Between 2014 and 2016, Casa Voltaire in Buenos Aires hosted the teams that built three important organizations for cryptocurrencies and web3. The Decentraland metaverse, smart contract auditing firm OpenZeppelin, and the Muun Wallet all started there. In the article “Casa Voltaire. The unknown history of the Palermo bunker where millionaire companies were born,” La Nacion guides us through the few things people know about the mysterious house.
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A hacker house with a startup incubator feel, Casa Voltaire’s guests experimented with smart contracts and bit-corps, the DAOs of the time. They also created some of the first NFTs before that acronym appeared in public consciousness. And that was in their downtime. During office hours, Casa Voltaire spawned three successful companies.
What Does The Article Say About The Companies Casa Voltaire Hosted?
The story starts in 2014 with Manuel Araoz, a recent Computer Science graduate from ITBA. He was one of BitPay’s first employees and “had to find a physical space for the Buenos Aires operation. The place he chose to rent was Casa Voltaire.” At the time, cryptocurrencies were not a popular subject. So, the only people that talked about it naturally banded together. Or so says the legend.
What does the article say about the companies Casa Voltaire hosted, though?
- “Brener and Araoz launched OpenZeppelin, a smart contract security and auditing firm.” Among their clients are Ethereum Foundation, Coinbase, Compoud, and Brave.
- Darío “Sneidermanis and other members of the Casa Voltaire years later founded Muun, a crypto wallet famous for its simple design and ease of use.” It’s actually a bitcoin-only wallet, but, let’s not blame La Nacion or the author for the mistake.
- “Esteban Ordano, one of the founders of Decentraland, the most successful company (in terms of listing) to emerge from Casa Voltaire.” But just how successful? Well, when Zuckerberg changed the name to Meta, Decentraland’s “value went from $1.6 billion to $7 billion: the same price as the New York Times.”
At the market’s peak, the company “was worth 12 billion dollars. With its own tokens totaling around 6 billion dollars, Decentraland (strictly a DAO) is the first crypto-unicorn in Argentina.”
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Quotes From The Protagonists
The article quotes Demián Brener, Open Zeppelin’s CEO and co-founder:
“A crypto pole with such force could not emerge in the First World, where citizens trust their governments, their currency, their institutions and their banks. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that something like Voltaire would have happened in Argentina.”
It also quotes Decentraland’s founder and Casa Voltaire alumni Esteban Ordano speaking about what made the place special:
“At lunch, breaks, and downtime, we made time for deep conversations. Technological change and its impact on society were undoubtedly an important axis. Politics and economics were also present, but without stigmatization: we discussed ideas without judging those who brought them.”
Last but not least, the author quotes Muun’s Darío Sneidermanis:
“The fundamental thing here is to understand the timing, there are many ideas (from Web3) that are going to happen, but it is difficult to know exactly when because they depend on mass adoption or on certain technologies that need better development.”
The Casa Voltaire Mystery
What happened in that house in Palermo, Buenos Aires? The original article’s author couldn’t find enough information about the founders’ time there. Is there a reason for that? The article quotes an anonymous programmer, “Low-profile personality is one explanation, but also security issues and not raising your head at a time when regulations and tax burden on the sector are supposed to increase.”
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That makes sense. The Casa Voltaire mystery lives on.
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