Two Consensus 2015 speakers, Nathaniel Popper and Wences Casares, are in the spotlight this week, mainly because of Popper’s new book. We’re also announcing the addition of Hernán Botbol, a co-founder of the hugely popular Argentinian social network, Taringa!
Digital Gold, the book that takes a long, unflinching look at the individuals behind the rise of bitcoin, hit the shelves this week.
We published an extract from Digital Gold detailing the inner workings of Charlie Shrem’s BitInstant, which was a high-flying bitcoin startup with funding from the Winklevoss twins – until it all came crashing down.
Shrem was nabbed by federal agents in a New York airport on money laundering and other charges; he is now serving a two-year sentence in a federal prison.
Digital Gold’s author, Nathaniel Popper, normally covers Wall Street for the New York Times. He’s fresh off launching his book at the New York Public Library with a panel discussion with Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, the Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin and bitcoin core developer Gavin Andresen.
‘Patient zero’ for bitcoin
Another protagonist in Popper’s book is Wences Casares, the founder of bitcoin storage and wallet firm Xapo.
The book reveals Casares’ pivotal role in getting a swathe of Silicon Valley and Wall Street’s elite hooked on the cryptocurrency. Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn founder and investor in Blockstream, has called Casares “patient zero” for bitcoin in the Valley.
Digital Gold contains accounts of Casares demonstrating how bitcoin works at high-powered gatherings organised by the investment bank Allen and Co.
At one such retreat in Tucson, Arizona, Popper tells us that Casares sent $250,000 in bitcoin to Business Insider founder Henry Blodget after setting the publisher up with a brand new bitcoin wallet of his own. The coins eventually found their way back to Casares, after being passed around the high net-worth crowd who marvelled at the speed of the transfers.
Casares isn’t content to stop at introducing bitcoin to the rich and powerful. Part of Casares’ plan to take bitcoin mainstream is a partnership with Taringa!, a social network that Wired has described as “the Reddit of Argentina” – a useful way of thinking about a service that boasts 75 million monthly unique users.
Bitcoin for content micropayments
Taringa! users currently assemble all sorts of content to be shared on the network, from home recipes to Lionel Messi listicles. The network sells ads against this content.
The Xapo tie-up will let Taringa! split the ad revenue with its users, paying the funds out in bitcoin. The network’s co-founder, Hernán Botbol, says bitcoin payments are important because more than half of Latin America’s online users don’t have a bank account or credit card, making it difficult to send payments to users for their share of ad revenue.
The micropayments programme is currently invite-only, with plans to expand it to more Taringa users. But Botbol and Casares will have a unique data-set around bitcoin micropayments for content by September, when they will discuss their findings at CoinDesk’s inaugural conference – Consensus 2015.