There seems to be an audible buzz. It’s been a long, hard game. Three players, all above six-feet tall, look to their coach.
“Downtown” Josh Brown steps to the free-throw line.
“It’s very easy to think your way out of investing in bitcoin,” he tells the packed house.
For the roughly 350 fans at Fordham University for “The Truth Machine: The Blockchain and the Future of Everything” book launch, this bullish dialogue marks exactly the kind of mental athletics they came to see.
And the handful of blockchain industry all-stars on hand delivered, so much so even the speakers themselves made jokes about the scene resembling a sports match.
“We look like a basketball team,” said Brown, a crypto investor and co-founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, who recently converted from a skeptic to a bitcoin believer.
Brown shared the stage with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, founders of cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, and Paul Vigna, a Wall Street Journal reporter and co-author of the Truth Machine, with crypto industry pundit Michael Casey.
Not to be outdone on the athletic display, the Winklevoss brothers brought hints of future news and announcements.
Speaking to a question about whether the exchange – which facilitates trades in bitcoin and ether only – would be adding new cryptocurrencies, Winklevoss struck an optimistic tone, stating:
“We’re definitely going to increase our menu of options.”
On the sidelines
But while we still might be in cryptocurrency’s “first quarter,” the event provided more evidence retail investors are interested in going pro.
When Vigna and Casey’s first book, “The Age of Cryptocurrency,” was published, bitcoin was trading at just over $1,000. Flash forward to today and those figures look like Little League. And that’s led to a considerable amount of FOMO (fear of missing out).
Still, even with the broader cryptocurrency industry’s gains, Brown was measured in his response about whether rookies should invest.
He explained that while he does not discourage his clients from investing in crypto assets, he also avoids directly advising them to invest. Although, he does think there’s merit to investing in that it can be a good way for someone to form their own opinion about the long-term value of cryptocurrencies.
Casey warned the industry against an over-reliance on consortia, which large enterprises such as big banks, continue to join.
In his mind, the idea of a single shared ledger in this regard goes against what the cryptocurrency movement was all about in general, saying:
“You think a too big to fail bank is a problem? Imagine a too big to fail blockchain.”
In the locker room
But those teams, the enterprise blockchain ones, are just now warming up.
For one, the Winklevoss brothers predicted that Wall Street banks would start “flooding” into cryptocurrency with a “tsunami of interest” this year.
One of those interested Wall Streeters, Gerald Walker, the CEO of ING US, spoke about a test the financial institution did with several partners whereby agricultural commodities were tokenized and traded on a blockchain platform.
According to Walker, blockchain reduced the time it took those commodities to switch from 24 days to three.
“While some have said blockchain will disintermediate banks, we disagree. But it does challenge us,” he said. “As a firm, we’ve seen the transformational power of blockchain first hand and look forward to continuing to explore its possibilities.”
And Joe Lubin, the founder of ConsenSys spoke to how topics in the book overlap with work going on at his ethereum startup incubator.
For example, Lubin talked about the use of uPort a blockchain identity startup housed at ConsenSys, by the city of Zug, Switzerland, and touched on the increasing number of daily API requests – more than 9 billion in a single day – by ethereum infrastructure provider Infura, another ConsenSys company.
As such, Lubin said this kind of work making enterprises more decentralized, “will enable us to move towards a better kind of internet.”
As the event wound down, Lubin even jumped from his seat, eliciting laughs and applause when he optimistically appealed to the home team.
“There’s a little bit of hope if we listen to the nerds … we can build better systems this time.”
Disclosure: Michael J. Casey is the chair of CoinDesk’s advisory board.
Images by Michael del Castillo