Fast & Steady Progress
If all goes according to plan, I think 2014 is going to go down as Bitcoin’s most important year. We made the transition from dark web to daylight, venture capitalists started their stampede into digital currency businesses, governments worldwide gave the industry’s start-ups tacit approval, A+ executives joined the fray to build more of Bitcoin’s core infrastructure, we collectively answered some of the critics’ most pressing questions (why use bitcoin; where can you spend bitcoin; is bitcoin legal), and legacy financial services executives and entrepreneurs woke up to the blockchain’s potential.
You could say that 2013 was just as important a year since it yielded a 100x price rally first that brought bitcoin into mainstream consciousness, or 2009 when bitcoin went from 0 to 1 during in the throes of the global financial crisis. But I think the big reason 2014 may take the cake has to do with the fact that it will be the year when bitcoin wouldn’t die or even stall.
This despite a persistent 60% price decline, a $500 million bankruptcy and subsequent hell storm of negative press due to the internal failures at Mt. Gox, and the specter of an overbearing BitLicense in one of the financial service world’s most important jurisdictions. Interest and enthusiasm for the technology and its potential has continued to accelerate, even as investors have abandoned the currency in favor of picks and shovels opportunities.
This isn’t exactly a bold prediction, but I think we’re seeing the quiet before the storm. This year has given us a much needed purging that washed out and kept out many of Bitcoin’s weakest hands. The result is a more resilient community that for the first year on record counts apolitical graybeards among the industry’s “true believers.” On the surface at least, Bitcoin didn’t thrive, but it survived. The stagnation gave us a little breather from the euphoria as the community largely avoided price distractions and got back down to brass tacks.
2014 provided the goldilocks climate for Bitcoin to make such great strides. Let’s hope the calm lasted long enough.
Today, a celebration of some of the impressive people and companies that saw the light in 2014. I’m listing these as much for my own benefit as for yours. Feel free to share these quotes and proof points the next time people question your sanity given that bitcoin has been “fading away” this year.
Financial Services Execs:
Amex CEO Kenneth Chenault said: “The protocol of bitcoin is going to be important.”
Richest man in the world, Bill Gates: “Bitcoin is better than currency.”
Virgin Founder and CEO, Richard Branson: “I have invested in bitcoin because I believe in its potential, the capacity it has to transform global payments is very exciting.”
Former Citigroup CEO, Vikram Pandit: “The reason I like the concept of virtual currency is because it’s spawning a lot of innovation and thinking about how you transfer money around the world, how you store money, all those kinds of things.”
Jamie Dimon’s lieutenant and global head and managing director at JPMorgan’s transactions services unit, Paul Camp, who joined Circle this week even after his boss mused, “The question isn’t whether we accept it, [but rather] do we even participate in people who facilitate Bitcoin?”
eBay President John Donahue: “I think there are two sides of it, the investment side and the digital currency side,” he continued in the interview, which aired Thursday. “I’m more interested in the digital currency side about how you and I can exchange value seamlessly using technology.”
PayPal mafia member Reid Hoffman: “I think it’s an incredible system that’s created a ledger that is across — a distributed ledger across the whole world for it can be money but it can also be other things.”
Companies accepting bitcoin:
Microsoft — Second largest company in the world.
Dell — Fortune 100 company.
Dish — Fortune 500 company.
Overstock — First billion dollar company to accept bitcoin.
[Edit: Zynga — Actually beat Overstock as first billion dollar company to accept Bitcoin.]
Expedia — World’s largest travel site.
United Way — World’s largest charity.
Wikipedia — Fifth most popular website in the world.
Wordpress — Top digital content platform in the world.
Companies integrating bitcoin into their products:
Paypal / Braintree — Payments giant with 160 million users globally.
Stripe — Top mobile payments platform.
Intuit — Quickbooks and Mint product integrations.
NCR — Multi-billion dollar payments company.
Square — Multi-billion dollar payments leader.
And with that, have a great weekend!
Certified Bitcoin Professionals
The Digital Currency Council is seeking feedback from members of the Bitcoin community on its certification exams for lawyers, accountants, and financial professionals. Share comments, edit sample questions, and propose new core competency areas that would help professional advisors master Bitcoin.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
BitGo, Palo Alto (VC-backed)
-The leading Bitcoin multi-sig security company
-Open positions: Back-end / Front-End / iOS / Security Engineers, UX Designer
-Check out BitGo (www.bitgoinc.com/jobs) and email email@example.com
Bolt, San Francisco (VC-backed)
-Stealth startup focused on consumer applications of Bitcoin.
-Open positions: Security Engineer, Ruby Engineer, UI/UX Designer, Executive Assistant.
-Check out Bolt (bolt.com) and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elliptic, London (VC-backed)
-Vault and enterprise digital currency services.
-Open positions: Software engineers and business development gurus.
-Learn more and apply at elliptic.workable.com
Today’s Tid Bits
Ledger Launches USB Bitcoin Wallet With ‘Bank-Grade’ Security
Three startups recently merged: La Maison du Bitcoin, BTChip, and Chronocoin to form the Ledger Wallet Nano, a USB device that is a multisig bitcoin wallet. The wallet contains an EAL5+ smartcard, and can hold an infinite number of bitcoin addresses. Ledger users need the device itself, a PIN and a second factor card such as a computer in order access their bitcoins. The device is being priced at €34.90.
Instead of Fighting Bitcoin, the US Could Make Its Own Digital Currency
Robert McMillan from Wired argues that the Federal Reserve should copy bitcoin and create a “bitdollar,” a bitcoin-like digital currency that’s backed by the US dollar. James Angel, a professor of economics at Georgetown University also supports this view, saying a bitdollar would bring bitcoin’s payment network to “maturity.” McMillan argues that the bitdollar wouldn’t have a supply restriction like bitcoin, and does recognize that a government-backed digital currency would not be very popular among the bitcoin faithful.
American Express Chief Ken Chenault Sees Potential in Bitcoin’s Technology
Kenneth I. Chenault, the chief executive of American Express, believes there’s promise in Bitcoin’s underlying technology, but isn’t quite ready to give in to digital money. Mr. Chenault, when discussing new forms of money and payments systems said, “there’s room for a lot players,” bitcoin included. And finished by stating “the reality is, we compete with any form of payments.” The traditional banking industry has yet to fully embrace digital currency, maybe for good reason.
Houston, Texas Receives First Bitcoin ATM at George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston received its first Bitcoin ATM, yesterday outside a Starbucks in the George R. Brown Convention Center. CoinVault ATM, which also runs bitcoin ATMS elsewhere in the state in both Austin and Dallas, will be operating the ATM. Houston is also home to the Texas Bitcoin Embassy.
Stateless Man Hopes Bitcoin Will Help All People Without Citizenship
Glen Robert, a man who became stateless after renouncing his US citizenship, believes bitcoin can help people make cross-border transactions, especially those without a national identity. Unsurprisingly, Roberts sees the lack of government regulation as the main advantage of bitcoin. Roberts is the author of “How to Renounce Your U.S. Citizenship in Two Easy Steps.”
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