This weekend turned out to be more exciting than I had imagined. It could be attributed to the Global Bitcoin Conference that was held in Bangalore on the 14th and 15th of December 2013. On the first day, a very comfortable setting at the City Bar, UB City had nearly 200 Bitcoiners gather for an informal chat.
The next day saw an even larger gathering at Sheraton Hotel for the opening discussion on the Bitcoins and benefits of decentralization with Sunny Ray (Director of Business development, Buttercoin) and Mike Jain telling us why we need to care about Bitcoin and what it is all about (related article). The conference was sponsored by Butterfly Labs, BTC Robot and buysellbitco.in.
Sunny Ray talked about Buttercoin and explained it is a white label Bitcoin exchange backed by investors such as Google Ventures. By 2015, World Bank has estimated that the migrants will send about $515 Billion to their families and relatives to their respective countries. Buttercoin is interested in cashing in on this opportunity and has its eyes set on competing with the likes of Western Union which charges around 10% per transaction.
Josh Zerlan spoke about one of the most important aspects of Bitcoin – Mining and mining hardware. He stressed on the fact that a mining operation depended on scale and not really the size of the mining unit. “The payback from a small miner is the same as a large one,” he said. One interesting question Zerlan answered was “Is privatization of transactions possible through cloud mining?” He said it was a good idea and quite possibly something to add to their interface.
“Like the printing press and the Internet, Bitcoin is a technology of trust that could return human society to a natural order that is outside of the centralised control of the state and the church,” said Johann Gevers, CEO & co-founder of Monetas (US based Bitcoin startup). “Bitcoin is a return to a people-based system that allows for a decentralized society on a large scale", he added.
He further went on to speak about regulatory concerns and touched on some of things Lets Talk Payments recently talked about in an article - how some governments around the world are looking at Bitcoin. "It would be a mistake for regulators to classify it. They should not box it. There are millions of things you can do with it. Regulators should not make new laws; they should apply existing laws otherwise they will limit innovation. In Switzerland it is treated as foreign currency, in Germany it is a unit of account,'' Gevers said. Monetas will be launching its product during the second quarter of 2014.
I think the one of the most important aspects regarding Bitcoin was addressed by buysellbitco.in’s Chief Technical Officer, Mahin Gupta. “Remittance is huge market that needs to be addressed. Big exchanges such as Western Union and Moneygram charge anywhere around 7% fees for transactions, which frankly is very high. Bitcoin could create a huge impact on how we make cross border transactions,” he said. Remittance market has been always profitable lucrative business & surely has positive futuristic growth. The World Bank estimates shows it has grown 11% from 234 Bn 2004 to 534 Bn 2012 & is expected to grow $685 Bn by 2015.
Sathvik V, Managing Director of CoinMonk Ventures said, "What we need here is a dialogue with the central bank for better understanding of the system and a clearer picture of the regulations that can be placed and what cannot be." Sathvik was one of the main organizers of the event and his company Coinmonk Ventures is one of India’s first Bitcoin buying and selling web service called Unocoin.com. “Anything can be used for illegal purposes. If RBI forms a framework, this will be one of the easiest systems out there that can be monitored by government agencies and there is no way one can destroy the trail of the currency,” he added.
There was even a Bitcoin miner by Coinmonk on demonstration:
Krishna Dutt explained her understanding of Bitcoin as a Bank Manager. The Reserve Bank of India has adopted a wait and watch policy on the virtual currency. Apparently, there was an RBI lawyer present at the conference, in order to better understand the currency.
Benson Samuel, an early evangelist of Bitcoins in India (currently associated with Coinmonk Ventures) spoke about the peer to peer nature and the of the virtual currency.
Mr. Gupta also stressed the need for guidelines from the RBI and government. “When my customers question me about the developments worldwide, such as the positive senate hearing on Bitcoin in the U.S recently, and then China’s statement that it is risky, how do I tell them that their own investments are safe?”
The conference also saw attendance from the Laxmicoin Team, India’s first cryptographic digital currency ecosystem. Zuckup (Bitcoin mobile wallet) was also present.
On an interesting note, Coinmonk had set up a booth with Bitcoin Souvenirs for attendees where I picked up a Physical Bitcoin pre-loaded with 0.01 BTC.
The Physical Bitcoins were priced at Rs 1,250 ($20.12) and were preloaded with 0.01 BTC. The coins came with a private address printed on their back. The address can be scanned with the help of any QR code scanner. There were gold coins too, for 0.35 and 0.7 BTC. Coinmonk also had interested attendees to leave their contact details for preorders of their Mining Rig which is to be released in the next few months.
This video gives you an overview of Butterfly Labs Mining Hardware: