Los Angeles angel investor Brock Pierce has been named chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, a Washington, D.C., crypto-currency industry group.

Pierce, managing partner of Blockchain Capital, has been an advocate for bitcoin as an alternative form of currency and has served as a director of the 2,500-member foundation since May 2014. As an angel investor, he has backed numerous startups, including Santa Monica’s Playsino, an online gambling platform, and Expresscoin, a crypto-currency buying website also based in Santa Monica.

Not afraid of wildcatting in online gambling or bitcoin, industries with muddy legal frameworks and often dubious characters, Pierce will have a lot of work cut out for him in his new role at the Bitcoin Foundation, whose troubled history dates to its founding team.

In December, foundation co-founder Charlie Shrem was sentenced to two years in prison for laundering money via Bitcoin. Previously, co-founder Mark Karpelès served as chief executive of currency exchange Mt. Gox when it was robbed of $460 million worth of Bitcoin.

Newly appointed board member Olivier Janssens said on a recent forum on the foundation’s website, a tarnished reputation and poor management have made the organization “effectively bankrupt.”

Pierce said those issues, however, were now behind the foundation.

“I think that was a two-week issue and we as a board have overcome it,” he said. “I think if you look at the most recent votes, the fact that no one voted against me speaks to the fact that the board is now aligned.”

The board elected Pierce 3-0 to the position of chairman, but Janssens abstained.

According to Pierce, the board and foundation are now clearly focusing on bitcoin advocacy and education efforts. Though it had formerly supported the development of the bitcoin infrastructure, that ended this Wednesday when the foundation’s chief scientist and co-founder Gavin Andresen along with two other developers left to join MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative.

“MIT is a better place to support the development for this,” said Pierce. “They have much deeper pockets then we have.”

Without the expense of staffing bitcoin developers, Brock wants the foundation to stay narrowly focused on advocating for the potential of bitcoin.

“We believe this is a tech that is going to allow the developing world, specifically a place like Africa, to achieve rapid gains,” said Pierce. “Bitcoin and the tech that makes it possible is going to democratize the financial system.”

Technology reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @garrettreim for the latest in L.A. tech news.

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