Top Engineers Abandon Facebook’s Crypto Project

Leading companies are entering the crypto and blockchain space. Facebook is one of the organizations that has been exploring the industry. However, the top engineers working on Facebook have abandoned the project to work with A16z, led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Facebook wallet Novi

One of the oldest and well-known social media channels, Facebook has been planning to establish its digital wallet, Novi, along with digital currency, Diem, for the past couple of years. According to David Marcus, the head of Facebook Financial, they aim to build a “next-generation digital wallet” that is no less than a “protocol for money on the internet.”

According to Marcus, users will have interoperability between different digital wallets with the help of Novi, which is currently absent. They plan to enable converting Diem into local currencies and vice versa. Marcus assured that no data of the users would be used for ad targeting or other purposes, and financial data will be blended with social data. 

The project was originally called Calibra, and the digital currency was called Libra. Facebook has initially announced its ambitious plans regarding the digital wallet in 2018. The project was planned to be launched in 2020, but there is no sign of it till now. Libra faced a few setbacks in 2019 as it was abandoned by major financial companies like Mastercard and Visa. 

Facebook rebranded the project as Novi Financial. The digital wallet is named Novi, and the digital currency is Diem. It now operates as an independent association, but some of the important individuals involved in the project are leaving the positions for various reasons. 

Top engineers working on the Novi wallet

Top engineers Nassim Eddequiouaq and Riyaz Faizullabhoy, working on Facebook’s wallet Novi, grabbed the chance to work with Andreessen Horowitz (A16z) and abandoned Novi. 

Nassim and Riyaz are phenomenal leaders in the engineering and security spaces. With a proven track record in blockchain infrastructure, they are playing a crucial role in advancing the entire crypto ecosystem.

The leading engineers have been working on the Novi project for the past two years. The duo has established a technological infrastructure to hold the digital currency Diem in Novi wallet. Being engineering and technical leads, they co-created the crypto custody infrastructure and served Facebook to enable its vision of bringing crypto to billions of users. 

The popular engineers have left Facebook to join the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The leading firm, A16z, operates in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. The venture capital firm is known for its successful early investments in thriving projects like Coinbase, Compound, and OpenSea. 

The company bagged the top engineers working on the social media giant’s digital currency project for its digital asset fund. Nassim Eddequiouaq is joining A16z as Cheif Information Security Officer (CISO), and Riyaz Faizullabhoy will serve as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Andreessen’s crypto team called “A16z Crypto”. 

Faizullabhoy stated, “Andreessen Horowitz has shown an impressive dedication to advancing the entire crypto ecosystem over the past decade, and we jumped at the chance to join their perimeter team and provide technical support to their rapidly-expanding portfolio.”

“Crypto is a once-in-a-generation step change in technology with unlimited potential to empower everyone. It also brings a unique set of complex security challenges that every crypto project needs to recognize and address”, said Nassim Eddequiouaq in a statement. 

Marc Andreessen, the founder of Andreessen Horowitz, has served as a Facebook board member since 2008 before establishing A16z firm in 2009. The Chief Operating Officer, Anthony Albanese, stated that the company’s crypto team consists of around 50 members, including external advisors. A16z group has made several investments in digital currencies, trading services, and other crypto funds. 

Albanese opined that the venture firm’s crypto strategy would allow Nassim and Riyaz to work on a broader set of issues compared to Facebook’s digital wallet project. “They’re going to be advising our portfolio companies and protocols to help them make sure that they have the most secure sophisticated systems around. They were doing a Facebook wallet. It was more specific. Whereas I think here, they’re going to have an opportunity to impact the crypto ecosystem on a very broad scale”, said Albanese.  

Nassim and Riyaz were introduced to crypto space while working for Anchorage, an institutional digital asset custodian. It didn’t take very long for them to realize the potential and power of blockchain across multiple applications. 

The pair also worked on the security aspects at Docker, a container platform for building, running, and managing applications. At Docker, the engineers worked on authentication systems,  security application provenance and designed and shipped the secure operating system used in Docker Desktop. 

Facebook’s effort of bringing the digital wallet to the masses has been facing resistance from regulators and lawmakers worldwide, and a number of its prominent individuals and high-profile leaders have departed. 

This is not the first time engineers have abandoned Facebook’s digital currency project. Novi project’s head of strategy and one of the co-founders of Facebook’s crypto unit, Morgan Beller, left the position to join venture capital firm NFX in September 2020. Another instance is where co-creator Kevin Weil headed to satellite imagery company Planet Labs in March 2021. 

Facebook plans to introduce NFTs

Facebook is also considering building NFT related products and features. The company looks forward to leveraging the hype of the NFT market by introducing NFTs as part of its digital wallet Novi. 

David Marcus stated that they are exploring a number of ways to get involved in the space as they think they are really in a good position. He opined that a good crypto wallet like Novi can also help consumers by supporting NFTs. 

Facebook’s digital wallet is ready to be launched, but the company is waiting to launch it along with the digital currency Diem. Introducing the Novi wallet without Diem will be the last resort of Facebook, as per Marcus’s statements.

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