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From 'Cokehead currency' to Robin Hood heroics?

Wall Street analyst says VCs could help boost bitcoin's legitimacy and protect it from over-regulation by urging its use by charitable organizations.

Apr 23, 2013 at 5:14 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 10, 2021 at 10:42 a.m. UTC

Using bitcoins to transfer charitable donations from rich countries to poor ones could not only benefit people in need but help save the digital currency from government regulations or an outright ban, according to one Wall Street analyst.

In a blog post at TabbFORUM, Nicholas Colas, group chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, writes that bitcoin is "ideally suited" to the purpose of taking in money in rich countries and efficiently moving it to places with limited financial infrastructure.

"That move alone would begin to remove the 'Cokehead currency' imprimatur which bitcoin still struggles to overcome due to some early press about its use on illegal drug distribution websites," Colas asserts. "If shutting down bitcoin would hurt worthwhile charities by pushing them back into a higher-cost banking system, regulators might think twice about excessive regulation or an outright ban."

Colas acknowledges the "huge challenge" venture capitalists face in first ensuring that bitcoin is user-friendly and secure:

"Hackers in bitcoin land are ferocious competition, attacking the weakest link in the system to drive prices down," he writes. "They then scoop up the currency during the confusion and wait for it to rebound."

Colas recommends that venture capitalists address the security issues of the system first, and then work on making bitcoin a relevant currency for global financial transactions.

"If the venture capital community wants to make bitcoin the 'Next big thing', staving off regulation by bringing the currency into the light is just as important as their other goals."

Colas concludes that bitcoin remains a "beta currency," and its success or failure rests with resolving technological challenges and business development issues. For now, that means bitcoin investors will continue to face high risk.

"Investing in bitcoin has been a white-knuckle ride so far, and nothing in its near future points to a different trajectory. How it all shakes out, however, will be both instructive to watch and potentially profitable for those on the right side of this very novel trade," he writes.

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