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LinkedIn Founder Talks Bitcoin's Future at San Francisco Conference

(@danielcawrey) | Published on February 1, 2015 at 12:49 BST
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LinkedIn founder and Greylock Partners investor Reid Hoffman issued new remarks about bitcoin this week at O'Reilly Media's 'Bitcoin & the Blockchain: Realities, Risks, Rewards' event held in San Francisco's Marina District.

The conference brought together a collection of entrepreneurs, investors and cryptocurrency enthusiasts for a one-day schedule, though it was perhaps Hoffman's talk that was most anticipated.

During his on-stage discussion session with Xapo CEO Wences Casares, Hoffman took a professorial tone in evaluating where he believes the ecosystem is headed, though it may not be as definitive as enthusiasts would hope.

He said:

"The interesting question about bitcoin is, is it the first or last cryptocurrency? It all comes down to network effects."

Hoffman noted that bitcoin does have a community behind it, which makes him believe it may have a lasting influence. As an investor, Hoffman notably backed bitcoin infrastructure startup Blockstream and its recent $21m funding round, suggesting he may be confident in its future.

"The argument in favor of it is the network effect," he added.

O'Reilly Media is a well-known publisher of technical books and event producer. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the conference was high on educational components and strived to promote key aspects of bitcoin's innovative blockchain technology.

Notably, this was O'Reilly Media's first bitcoin conference.

Network effects

In contrast to recent media reports that have attested to the contrary, Hoffman framed bitcoin as one of the best performing currencies in the world, although he cautioned, "we’re not giving investment advice".

Casares, whose company Xapo has received investment from Hoffman via Greylock, provided powerful stats to back up the network bitcoin has already amassed since its launch in 2009.

"Roughly 10 million people are holding bitcoin, and one million are spending it," Casares said. "What we are seeing with bitcoin, it has all the network effects in terms of users and transactions."

Big-names present

Other highlights of the conference were provided by respected individuals working within the cryptocurrency, media and investment space.

O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly kicked things off after a short 'introduction to bitcoin' section and was clearly inspired by bitcoin's openness as a technology.

"What really struck me about open systems is how vibrant they are," O'Reilly said. "This was what drew his company's attention to bitcoin and its technological promise, and was the reason for holding the conference."

On the venture capital investment panel, Balaji Srinivasan, a partner with Andreessen Horowitz, praised the latest accomplishments of portfolio company Coinbase, which most recently launched a US-based bitcoin exchange.

Srinivasan attempted to paint the investment, and the participation of its big-name investors, as strong indicators that bitcoin will have a long future as a technology.

"People who said bitcoin would be banned are turning out to be wrong. I don’t think anyone is going to ban the NYSE anytime soon," he added.

Payments and the bitcoin book

Another session included a bitcoin payments panel featuring Stephen Pair, CEO of BitPay, and Roger Gu, a member of the business development team at Coinbase.

Both panelists talked about how their merchant customers who accept bitcoin usually want the proceeds instantly converted into fiat currency.

Holding bitcoin is "just one more headache [merchants] don’t need," quipped Pair, presumably in a reference to the digital currency's price volatility.

The event was capped off with a talk by noted bitcoin developer Andreas Antonopoulos, who is also author of a recently released book: Mastering Bitcoin – Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrencies.

In addition to Antonopoulos giving the final talk of the day, he also had the event's only booth where attendees could receive signed copies of his book.

Images via Daniel Cawrey for CoinDesk

ConferencesO'ReillyReid HoffmanXapo

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