The Student Network Taking Bitcoin to Colleges Around the Globe

A group of students has built a fast-growing international network of university bitcoin clubs.

AccessTimeIconSep 22, 2014 at 9:56 a.m. UTC
Updated Apr 10, 2024 at 2:38 a.m. UTC
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When Patrick Cines meets a fellow student on the campus of Pennsylvania State University, he'll whip out his phone to show them how quickly bitcoin can be sent from one account to another.

"If they say they can already do that with a credit card, I tell them that they're paying to use that card, one way or another," he said.

Cines is an officer in the College Cryptocurrency Network (CCN), a fast-growing organisation that's trying to connect bitcoin clubs in universities around the world.

The network was formed in March and now has about 100 chapters comprising more than 1,000 students globally, although the majority are located on campuses in the United States, according to co-founder Jeremy Gardner.

The network aims to sign up student bitcoin organisations at universities as members for free. The network then organises various educational and outreach events across its chapters, pooling resources, like contacts with bitcoin companies and funding, as it does so.

For example, the network is organising an October event at Walt Disney World in Florida called Coins in the Kingdom that includes speakers such as Charlie Shrem and others.

Recruitment pipeline

The idea, according to Cines, is to raise awareness of bitcoin and digital currencies on college campuses. One of the advantages this offers to students is potentially guiding them into jobs in a hot new sector.

Cines points to banks, accounting and consulting firms who actively recruit new hires on college campuses through a pipeline of internships and placement programmes.

"Accounting firms, they see it because they've been around for years. They're lining [students] up for a full-time job. It's just a matter of time before the bitcoin industry realises the same thing," he said.

The plan seems to be working. According to Cines, several members from MIT have completed summer internships at Circle, the high-profile startup founded by Jeremy Allaire that has raised $26m in funding to date.

The network's members have scored some high-profile hits already. At MIT, in particular, the club there launched a project to give out $500,000 worth of bitcoin to the student body. Dan Elitzer, who started the MIT Bitcoin Club and is CCN's treasurer, credits the network for its support.

"Even though a lot of students look at the MIT Bitcoin Club as a prime example of a successful CCN chapter [...] if you want to make bitcoin a big thing on your campus, just reach out to CCN for resources created by other chapters to get you started," he said.

Sponsorship praise

The network doesn't collect dues from members, so it raises funding from sponsors. These include companies like DigitalBTC, Cines said, who pay to be associated with the group. In return, their brands get exposure to the student population at CCN events.

"DigitalBTC sponsored CCN because we were excited about the opportunity to foster the greater take-up of bitcoin on college campuses [...] and the amazing innovation we can see when college students get their hands on new technology," said DigitalBTC's CEO Alex Karis.

"So far it is going well [...] we've even asked if any of the college participants are interested in working with us part-time," he added.

Gardner, the network's co-founder, says activity among chapters remains concentrated on campuses in the northeastern US. This includes MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts, Rutgers in New Jersey and Middlebury College in Vermont.

One of CCN's focuses in the coming months will be to make bitcoin more visible on campuses. Cines says that ATMs are key to that mission. Cines is already working on getting an ATM placed on Penn State grounds.

"There has to be more of a physical element to it. More bitcoin ATMs are crucial," he said.


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