On 2024-03-18, Ciro Santilli received an anonymous 1000 Monero donation (worth ~126k USD at the time) to his self-custody wallet, which pushed him over his public plea for 100k USD goal to quit his job for one year.
Since this donation is so huge, it deserves some comments and a bit of a retrospective. The path to this donation has been an interactive one, and it is described below.
After starting the OurBigBook Project, Ciro started the sponsor Ciro Santilli's work on OurBigBook.com page on cirosantilli.com and setup some donation methods to help support the project, and possibly try to capitalize a bit on Ciro Santilli's Stack Overflow contributions.
His sponsors are absolutely crazy amazing people, but Ciro simply could attract a large enough amount of small sponsors to reach life changing amounts under those circumstances. This is partly due to Video "And I am not and never have been 'familiar' scene from The Big Short (2015)".
As such, Ciro came to realize more and more that the best approach would be to reach out to a smaller number of rich people, given that the things he works on niche, but may appeal to a particularly wealthy tranche of the population: STEM people. Other experiences and ideas that contribute to this realization are:
  • the creation of the OurBigBook Fellowship, which as of writing consisted of a single donation. During this exercise, Ciro Santilli gave about 2k USD to help a promising Brazilian student. In doing so, he understood a lot about what goes on inside a "rich person's" head when considering a donation
    • it is hard to decide who to donate to and find those people. In part because as soon as you create a public donation system with an application process, people will game the fuck out of it. Perhaps the Lost Horse LLC approach of "they find you" is the best?
    • it is basically impossible to donate more than 1% of your net worth if you have a family. Even 1% you may be discouraged about. Perhaps with reason due to previous bad donations they have made.
  • the increasing wealth inequality of this world, perhaps one of the greatest problems we now face
Then, whenever a larger donation would come through and surprise Ciro, he would improve his sponsor page statements. First a private 150 USD by an awesome sponsor. Then the 2023-09 ~810$ Bitcoin one. Finally came the 2023-11-20 100 Monero one. And it was that one that pushed Ciro to start his "100k USD = 1 year campaign".
Finally on 2024-03-13, Ciro received an anonymous 10 Monero donation to self-custody wallet. He had clearly stated that one should make a test donation to that wallet before the big one, so 10 Monero felt like it could be the test one. Ciro communicated the reception at: mastodon.social/@cirosantilli/112112988286298258 / twitter.com/cirosantilli/status/1769464788009066710 Over the next few days, Ciro checked his wallet more often than his previously self imposed once a weekend max, and as expected, he found the big one on a slightly despaired around midnight sleepless night (partly due to parenthood). He was feeling particularly bored and a bit sad with his work life that night. And there it was. 1000 Monero on the wallet. Needless to say, not much sleep was done on that evening!!!
Video 1. 1000 Monero donation (~126,000 USD) reaction video by Ciro Santilli. Source.
Figure 1. Screenshot of Ciro Santilli's Monero wallet with 1000 Monero in it just after the donation.
The following days were also tense, with Ciro having a trial by fire on selling large amounts of Monero on the UK, which is not trivial as it had been banned from all major exchanges. But he managed. Further notes on that at: www.reddit.com/r/Monero/comments/17arz9f/converting_xmr_to_gbp_in_the_uk/. Ciro also decided to keep about 200 Monero around just for fun as a crazy moonshot.
Another major factor likely Ciro having published his article: Section "Cool data embedded in the Bitcoin blockchain" in 2019. This is something he wrote entirely for fun during an intense 3 week side-time binge in 2019, though some large updates were made later on. It was this article that likely some crypto-dude attention to Ciro Santilli's profile. As of 2024, there is said to be about 20 crypto billionaires, so perhaps there are about 2000 crypto 10 millionaires[ref], which is the minimum net worth for a donation of 100k USD to be feasible (1% mark). And perhaps a reasonable number of them are just nerds who got rich, and want to improve the world. There are two lessons from this:
  • follow your instincts, always. If something seems mega fun and quick, do it!
  • making money from a few rich people (or entities like organizations) is easier than working for a bunch of poor people, because you have to convince less people. If you reach many poor people however, things are much more stable as you can lose a few customers and still be fine
Another factor in the donation, Ciro Santilli believes, is that many rich people thing that education is bullshit. As mentioned on the awesome series The Playlist via a hypothetical Peter Thiel, a large number of rich people are neurodiverse, and it is obvious why: you have to be different to make it big, but you are worse off on average for it. Section "How can I be as great by Justine Musk" comes to mind. As such, it is only natural that a large number of rich people want to improve our educational system, which tends to be the very epitome of "boring and average normalness" which Ciro Santilli so much detests. This can also be seen in people such as:
Amazing reacaions from the Monero Reddit community: www.reddit.com/r/Monero/comments/1brryao/ciro_santilli_received_a_1000_xmr_donation_to/
  • geonic_ comments:
    Reaction video is fake. Very bad acting.
  • Inaeipathy comments:
    Well, anyways, I would be very unsurprised if this 1000 XMR was sent to him by himself for... reasons.
  • -TrustyDwarf- comments:
    Anyone mind to explain wtf this ugly piece of webpage reminding me of geocities from the 90s is about? I'd read it myself but I can't because it already gave me eye cancer.
  • rbrunner7 comments:
    It's all quite strange. Never mind the 90s design, people built good websites already back then with the tools at hand, but even their "About" isn't very clear. If you need 5 minutes to be reasonably sure what it is all about they are still doing it wrong.
These people have some serious trust issues!!! Perhaps not surprising from a privacy coin community. Ciro's Twitter post: twitter.com/cirosantilli/status/1775961945193017790
The anonymity of the donation is mind blowing.
The first sensation Ciro Santilli got was as if God himself had come down from heaven to toy with an unsuspecting human being. God running an experiment. Or perhaps an AGI that had already secretly taken over. Not very different.
Like with God, this was the answer to Ciro's prayers on Twitter. A one way conversation that leaves you uncertain of the details.
Whichever the case, Ciro is going to put on the best show he possibly can for youe money, documenting every step along the way in usual fashion!
Besides the awesomeness however, anonymity is a risk.
Ciro ran this over and over in his head, and the only big risk of anonymity is that if this money is ever proven to be from the proceeds of crime, he would have to give it back to the government and "lose one year's salary he would have otherwise gained".
However, that worst case scenario is not bad enough. If anything, it was a great excuse to quit his job for his family and wife is already worth it. Ciro could do it and survive, though situation would deteriorate slowly. But he was a coward previously.
Ciro does however feel that there is good chance that it is legitimate.
Ciro Santilli's Stack Overflow contributions are exceptional, he's amazing right! He deserves this! Of course, there is danger in this rationale which scammers could exploit. But bro, if scammers are going to send 100k USD to me, then please continue to do so!
Also which criminal would be stupid enough to donate proceeds of crime to a highly public person who is going to clearly announce it?
Just be warned, if you come with a baseball bat trying to get the money back by force, I will call the police immediately and by God you will not get it!!
Given this, Ciro just keeps thinking about the likely profile of the donor:
  • 10m+ net worth
  • either got rich with Monero, or thought Monero was interesting and wanted to test it out while doing something cool. Also perhaps he has a personal stake in Monero and is trying to advertise it?
But the "why anonymous if not criminal" question remains. Generally rich people want recognition both for:
  • reputation washing
  • to make their donation mechanisms higher profile which allows raising more and attracting better candidates and reach greater impact
Two options that come to mind:
What if I fail? What if one month in I discover that the project is undoable for some reason? Etc.
Nothing can scare a man as much as allowing him to pursue his dream! Because then he may find his dream was purely an empty illusion.
But still, we must try.