The Satoshi Roundtable IV: The first appearance of the Panda.

As most of you know last week the Satoshi Roundtable took place. This is not a secret meeting of any sorts, it is however a private invite-only conference. There is a lot confusion about what this exactly means. I know that in the Bitcoin community there is a large conspiracy theory crowd and sadly I’ve seen people compare it to the NYA. This makes no sense, no decisions are being made at the Roundtable. It is more about bringing like-minded people together, discuss topics freely and network. There are many different kinds of people there going from CEOs of Bitcoin and blockchain-related companies, developers, fund manager, influencers, meetup organizers,… It’s a very diverse group with even some ponies and pandas.

Before the start of the conference everyone is reminded of the Chatham House rules: You can mention what was being discussed during the conference, but you can’t mention who said what. You’re also not allowed to post pictures and videos without explicit permission of the people involved.

General impression:

Since this was my first one I asked a couple of “regulars” how this compared to the previous ones.

This year there were around 150–200 attendees which was more than double compared to the previous year. This makes sense since the entire industry is booming. I know that this has been a hot topic lately and unlike some other events there were a lot of women around. There is of course always still room for improvement. There are people from all around the world, but most are US & Canada based.

Last year some people complained about the venue, this year it was top-notch and very well organized. The previous years were a bit overshadowed by the whole scaling debate, since we solved scaling indefinitely everything was a lot more relaxed. It also might have helped that some people decided not to come this year.

The first evening there was a cocktail reception and dinner with entertainment from which I’m sure you’ve seen pictures on social media.

The entertainment was “Puddles Pity Party”

The following morning the “unconference” started. In the past there were more sheduled talks, this year they decided to let the participants pick the topics they wanted to talk about. 
There were 6 different tracks in 6 different rooms so you always had the possibility to pick something that might be interesting to you. There were only 2 talks where there was a “full house” and that was the Ron Paul speech and the Tether discussion.

Some of the proposed discussions were more serious than others

What did surprise me actually is how certain big companies weren’t represented at all. I don’t think it had anything to do with them not being invited, I’m sure they were, but they might not have found it interesting enough. If you are a big company and you don’t send anyone to this event, that is a huge mistake. There is no other conference where you can network and talk so freely without any fear of someone overhearing something crucial and publishing it somewhere.

Personal experience:

I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t have a business, would this be useful for me? It’s a private event with an illustrious name and reputation so of course I would go check it out, if it wasn’t interesting I would just go once and that’s it.

I arrived a day early and the hotel was amazing, by far the best hotel I’ve ever been to.

Pool, palm trees, sea. Perfect location for a relaxed “unconference”

It surprised me how few people I actually knew in the industry. It’s also always a bit awkward to introduce myself and then say “I’m just a guy on Twitter that wrote some articles and that also happens to trade from time to time”. 
One thing I do find interesting when doing the small talk, I’ve noticed this before at other Bitcoin events too, is that no one asks where you’re from. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, people do ask “where are you based?”.

The most important thing about the Roundtable is the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Try to have a normal conversation with someone like Riccardo Spagni at any conference and you get interrupted every 30 seconds by someone else who just jumps in on the conversation and wants to take a picture with him. Here people can let their guard down and be “real” (for lack of a better word).

Everyone is very inclusive, the last night we went to one of the restaurants and what started as a table with 2 people ended with a table of 12.

Jameson Lopp and Caitlin Long already wrote articles about the Roundtable and that makes my job easier since I have to cover less topics.

For me some of the more interesting discussions were about sidechains, anonymous/privacy focused coins, difficulties of hiring & finding blockchain/crypto/Bitcoin devs and personal security.

Hiring/finding/training blockchain devs:

A number floating around was that there is 1 developer for 14 open vacancies. Jameson already listed the main reasons in his article.

Some of the discussions were about finding skilled developers and then try to convince them to join your company through financial incentives. 
One of the most interesting suggestions a company already implemented was to give every employee a certain amount of bitcoin on an exchange which they can trade for other coins. That way they were more motivated to learn about cryptocurrencies. 2017 obviously was a very profitable year for some of the employees.

Personal security:

One of the people organizing the security for the event joined us and that gave a new extra dimension to the personal security conversation. 
The interesting thing was that it was the day the Forbes Crypto rich list was published.

What not to do.

That’s obviously the first thing you should never do since it makes you a big target, cryptocurrencies being a bearer asset and all that. 
Most of the older generation have decent OPSEC, a bigger and easier target would probably be the new ICO-rich people who haven’t been in the industry for that long and don’t even have decent OPSEC practices.

Tether:

I put this at the bottom so if you wanted to read about Tether you had to read the whole thing. Tether was discussed with the majority of the people attending this talk, however before the discussion started they asked repeatedly to take into consideration the Chatham House rules. The whole point of it is that it can be sensitive information and that according to the rules you shouldn’t be able to identify who said what. Releasing a transcript of it, even without explicitly mentioning names, would still make it all very obvious of who was talking.
That being said: for me there were no real surprises there. I think the biggest risk for Tether is regulatory.

Conclusion:

This event was extremely well organized and if you have the possibility to attend I would really recommend you do. There are so many interesting people with the same general interests in the same place which really makes it all worthwhile. The relaxed atmosphere and Chatham House rules make people speak more freely and be more open.

Some final thoughts:

  • I met a BitCash (I like the idea of this name more) dev, he knew who I was and we chatted briefly in a friendly manner.
  • There really wasn’t much talk about BitCash and no talk at all about Segwit2X. Needless to say that this helped it be a drama-free conference.
  • Even though there were some ICO people around, I did not get pitched a single ICO which was a pleasant experience.
  • Lots of talk about Puerto Rico after the article in the NY Times. It definitely got a lot of US citizens considering moving there.
  • It is also fun to meet the people you mostly interact with on social media, have dinner with them and talk about things completely unrelated to cryptocurrencies. Obviously one of the topics that came up was food-related.
  • As mentioned in this good article on the Roundtable: “ This was a conference of people committed to economic freedom, privacy, individual empowerment — people who would pursue their projects if the price of Bitcoin was $1 or $1,000,000.” The price “crash” never came up.
  • The Magical Crypto Friends episode we recorded in the lounge of the hotel was a lot of fun with some interesting walk-in guests. If you haven’t watched MCF yet, shame on you. The next episode is probably ready next week.
  • One question I got from quite a few traders was: “Is there any inside info?”. The answer is “no”, there really is no insider information. I didn’t learn about any upcoming pumps and/or pumps. This isn’t the right place for that.
  • The unconference structure allows for more flexibility and was a great idea by the organizers. You can chose by yourself what you want to talk about find other people who are interested in the topic.
No one showed up for this one.

After the Roundtable I heard that another guy who claims that he was part of Satoshi attended. I wasn’t aware of it at that time. He managed to convince some of the more naive attendees and of course he didn’t provide any cryptographic proof. I would like to recommend to the organizers to not invite con men like that, or people that support the unproven claims of these types of con men. (I don’t think the organizers were aware this was going to happen now)