Erik Voorhees is an American entrepreneur who founded crypto exchange ShapeShift in 2014. He was also the co-founder of the gambling website SatoshiDICE, which he sold in July 2013, and was Head of Marketing for BitInstant.
Voorhees first stepped into the crypto industry in 2011 when he joined the now-defunct bitcoin exchange, BitInstant, as its new Head of Marketing. A year later, he launched SatoshiDICE, a bitcoin-focused game that allowed players to bet on the roll of a dice and earn BTC. By 2013, the company had processed over 4.6 million bets worth more than 3.6 million BTC – approximately $419 million. In May 2013, SatoshiDICE closed its website to all U.S.-based IP addresses following advice from its legal team. At the time they attributed the move to legal uncertainty around online gambling in the United States.
In July 2013, Voorhees sold the company to an undisclosed buyer for 126,315 BTC, worth $11.5 million at the time. The sale marked the first major acquisition of a company in the blockchain space.
In 2014, Voorhees was fined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for his solicitation of funds for shares related to his two bitcoin-related ventures, SatoshiDICE, and bitcoin twitter advertising platform, FeedZeBirds. According to the SEC, 30,000 shares of FeedZeBirds and 13 million shares of SatoshiDICE were sold for bitcoin amounting to a total of $737,659 at the time. He was accused of using social media platforms like Facebook between 2012 and 2013 to solicit investors without federal approval. This was the highest-profile case of securities violations for bitcoin ventures at the time. Voorhees settled with the SEC and agreed to pay $15,843.98 in disgorgement plus a $35,000 penalty. The settlement also prohibited him from making a crypto securities offering for five years.
Registered in Switzerland, ShapeShift is an exchange that supports over 50 digital assets. Around the time of its launch, ShapeShift was known for supporting cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin and for its focus on privacy. The exchange also notably did not accept fiat currencies in its early days, and therefore did not need a bank account, which other exchanges have struggled to find. ShapeShift went through a major rebranding in 2019, moving from its ShapeShift website (which still exists) to shapeshift.com, which aggregates all the products Voorhees and his employees had been working on since the company launched. The upgraded platform included features such as the ability to purchase cryptocurrencies with fiat money, interoperability with their hardware wallet, KeepKey and their cryptocurrency pricing tracker CoinCap.
In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that Voorhees was under investigation by the SEC in connection with his role as a board member of crypto loans startup Salt Lending. The SEC reportedly sought information regarding Salt Lending’s $50 million initial coin offering (ICO) in late 2017 to establish if it was an unregistered securities offering. The SEC was also reportedly probing whether Voorhees’ role as a board member during the ICO violated his 2014 SEC settlement, under which he was prohibited from participating in “any issuance of any security in an unregistered transaction in exchange for any virtual currency including Bitcoin for a period of five years.”
In July 2021, Shapeshift announced plans to turn itself into a completely open-source, community-governed platform. According to the official page, “These changes are designed to bring ShapeShift further in line with the true vision of immutable, decentralized finance.” 340 million FOX tokens – the new governance token that powers the next generation Shapeshift exchange – were airdropped to Shapeshift customers and those who had previously engaged with a number of DeFi platforms (see here for details.)