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Overstock CEO Delivers Keynote to 1,000+ Attendees at Bitcoin2014

(@roopgill) | Published on May 16, 2014 at 12:26 BST

The Bitcoin2014 conference kicked off today in the Netherlands with a keynote address from Overstock CEO and bitcoin enthusiast Patrick Byrne.

Byrne delivered his keynote speech to a large portion of the 1,100 registered participants at the conference gathered in the Passenger Terminal in Amsterdam.

The talk was an information-heavy lesson in the historical context of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Byrne used historical great thinkers like Marx, Hegel and Kant, as well as modern-day academics like Francis Fukayama, to explain why he backs the cryptocurrency revolution.

“As much as I love bitcoin, I am all about the crypto revolution,” said Byrne, who has been previously called the ‘Bitcoin Messiah’.

Today he was introduced as a “true pioneer” and a “leader in exposing Wall Street corruption” by Jon Matonis, the Executive Director of Bitcoin Foundation and CoinDesk Contributing Editor.

Jon Matonis and Patrick Byrne during the Keynote Address at Bitcoin 2014 in Amsterdam.
Jon Matonis and Patrick Byrne during the Keynote Address at Bitcoin2014 in Amsterdam.

The Bitcoin conference is organised annually by the Bitcoin Foundation. The last year's event was held in San Jose, California, and Matonis has revealed that the Foundation is looking to Asia for next year’s conference.

The 1,100 registered participants at the conference come from more than 50 countries.

“We truly believe this is the bitcoin event of the year to go to,” said Matonis.

Matonis also showed the following video about bitcoin empowering people in Uganda to the audience.

Bitcoin philosopher

Byrne, who is a self-confessed libertarian and 'Austrian economist', drew on his triple degrees to deliver a philosophically rooted argument about the importance of bitcoin.

The two centralized institutions that were most undermined by cryptocurrencies were the central banks and central counterparty clearing, he argued.

Byrne became the poster boy for bitcoin when he announced late last year that Overstock.com would start accepting bitcoin. He had originally made an offhand remark in an interview last December, saying he was considering bitcoin for the business. The news blew up and he delivered on his promise.

Today, he joked about that and said:

“I said maybe by the end of 2014 [we would accept bitcoin]. I said it off the top off my head, but that mention started appearing in newspapers around the world.”

Big plans

Staying true to his style, during the question and answer round today Byrne revealed that he had plans for potentially listing his company on “a block chain kind of a stock exchange.”

Watching his words, he said: “I would already be interested in issuing a bond or something, so we could be the first to list this sort of security.”

He revealed that Overstock was in the early stages of looking at the legal propriety of dual listing on NASDAQ and another stock exchange. While they have not ironed out any concrete plans, he said:

“We could either issue securities in bitcoin and translate those and collect funds in dollars. I am less interested in that than just taking it and listing it and maybe even creating a new security and issuing it through such an exchange. Or we could take our security, which is already publicly registered and publicly traded and just get it dual listed on somebody’s technology.”

Byrne is still weighing his options, but there might be a concrete announcement from his company in the next couple of months, he indicated.

roopoverstock
CoinDesk's Roop Gill with Patrick Byrne

Overstock is one of the world’s largest online retailers, making more than $1.3bn in annual sales under Byrne’s leadership. When Overstock first accepted bitcoin, it was suggested that Byrne was doing so to get publicity, a point that he also addressed in today’s keynote, saying:

“A lot of people suggested that I got involved in bitcoin for the publicity. I hope my talk today has dispelled this.”

Wearing a Shanghai Tang suit, Byrne even showed off his Chinese language skills during the Q&A round.

Drawing on his business expertise, scholarly training and bitcoin enthusiasm, he set the right tone for rest of the conference.

Matonis and Byrne were only two of the 120 speakers slated to speak this weekend. For the full schedule, see the Bitcoin2014 website.

AmsterdamBitcoin2014Jon MatonisPatrick Byrne

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