Bitcoin, Blockchain and The Future of Money – A BayPay Event

Last week at the ‘Bitcoin, Blockchain and The Future of Money’ conference in San Francisco, innovators in the payments space came together to move beyond the hype and get down to business.  The level of investment and the interest from serious players in traditional FinTech continues to increase. The conference confirmed that the scope of Bitcoin and Blockchain development is continuing to expand. The discussion also highlighted a shift from experimental to real solutions, or as Micah Winkelspecht, CEO and founder of Gem said, ‘professionals are now showing up in suits to these meetings instead of in t-shirts and tutu’s’. 


Here are a few key highlights.


First up was John McDonnell, CEO of Bitnet – a payment processing company that enables merchants to accept digital currency.  John explained how global payments are still disjointed and require merchants to have different infrastructure in different parts of the world.  In contrast, the Bitcoin protocol has turned the Internet into a global, secure network and offers a platform and potential for frictionless currency transactions from anywhere in the world. Bitnet insulates the merchants from the downside of price volatility, fraud and risk, while at the same time providing instant global reach.  Merchants need not worry about chargebacks and can get paid in any fiat currency of their choice.


Next John Reinsch, SVP of strategy at Xapo, discussed how Xapo is changing the way people store, access and think about money – specifically as it pertains to Bitcoin security – and how it needs to be addressed at the proprietary, physical and jurisdictional level. He also shared a cool picture of a vault in Switzerland that can (apparently) take a nuclear hit – the only one he said he could share since this image was already in the public domain.


Micah Winkelspecht expanded on what they were doing at Gem – where they are building a universal wallet platform for developers who want to use Blockchain technology for apps.  He further explained how distributed = disruption.  Gem, by the way is located in Venice Beach – also known as Silicon Beach – Los Angeles’s answer to Silicon Valley.  Venice Beach is gaining some traction and becoming a hub for innovation where technology startups are finding a home as the Bay Area gets saturated and priced out.


Paul Puey, CEO and co-founder at Airbitz Inc. introduced their wallet technology where you can own, store and control Bitcoins securely on iOS and Android devices in just minutes to send and receive Bitcoins from around the world.


Daniel Chatelain, founder and managing director of BayPay led the discussion on several topics to try and understand why and how these innovations are changing the landscape of financial transactions, how security is managed, why it is superior with Bitcoin and Blockchain over traditional methods, and why contracts lend themselves naturally to the Bitcoin and Blockchain technology.


One question on the table - why and how is Bitcoin more secure? Micah Winkelspecht explained that a key feature built into the Bitcoin technology is that it eliminates a single point of failure by creating a multi-signature feature – something that money does not offer today but with multi-signature wallets, Bitcoin has this baked in.  Controlled by appropriate rules, the customer (the buyer), the company (the seller) and the provider of the wallet technology (the platform) co-sign the transaction otherwise the money does not move.  As a consumer someone posed the questions – ‘how do I trust the technology?  After all, you can make a mistake in the calculation’.  Of course there are ways to overcome this through peer checking, but this question highlights the challenges of informing and educating the general public – gaining the trust of the consumer may be more challenging than developing the technology in and of itself.


When the discussion came to adoption, it centered on the possibility that the unbanked population will be able to use Bitcoins and leapfrog with this technology because long term, Bitcoin could be the bank to the world, providing universal access to everyone without needing to go through a traditional bank at all.


If you want to learn about the latest developments in the payments industry, I recommend a BayPay Meetup.  These are small, intimate gatherings where only those who are interested in payments show up – and they do show up regularly.  A healthy intellectual discussion is always part of the agenda and you are guaranteed to walk away having learned something new. Not to mention some welcome and sumptuous appetizers and drinks from the host – Bryan Cave.





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