Eating Codfish at Bitcoin Convention Singapore Conference 2013: Believing in Bitcoin doesn’t mean believing in its high price
Believing in Bitcoin doesn’t mean believing in its high price
Today, we are all looking at China, but what about Africa?
Alexis and Hakim, organisers of the event as well as cofounders of seedcoin a bitcoin incubator. Hakim is also the founder of dealcoin, an IPO in bitcoins.
So I had previously went for a bitcoin meet up where the guests of honor were the life on bitcoin couple, where Alexis made his pitch for the bitcoin conference 2013 Singapore at the Fullerton Hotel. I do believe this is the first event of its kind in Asia, or at least in Singapore!
At first, it was rather awkward as I didn’t see many familiar faces. I would say 80% of the attendees flew in from around the world, whether its from Canada, America, Mexico, Africa, China, and many many other places.
I was really feeling pretty lost, but the good thing was that the breakfast reception allowed me to bump into some familiar faces, as well as some new ones!
The people were a mix from all sorts of different places and backgrounds. As you may see from the media coverage, its the “usual” smattering of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, bankers, ex-bankers, businesses, technology movers and so on.
There was also references to Zerohedge as a resource! Zerohedge is like the bitcoin for financial news, it disrupts existing dogma and doctrines and also happens to often talk about bitcoin.
Probably the speaker that hit the news was Zennon Kapron from KapronAsia, mainly on his China focus. His presentation was definitely very interesting.
Here are two of the slides I took.
I totally didn’t know you could buy a house in China directly with bitcoin (as opposed to the Norwegian $886k style apartment) Shanda group, which was IT based, had a property development in Zhangjiang, that was full of tech savvy young people. Kapron believes it was more a publicity stunt than actual usage. Note the exchange rate of 1000 CNY to 1, it hit almost 7000 CNY a few days after the conference. (And of course Branson accepts bitcoins yesterday for space flights)
Kapron talked about Tencent’s Qcoin, China’s familiarity and history with virtual currencies, similarities, lessons and differences. I would think many would find it an insightful look into China and Bitcoin.
Following that there was a break for food, which was good!
There was Cod Fish Fillet, along with king prawns, beef slices, fried beehoon with prawns, boiled soup, fruits baskets and cakes, yuzu chocolate and tiramisu.
(obligatory food segment being a Singaporean :D)
The next segment was Bitcoin Law and Regulation. I was expecting a local lawyer from Rajah and Tann to speak but I think they changed the speakers. (would have wanted to ask about a comparison of the torrens system register with a distributed bitcoin technology potential) An inhouse spoke about Bitcoin and regulation, from taxes to regulatory treatment as well as AML concerns.
(in HK’s China Daily after the conference, Baker & McKenzie has some words on Bitcoin)
A few more speakers and a skype interview video later there was the coffee break.
The mexican exchange guy who was born in south africa was pretty entertaining, he grew up having to smuggle gold coins out of Africa as they were considered troublemakers by the dictatorship(?) regime over there. When he first saw bitcoin, he was oh shit boy is that familiar (paraphrased). He has also made some other projects to have pilot cities with changing laws.
Talked to someone who should be setting up a bitcoin ATM in Singapore sometime next year. Would be cool to use that.
The next segment was the panel, which proved to be rather interesting.
The first was about bitcoin entrepreneurship, and they talked about their difficulties as well as progress and process. Autumn Radtke of First Meta compared Bitcoin with Game Currencies as well as the differences, but also their similarities.
The next segment was from the investment view, although some of the panel were shuffled around.
Using a very old list it seems to be at least:
Joseph Lee, BTC.sx John Skrodenis, HashFast
Chris Woods, Woods & Kelkar Scott Robinson, Plug and Play Tech Center
But there were more.
Generally, people were reluctant to invest with bitcoins especially when it was breaking new highs, and would rather part with their dollars. VCs also complained about having more money than they had startups to invest in, especially startups of a certain scale.
The Final Panel (Panel 3)
was more of a free for all, again with people shuffled from certain panels. Applause sounded when valuable observations were made about Singapore’s existing taxpayer funded grants being abused in certain parts. Important observations that believing in bitcoin doesn’t mean believing in its high price. A high price and volatility may scare uptake, as well as impede microtransactions which will be something going forward in the global economy. High prices and bitcoins may not always necessarily be a good thing. (not even going into, saving bitcoins vs spending bitcoins and the distribution as well as dispersal of bitcoin uses) Africa being an important place of possibility due to mobile banking, the continent effectively skipping many of the technological stepping stones that is the case for many other places. Very well they could go straight into bitcoin banking skipping remittances, paypal and banks. (as well as their fragmented nature)
Criticisms of the whitewashbitcoin initiative that will color certain bitcoins, attacking fungibility.
Free complimentary serving of truffle oil sprinkled popcorn. Don’t think the bar could be persuaded to accept bitcoins though, and the credit cards were taken out.
(Heard there was secret after after parties after that too, with a Hip and Happening AAP and a Millionaire’s AAP)
Found out that the Australian Coinjar’s founders are born in neighboring Malaysia. Met the Malaysian counterparts for bitcoin exchanges. Saw the bit fury miners people going around too, but I didn’t manage to get a usb fury miner to play with D:
Couldn’t stay for that long however, and in the end had to go off.
Here are some of the other coverage of the events:
Coinrepublic shared the Videos Playlist of the Conference (it doesn’t seem to have the whole thing, but maybe more are being uploaded)
From the local Business Times:
Subscription is required to read the full story online, if you are in/still in Singapore you can buy it off newstands and convenience stores/bookstore for $1.
BITCOIN, the poster-currency for anarchy, has found its sweet spot in China, of all countries…
What is more surprising is that the Chinese government has done practically nothing about Bitcoin, for now at least.
“The Chinese firewall will stop you from going to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter but it doesn’t stop you from going to bitcoin.com. In China, they have this fantastic service, BTCChina, that allows you to buy Bitcoins with your Chinese yuan,” Hakim Mamoni, co-founder of Seedcoin, noted at the Bitcoin Singapore conference yesterday.
Today, China is the second-largest downloader of Bitcoin wallets – a virtual program that stores users’ Bitcoins – after the United States. In May, 84,000 wallets were downloaded in China, vaulting it into pole position for that month, according to Zennon Kapron, managing director of Kapronasia, a research and advisory firm for financial services.
Incidentally, since May, the price of Bitcoins has surged from about US$100-US$150 to about US$450. This being a currency that is prized for keeping its owners anonymous, it is hard to pin the spike in price on the Chinese, but all signs point their way.
Amid all this activity, the Chinese government has kept an intriguing silence, and might – in some quarters – tacitly approve. Earlier this year, CCTV, China’s official network, aired a Bitcoin documentary which caused awareness of the currency to soar.
“In theory, anything that goes across CCTV is government-approved. (But) the government hasn’t said anything about Bitcoin yet,” Mr Kapron said.
“If China makes a move on the regulatory front, the US will almost be forced to follow because there’s such a large economic connection between the two of them,” he said. Singapore will in turn take its cue from the US and the European Union.
[emphasis added mine, in bold]
From HK’s SCMP:
Singapore delegates consider future of Bitcoin
The inaugural Bitcoin Conference in Singapore takes place in a hotel in the city state today, with high-tech finance and digital currency fans gathering to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the cryptocurrency. Supporters argue no central authority or banks can own or control the digital money. Trust-building in digital currency exchanges, global payment systems and the hurdles faced by Bitcoin entrepreneurs are topics being addressed by delegates.
Placing it alongside other talking points like the London Whale, US Treasury Chief, and Netherlands-China relations
On a Friday morning in Singapore, an eclectic group of misfits gathered in a room to discuss Bitcoin, a digital currency that’s making headlines across the world.
The crowd at Bitcoin Conference Singapore, the first of its kind in the country, was incredibly diverse: hackers, bankers, investors, researchers, and business people broke bread together and talked about what the currency could mean for the world.
According to Bitcoin angel investors Edan Yago and Roger Ver, the technology could liberate the masses from obsolete financial systems and privacy-violating technology companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google.
In Bitcoin, Asia can leapfrog Silicon Valley
Angel investors are already pouring their own coin into Bitcoin startups. Famed accelerator Y Combinator has put $600,000 into Coinbase, a platform for buying, selling, and holding bitcoins, while Circle, which hopes to bring Bitcoin into the mainstream by making it easy to use, has raised a massive $9 million round from well-known investors like Accel Partners and General Catalyst Partners. Silicon Valley incubator Plug and Play Tech Center, meanwhile, will launch an accelerator exclusively for Bitcoin startups in the first quarter of next year.
The interest is so great that investors at the Bitcoin Singapore conference are complaining that there are not enough bitcoin startups worth investing in that are attempting to use the technology in disruptive ways.
Nonethless, a sizable amount of Asian Bitcoin startups, founded mostly by expatriates, are getting in on the action. Singapore-based exchange itBit has raised $3.25 million recently, while GoCoin, another Singapore company building a payment gateway, has received $550,000. Australian bitcoin wallet startup CoinJar is also said to have significant investor interest, while Hong Kong based bitcoin incubator Seedcoin, which organized the conference, is looking to invest in Asian startups.
This highlights a major difference between the Bitcoin revolution (assuming it takes off) and the computer, Internet, and mobile revolutions. While the latter movements started out being rather US-centric, Bitcoin is an area where Asia has a serious shot at becoming a leader at an early stage.
Although much of the thought leadership, entrepreneurial talent, and investment money are still coming from the West, they won’t necessarily end up in Silicon Valley. In fact, the recent moves by the US government to scrutinize Bitcoin has cast a pall of uncertainty over the bitcoin community there, perhaps causing investors to hold back.
In Asia, the outlook is cautiously optimistic. While the Thai government has banned bitcoin trading, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has said that it does not regulate the currency. China, meanwhile, has not made its position on this known, although a recent CCTV documentary on the subject may indicate positive interest.
While the situation is extremely fluid regulatory-wise, China is slowly emerging as a leading market for Bitcoin. BTC China is now the top bitcoin exchange in the world, and according to virtual currency news site CoinDesk, the US only accounts for two percent of global bitcoin trading activity. Asian-based exchanges have managed to secure banking relationships, a crucial edge that has so far eluded US-based counterparts. America, however, still claims the largest number of bitcoin users in the world, followed by Germany and China.
Bitcoin Singapore 2013 brought together startup founders, investors and finance professionals over a discussion on the opportunities and future of Bitcoin
he growth in cryptocurrencies
Despite the dent in confidence in Bitcoin caused by the bad press surrounding Silk Road and its potential for crime, the market for Bitcoin is growing day by day. According to Steve Beauregard, CEO of GoCoin, the growth of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is due in part to the instability of fiat currencies, particularly the US dollar. The exponential rise in mobile and internet penetration in developing countries, too, has contributed to Bitcoin’s growth in those areas as well. To ensure consumer protection in Bitcoin amid its anonymity, Beauregard advises merchants to move towards a reputation-driven marketplace, for example eBay. As for criminal activity, Beauregard reassures users that criminals make up only a small portion of the pie. The majority of users use Bitcoins for donations towards causes, in fact. The greatest risk for merchants, in fact, is the risk of missing out on Bitcoins as the payment method of the future.
Apart from using Bitcoins as a transactional tool, the recent surge in the Bitcoin price vis-a-vis the US dollar has made it an extremely attractive investment vehicle as well. One startup that has capitalized on this is BTC.sx, the first Bitcoin financial derivative. Founder Joseph Lee has identified three key characteristics that ensures Bitcoin’s place in investment portfolios. Firstly, the Bitcoin market is small in terms of capitalization, minimizing the barriers to entry and makes it easy for small players to buy in. Due to the small size, the Bitcoin market is illiquid as well, making arbitrage – the risk-free simultaneous buying and selling to take advantage of price differences – opportunities plentiful. Finally, the rapid growth of the Bitcoin market guarantees a plenitude of investment opportunities. There will be only more brokers using Bitcoin as a financial instrument, offering technical analysis and DMA (direct market access).