The emerging leaders of the digital currency startup ecosystem took to the stage at CoinSummit San Francisco on 25th March in a talk that included Coinbase co-founder Brian Armstrong; CEO Nic Cary; BitPay CEO Tony Gallippi; and Ripple Labs CEO Chris Larsen.

The session was moderated by Ribbit Capital‘s Nick Shalek.

Rising Stars of Bitcoin Set Ambitious Goals for 2014Chris Larsen, Tony Gallippi. Nic Cary, Brian Armstrong and Nick Shalek.

Some of the biggest founders and CEOs in the digital currency space, including representatives from BitPay, Blockchain, Coinbase and Ripple, were on hand for CoinSummit San Francisco’s “The Rising Stars of the Bitcoin Start-up Ecosystem” panel, which took place toward the end of a busy first day on Tuesday, 25th March.

The day’s previous panel sessions focused on angel investing, decentralized applications and bitcoin applications.

This session, however, took a different approach, as the notable digital currency figures provided insights into not only how successful bitcoin businesses are being built today, but the goals and objectives their companies are seeking to achieve on behalf of the entire ecosystem in 2014 and beyond.

The industry leaders indicated that usability, development and merchant adoption are just some of the issues that remain top of mind.


Making bitcoin a better financial tool is what all of the assembled panelists agreed will be a focus in 2014.

Brian Armstrong, who worked on fraud prevention at AirBnB before starting Coinbase with co-founder Fred Ehrsam, summed up this sentiment, saying:

“We want to focus on making [bitcoin] accessible to non-technical people.”

Nic Cary, the CEO who started his first company at age 16, wants to make products that are desirable to the masses. Said Cary:

“We have to build beautiful technology that is fun and attractive. The user experience is critical.”

BitPay CEO Tony Gallippi reiterated that his company has been helping merchants accept bitcoin since 2011. As such, he doesn’t want to stray from its established approach.

“I think we need to focus on what we do best,” Gallippi said.

Ripple Labs CEO Chris Larsen noted that the developer community is the most important way consumer usability will grow within digital payment systems.

Core development

The topic of bitcoin core development has been much discussed of late. The concern is that while a number of bitcoin startups are building on the application level, the core protocol is being left behind.

A San Francisco-based open-source distributed settlements system, Ripple now has an incubator that offers free office space for developers with no strings attached.

“It’s essential to leverage developers. It’s essential to build that community.”

Bitcoin iteration is good for the whole ecosystem, that’s why this threat remains such a problem. “We all stand to benefit from bitcoin being successful,” said moderator Nick Shalek.

BitPay’s Tony Gallippi pointed out that his company employs core developer Jeff Garzik full-time to work on Bitcoin protocol issues. is hoping to follow BitPay’s lead, according to Cary:

“I would love to hire several core developers this year,” he said.

Ambitious goals

(L-R) Larsen, Gallippi, Cary, Armstrong, (L-R) Larsen, Gallippi, Cary, Armstrong, Shalek.

All of the assembled business leaders listed lofty goals for the upcoming yea r.

BitPay wants to have enrolled 100,000 merchants by 2015; Ripple Labs wants to get one major bank on its protocol; Coinbase wants to onboard companies that have $1 billion in revenue; and wants to surpass 10 million wallet signups.

These are just some of the benchmarks that these later-stage startups have to propel digital currencies to the next level, though the panelists acknowledged that challenges remain.

“Over the last year we have had more exchanges close than open,” said Gallippi. These bitcoin startups want more positive news that can trump all the bad activities.

Still, Coinbase’s Armstrong advised young bitcoin companies to make new products no matter what.

“Build something. Build anything and it will give you the idea of what to build next,” he said.

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