasons why the anti-virus software was greatly adopted is the threat of a virus called Michaelangelo. In 1996, John McAfee sold his shares in McAfee Associates for about 100 million USD, two years after the company went public.
After his resignation from McAfee Associates, McAfee kept a pretty low profile. He would give advice to young startups, lecture at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and also work on other projects of his own. He worked on a social network company called PowWow through the parent company Tribal Voice, although it wasn’t very successful. He also invested in and joined the board of directors of Zone Labs. They developed a firewall software which was later acquired by Check Point Software.
Taking a Downturn
McAfee’s net worth took a downturn during the 2008 financial crisis. He told CNN Money back in 2014 that “only a tiny fraction of his one-time 100 million USD survived the 2008 market crash”. He mentioned that he invested in several high-end real estate. It was estimated that his net worth changed from about 100 million USD to only about 4 million USD from 2007 to 2008. But this was not the end of the financial woes for McAfee.
After losing a large sum of his net worth in 2008, McAfee decided to sell most of his remaining real estate assets and move to Belize in the late 2000s. There, together with a microbiologist named Allison Adonizio, he started a company called Quoromex. It was their hope to produce commercial all-natural antibiotics based on anti-quorum sensing technology.
But things didn’t go exactly as planned. During his time in Belize, John started to believe that he was constantly being followed, showing clear signs of paranoia. Consumed by this fear and feeling demotivated, he would visit the same bar daily, watching people come and go, and ceasing to do anything else worthwhile. Six months later, he was no longer involved at all in Quoromex.
After all that, the legal issues would begin. When his neighbor was in an incident wherein he got shot, the local police suspected McAfee to be involved. This led him to flee from the country. The government raided his jungle compound and seized all the assets within the residence. The buildings on McAfee’s property later burned down due to unknown reasons.
He was later arrested in Guatemala, having been deceived by an interview by Vice, which included photos that were able to determine his precise location. After the police were able to locate McAfee, he was then deported back to the United States.
Since returning to the United States, McAfee involved himself into several different ventures. He even threw his hat in the 2016 United States Presidential race, initially under the just recently formed Cyber Party.
He eventually shifted to join the Libertarian Party and was considered as a front runner together with Gary Johnson. Needless to say, his bid for the White House didn’t pan out very well. Upon losing the party nomination, Mcafee refused to endorse Gary Johnson’s campaign.
Into the World of Cryptocurrency
In May 2016, McAfee was appointed chief executive chairman and CEO of MGT Capital Investments, a technology holding company. McAfee changed MGT’s focus from social gaming to cybersecurity, stating in an interview that the traditional antivirus software is dead and that the new paradigm is that the hacker has to be stopped before getting in and potentially doing serious damage.
McAfee also moved MGT into mining of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, saying that it was intended both to make money for the company and to increase MGT’s expertise in dealing with blockchain technology, which he thought was important for cybersecurity. In August 2017, McAfee stepped down as CEO, instead serving as MGT’s chief cybersecurity visionary. In January 2018, he left the company altogether. Both parties stated that the decision was amicable, with McAfee saying that he wanted to spend all of his time on cryptocurrencies. Anyhow, the company also stated that they were getting pressured by potential investors to disassociate themselves from McAfee.
John McAfee began to publicly accept amounts of 105,000 USD in exchange for tweets promoting cryptocurrencies in 2018.
He claimed to have been receiving the fees for over six months already at the time he shared the information. McAfee also mentioned a third party study created by Vice which found that his promotional tweets drove short term crypto price gains of between 50% and 350%. This was not received very well by most crypto enthusiasts.
By August 2019, McAfee was embroiled in a dubious dispute with South China Zombie Research Centre (SCZRC). They were the developers behind the Zombie Coin, a gimmicky initial coin offering that paid McAfee 4.5 million USD to draft its whitepaper and promote its ICO. After paying McAfee upfront, he bailed on the project and declared it to be a “shitcoin” and a scam, which prompted SCZRC to threaten him with a 100 million USD lawsuit.
John McAfee Moving Forward
Not to be discouraged by his failed attempt in 2016, McAfee announced his second bid for the 2020 presidential elections. This time running under the Libertarian Party, he switched back and forth from the Presidential position to the VP position and back. Ultimately, he was not nominated by the party whatsoever.
More recently, McAfee announced that he is working on a privacy coin called Ghost. Launched May 25, it is a privacy coin to help make you nothing but a “ghost” when crypto trading. It is tradable against leading cryptocurrencies via atomic swaps on the McAfeeDex decentralized trading platform. Several cryptocurrency enthusiasts likened his venture to that of Monero, even stating that Ghost is a scam that offers new users practically nothing different.
Whether you like McAfee or not, view him as a genius or a mad man, it’s hard not to argue that John McAfee creates waves in any industry he gets involved in. If he’ll have a positive effect on crypto in the long run, remains to be seen. All we know for sure is it looks like he’ll be holding on to all parts of his body for the time being.