The island’s growth has been helped in recent years by the number of online gambling companies who base their operations there. The world’s largest online poker firm, Poker Stars, for example, had only four staff when it started on the island, but employs nearly 300 people today, Corlett said.
“We can now pat ourselves on the back for our successful e-gaming sector, but there were plenty of mistakes in the early days […] But you have to take risks, we have tried to innovate responsibly, but we do need to protect our consumers and protect our reputation,” he said.
Corlett underlined the importance of the ˝e-business˝ sector, which includes digital currency companies, in the projected growth of the island’s economy.
“It’s front and centre for us as an economy and as a government. We need to create the right environment for e-business to thrive,” he said.
Currency and beyond
Fenton discussed the technological impact cryptocurrency will have, even if bitcoin as a currency doesn’t take off, saying:
“Some die-hard people in the bitcoin space think it’s going to wipe out banks or governments or something like that. But, it doesn’t have to come anything near that. The technology is here to stay.”
Johnston, however, explored the potential of applications built on top of the block chain, emphasising the myriad ways in which decentralisation could create value for users.
“We now have lower level protocols, but it’s starting to evolve into higher level applications that we can build on. We will see an explosion of decentralised applications,” he said.
Before the talks, conference delegates could have face-to-face sessions with a variety of professional services providers based on the Isle of Man.
These included global consulting and accountancy firms like KPMG, a major sponsor of the conference, and local firms like Boston Trust, which provides consulting services to firms, especially in the online gambling sector.
Some local startups also set up booths in the courtyard of the Sefton Hotel, where the conference was located on its second day.
One of them was TGBEX, which makes physical bitcoins out of a variety of metals, including gold and silver. The firm was launching its products, hoping to start marketing in time for the Christmas gifting season, said co-founder Richard Owusu-Awuah.
Each coin is engraved with a map of the world, with a private key hidden behind a holographic sticker on the back. The public key is printed on the sticker.
Movie star entrepreneur
Delegates rolled into the conference following a dinner the previous night that featured a speech from GoCoin co-founder and active angel investor Brock Pierce.
Pierce took the podium in the restaurant of the Claremont Hotel after a trailer of the 1996 movie First Kid was played. The movie starred Sinbad as a bodyguard of the US president’s son, played by Pierce.
“I don’t think I’ve seen any of my movies since I was 15 or 16 [years old], probably because I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I was,” Pierce said of his early career as a child actor.
“Talking about this can make me blush,” he added.