A gathering of A-list entrepreneurs, investors and Bay Area politicians — Bloomberg’s Next Big Thing Summit — is set to tackle emerging issues in technology and business … including the future potential of Bitcoin.
Taking over the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay on June 16 and 17, the conference roster reads like a who’s who of the tech community, including the head of mergers and acquisitions at Google, CTO of PayPal, California’s lieutenant governor and the startup-friendly mayor of San Francisco. It’s particularly notable, then, that a highlight of the conference is a sure-to-be-heated, televised debate on Bitcoin.
The debate plan was an eye-opener even for Micky Malka who, as founder and general partner at Ribbit Capital, will be arguing that Bitcoin is the currency of the future. Ribbit invests in companies innovating the consumer financial services space.
“I was surprised myself,” said Malka, who is also co-founder and chairman of Lemon, a wallet cloud service. “As you start to hear very smart people thinking about (Bitcoin) and understanding what it really means, dissecting the bad things from the good things, it becomes a good topic (for debate).”
Malka has been dabbling with Bitcoin for the last year and a half. Having grown up in Venezuela and done business in Latin America, he witnessed the first-hand the effects of hyperinflation.
“I know economic behavior,” he said, explaining why he was drawn to the cryptocurrency. Among the financial startups he has invested in is Coinbase, which closed a $5 million round in May. “I see how people behave when there is a loss of trust.”
As the pro-Bitcoin debater, Malka will go head-to-head with James Rickards, senior managing director of Tangent Capital Partners and author of “Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis.”
“When they invited me, the first thing I did was Google him and buy his book,” said Malka.
Though the debate will be shaped by moderator Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, Malka said his “macro argument is very, very simple.”
“There are five billion people with phones today in the world … Now, out of those five billion people, only one billion are banked. What are the chances of a bank being good or efficient for four billion people, or is there a chance these four billion people are willing to jump to electronic currency?”
Though it’s still too early to determine, he added: “I’m willing to bet money on the second.”
Bitcoin is beginning to emerge from its shroud of mystery. Though its early days were sometimes mired in illicit activities — Silk Road, anyone? — Malka likens the digital currency’s acceptance to the internet: “They (skeptics) thought it was a place for porn and secret societies, and look how much we have evolved from there.”
With more players and investors, such as Ribbit, entering the game, Bitcoin is gaining in legitimacy.
“Lots of venture firms are invested in the category,” Malka said. “People who are coming in are coming in for the right reason, to do business on top of a protocol that’s very disruptive.”