Crypto Takes the Stage at SXSW 2019
Last week, we spoke during opening weekend at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. Our March 8th discussion with moderator Jo Ling Kent was a chance to share our mission — to help build the future of money — and speak about crypto more broadly with an audience of 700+ attendees, and we thank the organizers for this opportunity and having us.
A lot has changed since we last spoke at SXSW in 2016. Back then, there were fewer than 10 sessions on crypto across the entire SXSW conference and now, there is an entire track dedicated to blockchain and crypto. In 2016, Gemini had only launched operations as a New York trust company several months prior, and few members of our audience had invested in bitcoin (and even fewer knew much about it).
The crypto market has matured significantly since then. Bitcoin’s value has gone from around $400 to $4,000 today. This year, hundreds of hands shot up when Jo Ling Kent asked how many in the audience had invested in crypto, and this time bitcoin wasn’t the only project we discussed (we could talk for hours about all the exciting projects!).
As crypto has grown up a lot, so has Gemini. We’ve grown from 25 to 200 employees and celebrated many achievements over the past three years, culminating with our recent mobile app launch. Our trip to SXSW illustrated a few key reasons why our effort to build regulated infrastructure is more timely than ever:
Interest is at a tipping point. Look no further than the packed house we saw from the stage — the energy and excitement around crypto’s future was palpable — money has a future. Perhaps more importantly, the level of engagement and thoughtful questions posed by the audience on topics such as stablecoins, mining, financial disruption, scalability, and others, demonstrates that cryptocurrency is in fact no longer a fringe technology. The brightest minds in the room are flocking to crypto and looking to build on this decentralized, permissionless, open system. In 2016 crypto was niche — today it is something — tomorrow it will be everything.
Trust is the gap. Despite the enthusiasm, there remains much more work to be done to change the public perception of crypto. Recent events like the losses at QuadrigaCX have harmed a lot of people and caused reputational damage for our industry at large. You wouldn’t store your funds in an unregulated bank, and the same should be true for your crypto.
As we discussed at SXSW, trust is our product. We came of age during the Wild West of crypto and we built Gemini in response to our own experience: it was difficult and scary to buy bitcoin in 2012, and storing it safely was even harder. For crypto to reach its true potential, we had to find, rather build a better way. And this is what we have dedicated ourselves to at Gemini. Trust is not one heroic effort, but rather built day in and day out. The good news is this problem is solvable — it is not intractable — we can close this gap if our industry works together to promote and foster best practices.
Regulated markets thrive. The healthiest markets in the world are also the most thoughtfully regulated. It’s hard to point to a market today that’s thriving that isn’t rules-based or governed by some level of regulatory oversight.
Some argue that the protocols themselves have enough “rules.” We agree, but protocols only govern the movement of funds inside systems; they don’t provide controls or oversight for the entrepreneurs and companies that build on top of them. Every crypto incident to date has been a company (or human) problem, not a crypto problem.
As such, we will continue to support and help shape thoughtful regulation and we have joined the Virtual Commodity Association (VCA), a group with the goal of establishing an industry-sponsored, self-regulatory organization (SRO) in order to foster consumer protection and market integrity for virtual commodity marketplaces.
Now is the time — crypto winter will lead to lasting innovation. It’s counterintuitive, but we believe that the next wave of crypto innovation will be borne during “crypto winter.” In times like 2017, when mania overshadows discipline, everything seems like a good idea. Today, the quality of projects and entrepreneurs pursuing them has never been higher. We are all forced to make thoughtful decisions and trade-offs, which we believe will ultimately lead to better results for our industry as a whole. What is built today, will more than ever shape what money looks like tomorrow.
After visiting SXSW, that future seems closer than ever. The Gemini app (IOS and Android) is the latest way we’re welcoming new participants to our mission and making crypto more accessible.
We look forward to the many milestones to come in the years ahead!
Onward and Upward,
Cameron + Tyler