Co-Founder, Armory Enterprise Security LLC
Bitcoin’s Not-So-Elder Statesman
Look around at any Bitcoin conference, or up on the stage where speakers and panelists hold forth, and it’s hard to miss the impression that the cryptocurrency world trends young. It’s not the least bit rare to hear from brilliant and visionary CEOs who wouldn’t look particularly out of place in a college dorm or “Under-30” Chamber of Commerce mixer, while companies that recently celebrated their third anniversary are viewed as old school pioneers in the field.
All of which brings a smile to the face of John Velissarios, co-founder of Armory Enterprise Security LLC, a wholly owned division of the cryptocurrency security company Armory Technologies, Inc.
Velissarios, recently invited to join the Armory team by 31-year-old CEO Alan Reiner, is a comparative elder statesman in the Bitcoin community at all of 45 years old. But before anyone looks for signs of rust, it should be noted that Velissarios, even being the soft- spoken, measured presence that he is, gives nothing away either in intellectual pizzazz or acute technical knowledge to his slightly younger colleagues in the Bitcoin world.
Reiner, of course, showed his own youthful wisdom in bringing Velissarios on board from Accenture, the world’s largest consulting firm, where he led the company’s Security Strategy, Transformation and Risk Services practice in Europe, Africa and Latin America.
Like so many others in the Bitcoin community, Velissarios brings true interna- tionalist credentials to bear on his work, both in his heritage and his wide travel and living experiences abroad. He grew up speaking French and English as a native of Montreal, Canada, but one look at his name suggests the Greek that is also fundamental to his heritage (and in which he is also fluent). His parents emigrated from there in their 20s amidst the dark days following World War II. Happily, he still has scores of relatives and family in Greece and spends lots of time there.
Once settled in Montreal, Velissarios’s mother got work as a bank teller, and her son did the same with summer jobs as a teenager. “I grew up with banking, so it’s in my blood,” he says. “It was a front line position handling lots of money, so I came to understand it at a very basic level.”
How to protect that money soon became the subject of his education and then his professional life as he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science followed by a master’s in the same field with specialization in cryptography. His thesis, “A Pseudo One-Time-Pad-Based Security System” got the attention not only of a publisher but of a higher-up at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, who invited him across the Atlantic for an interview and then hired him as a computer security and cryptography specialist in 1997.
He’s been a proper English-Canadian- Greek-man ever since, though he went on to Accenture in 2003. His tenure there involved crisscrossing the globe enhancing security for payment systems, presenting at conferences, and writing up his research and security approach for various learned journals. (Unfortunately, he has yet to devise a system to transfer his almost uncountable frequent flyer miles into Bitcoin. …)
Married 17 years with a son and daughter ages 15 and 11, Velissarios still keeps a small bitcoin mining operation going under his desk “just for fun,” he says. “It helps fill in some of the gaps for my kids about ‘what Daddy does.’ That can be difficult to explain in my line of work.”