I have have my head down, working on a brand-new publishing site over the last few months, which is focussed on digital currency news. ‘Bitcoin’ and other digital currencies have been a hot topic at the moment and so far it is going well. If you are wondering what bitcoin is, I suggest you get reading, or watch the ‘bitcoin 101′ video below. I have been attending some of the recent UK events, including Bitcoin London and a few meetups.
Last week was the first Bitcoin Focus event, held at AlphaBeta, a promising new ‘creative workspace’ which straddles Shorditch’s ‘Tech City’ and the formal city of London itself. The CoinDesk team decided to head to the event after visiting a new Bitcoin accepting merchant, situated in the heart of the trendy Shoreditch area of London.
CoinDesk Enjoy a ‘Bitcoffee’
There is nothing like a caffeine hit before an evening conference, so the team headed over to the Old Shoreditch Station coffee shop, which as well as being just 10 minutes away from AlphaBeta, also accepts bitcoin.
The coffee shop takes payment using a Bitpay system. Bitcoin is not advertised in or out of the cafe, but we can confirm that our bitcoin payment went through fairly quickly. The staff seem to be excited by Bitcoin, and were keen to discuss at length how security worked, how the process could be improved, and were especially keen to know if bitcoin is subjected to Tax in the UK.
After a long, sweltering day, it felt good to get to Coinscrum and crack open a beer with the organisers, CoinDesk readers and bitcoin newbies.
Coinscrum began with small meetups in pubs, attended by several hardcore enthusiasts, a trend that has emerged across the world in recent months. Organiser Paul Gordon has seen a surge in demand and members in recent months. Paul explained to CoinDesk how he and his fellow organisers wanted a more formal regular event, that is accessible to enthusiast and newbie alike. Thus, Bitcoin Focus was born, and a plan put in place to find a venue, sponsor, speakers and to get the word out.
A few weeks later, and here we are, attendees easily filling the 100 or so seats, with many poor souls having to remain on the waiting list.
Upon arrival there is a buzz in the air. The room consisted of those new to bitcoin engaging in debates, newspaper reporters hunting for stories and even a few bitcoin sellers hoping to make a tidy profit.
Bitcoin Bootcamp – Darragh Browne of Blockspin
First up was Darragh Browne of Blockspin, who attempted to give an overview of Bitcoin for the uninitiated. The main points of bitcoin were explained, as well as some concepts such as colored coins, which may be used in the future. The talk served as a speedy ‘bitcoin 101’ for the uninitiated, explaining not only the ‘how’, but also the ‘why’ of bitcoin.
Blockspin were also giving away a 0.1 bitcoin to the first 10 attendees to tweet them their public key. Surprisingly some were slow on the uptake of this.
Darragh explained how the price skyrocketed, giving an example where a pizza purchased in the early days would be £600k with today’s bitcoin price.
— Feathercoin (@FeatherCoinHQ) July 24, 2013
The regulatory landscape in the UK from a Bitcoin perspective – Adam Vaziri of Neopay
Adam Vaziri of e-payment compliance advisory firm Neopay explained how e-money has been regulated in the UK since 2000, and how Bitcoin companies can learn from e-money companies to avoid future hiccups.
Although bitcoin does not fit into any existing UK e-money or currency laws, Adam recommended it would be best practise to look to how e-Money is regulated, as some of the same rules may apply. He recommended that enthusiasts setup official bodies and associations that can lobby and act and almost self-regulate through internal standards that are upheld. He went onto explain that these ‘focus groups’ could then stand their ground much more effectively than a single entity.
Collaboration is needed to defend and police. Adam announced that for Bitcoin to be seen as a currency, it would may need to be the main currency of a nation/jurisdiction. He mentioned the tiny island of Tuvalu, as an example of a potential candidate.
Although not explicitly mentioned here, a regional Bitcoin Foundation could be part of this, which was mentioned many times by the Foundation at Bitcoin London event. This body could then give advice for companies operating in the locality. The Question/Answer session after the presentation included several knowledgable Bitcoin enthusiasts giving their own interpretations and advice.
The bigger picture by Javier Marti of Bitcoin Global Investments
We finished the evening listening to Javier Marti’s opinions on how governments and financial institutions may approach the rise of cryptocurrency. He raised several hypothetical scenarios with examples that may cause them to either fight it or ultimately, embrace it.
— Lui Smyth (@yablochko) July 24, 2013
Javier Marti does not pull any punches, with potential threats to bitcoin fairly dark in tone, such as assassinations of key developers and apocalyptic world-changing ‘black swan’ incidents. As he is also a hypnotherapist, I hoped no subliminal messaging has affected anyone in the room adversely.
Javier explained that opportunities for the currency remain in reducing technical barriers to entry, and also increasing presence in developing countries. It needs to work everywhere, and mobile will play an important role in this.
So, a very successful and enjoyable first Bitcoin Focus, and hopefully the first of many. I am now looking forward to see what happens at the ‘Inside Bitcoins‘ conference held in NYC next Tomorrow.
All videos taken by IAMSatoshi