Bitfin Day Two: We Need More Global, Organised Bitcoin Education

Emily Spaven
Jul 4, 2014 at 21:25 UTC
Updated Oct 21, 2015 at 15:13 UTC

Greg Brockman, CTO of internet payments company Stripe, opened day two of the Bitfin conference in Dublin with his views on what bitcoin needs to become more appealing to a mainstream audience.

The Harvard and MIT graduate said the main reason people are reluctant to start using bitcoin is the lack of trust and protection that comes with traditional finance.

He believes centralised consumer trust providers will emerge, providing a stamp of approval to sites and merchants that are to known to be trusted in the bitcoin space.

These providers will be responsible for mediating chargebacks and will have to create and enforce a set of rules to make sure its approved merchants remain reliable.

Brockman went on to explain that Stripe is currently testing bitcoin payments and is pleased with how this is developing.

“It’s a very exciting time and we’re still figuring things out as we go along,” he said.

In a panel discussion titled Next Generation Payments, Steve Beauregard of digital currency payments processor GoCoin encouraged merchants to take steps to encourage their customers to pay in bitcoin. He suggested the use of special offers or discounts for customers who pay in digital currency. “Merchants need to be strategic right now and work to make this their main payment method,” he said, adding:

“[Bitcoin] is the biggest no-brainer in the history of e-commerce.”

Education

The topic of raising awareness of bitcoin on a global scale came up in a later panel discussion featuring Blockchains Nic Carey, BTC Chinas Bobby Lee, Ocean Banks Oleg Pokrovsky, BitPesas Amy Ludlum and Bitonics Pieterjan Goppel.

Cary said he’d like to see universities add cryptocurrencies to their curriculums to increase awareness of the topic and also widen the talent pool available to digital currency companies. He said it’s also important for existing resources, which are largely in English, to be translated into other languages and distributed widely across the world.

Ludlum, whose company BitPesa is bringing digital currency awareness to Africa by converting bitcoin to the Kenyan shilling, said the problem her company faces is that it can’t rely on digital marketing campaigns to spread the word about bitcoin. She explained:

“It’s all in-person education, which hasn’t proved impossible, it just requires more time and effort.”

Localisation was also top of the agenda at the ‘Exchanges and Onramps’ panel session moderated by BTC China CEO Bobby Lee.

“You can’t just roll out a platform globally and expect everyone to jump on board,” said Bit4Coin co-founder Dolf Diederichsen, citing the need for solutions tailored to different markets, languages and legal systems.

The panel also featured a lively debate about the usability of current fiat and bitcoin exchanges. CurrencyFair CEO Brett Myers argued that his “typically non-sophisticated” customer base had no issue using an order book format when exchanging funds, with 25-33% opting in for the mechanism. However, fellow panelists Brandon Goldman and Amy Ludlum argued that Coinbase and BitPesa’s fixed-price model was preferable for new users.

Banking innovation

Members of the ‘Bitcoin Adoption by Banks’ panel discussed today’s announcement from the ECB, which advised EU banks to steer clear of bitcoin until some clear-cut rules are put in place by regulators.

Lee Penrose, of Cayman National Bank and Trust Company, which is based on the Isle of Man, said many European banks that were previously showing some interest in bitcoin now shy away from digital currency until advised to do otherwise.

Ferdinando Ametrano, of Banca IMI, believes we could now see banks begin to innovate in the area of digital currencies. They are aware of the technology and what it is capable of, so they may try to implement some of its benefits within their existing systems. Diacle’s Adam Vaziri disagreed. He doesn’t see innovation coming from within banks any time soon, he said:

“Innovation within financial services requires innovators, and those won’t necessarily be found in banking.”

However, he conceded that the innovators wont succeed if they try and go it alone. Vaziri said innovators want to disrupt the industry, but they need the help of the banks in order for change to happen.

Key challenges

Michael Terpin, co-founder of BitAngels, moderated the final panel of the conference, which featured The Kaiser Report host Max Keiser, taxi-calling app Hailo’s Jay Bregman, Stripe’s Greg Brockman, BitPesa’s Elizabeth Rossiello and Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Keiser emphasised the revolutionary nature of bitcoin, stating that he sees the ability of a population to control or create its own money supply as extremely important. He went on to say the inadequacies of the current banking system are facilitating the growth of digital currency:

“The success of bitcoin will be driven by the repeated failures of the banks and traditional financial system […] The banks are shooting themselves in the head, they’re so tied to this business model of fraud. There is no room for legal behaviour in banking.”

Rossiello shared her equally scathing view of the banks, stating that people can easily go on to survive without a central financial system and labelling bankers untrustworthy and criminals. Reitman turned the discussion to developers, claiming that it’s not just regulators and the banks that can impact the progression and freedom of bitcoin, but those developing the core protocol.

Bregman rounded off the panel, and the conference, by answering an audience-posed question about his company’s plans in relation to bitcoin integration.

“From a personal perspective, I’d love to do it. From a corporate perspective I can’t say at this point. If we could pay our drivers in bitcoin, and they could remit to their families, that would be a great financial benefit,” he said.

The main takeaway from Bregman’s comments is that, for Hailo, accepting bitcoin is a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Click below to view CoinDesk’s gallery of images from the BitFin conference.