Last weekend I drove to Miami for the International Bitcoin Conference. I'd like to share some of my observations with the world at large.
- Drove six hours to Miami
- Spent the evening on the rooftop of the Clevelander hotel for a very chic cocktail party:
- Met Rik Willard, who invited me to see him speak at the VC panel on saturday.
- Saw some things that confirmed my suspicion that cryptocurrency fanciers can party hard
- Walked two miles to the Freehand, a trendy hostel in beautiful South Beach. Note: Hostels are great for meeting new and interesting people but a crappy place to sleep.
Skipped all the bitpay vendor workshops and opted to see as many of the speakers as possible instead. Highlights:
Ken Metral talking about his experience launching and running coingig. It's a combination ebay/amazon that accepts payments exclusively in bitcoin.
The VC panel had some good speakers but didn't touch on many specifics regarding what they look for in startups. Not surprisingly every single speaker expressed optimism for the cryptocurrency field in general.
Jacob Farber spoke about the legal aspects of running a bitcoin business. The bottom line: you probably need to speak with a lawyer regarding your status as a MSB. Several startup founders in the audience were startled that they might face serious legal repercussions depending on their business model. I spoke with him after his session and agreed to see him on the Regulation Discussion Panel on Sunday.
Anthony Gallippi from bitpay gave a rousing session and basically confirmed that bitpay was kicking butt. His company is the primary sponsor of BTCMiami and he gave away a ton of free swag. Inspirational, but not terribly informative.
I was somewhat let down by the Bitcoin Startup Panel: few of the startups were based in the states and none of them were bootstrapped. The consensus seemed to be, "Base yourself in Singapore or British Virgin Islands in order to avoid onerous regulation."
For me, the best part of the day was George Papageorgiou's presentation on Neo&Bee. His company is trying to build a bitcoin bank in Cyprus. I hope he succeeds!
The low point: Roger Ver. Bitcoin made him a very rich man but he is definitely drinking the Kool-Aid. I'm sorry to break it to you, but BTC is not going to hit 10M by the end of the year. This is the original "to the moon" guy.
Regrettably, I had to leave in the middle of the day in order to arrive in my hometown before absurdly late. Also, I was exhausted after two nights of fitful, unfullfilling sleep at a busy and noisy hostel and didn't want to find myself dozing off at the wheel on the drive home.
Vitalik Buterin tried to explain Ethereum and what it can offer. Essentially, the blockchain has more uses than as a distributed, trustless ledger. Ethereum enables those uses. I saw that today he got a write-up in wired magazine.
Xavier Hawk pitched Colony Earth. If his organization can do what it says it can do, the world will be radically changed for the better.
Elizabeth Ploshay on women and bitcoin. It is both sad and hilarious that her post-talk QA session was dominated by two different men wasting time with pointless monologues instead of meaningful questions or dialogue.
Charlie Lee explained the purpose and design of LiteCoin. I thought he was very well spoken and amusing, and he made a good case for LiteCoin and obviously put a lot of thought into the altcoin.
I had hoped to get some solid legal information from the folks on the Regulation Discussion Panel, but the legal aspects of bitcoin and bitcoin business are so circumstance-specific that none of the panelists could offer much of substance. The most I took away from the panel was that one should pay close attention to the upcoming hearings in New York.
The day after I got home, I learned that Charlie Shrem was arrested in JFK. He was scheduled to speak yesterday but the conference administration told attendees that his flight was canceled. Shrem ran a bitcoin exchange but allegedly ignored some very important KYC and AML laws, and he was also on the board of The Bitcoin Foundation (though not surprisingly he tendered his resignation today).
I knew before New Year's that 2014 was going to be a wild adventure for cryptocurrencies, but wow, we're not starting out slow.
Coming up: The great Chinese New Year freakout.