TNABC Day 2: Bitcoin’s Diverse Community on Full Display

Pete Rizzo
Jul 21, 2014 at 01:00 UTC
Updated Aug 20, 2014 at 16:46 UTC

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Day two of The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) was at times unpredictable – featuring a notable cancelled appearance and a few schedule changes. However, it ultimately succeeded at showcasing the wide range of individuals who are now actively engaged in various parts of the ecosystem.

This diversity of both demographics and ideas was perhaps best illustrated in the day’s panel sessions, which included talks dedicated to women and students working in the space as well as an ad-hoc discussion on bitcoin 2.0 by legal thought leaders like Marco Santori and Jacob Farber.

The full scope of the community could also be seen in the major business leaders who spoke at the event, representing a range of verticals from bitcoin mining to e-commerce and merchant processing.

Through this, the conference was also able to highlight just how interconnected the industry remains despite the increased VC interest and mainstream media attention, a point alluded to by event organiser Moe Levin in his closing remarks.

Levin said:

“Bitcoin began as a community initiative and prospers today for the same reason. Coming together, talking face to face, is essential to us remaining a community.”

Elsewhere, the day featured sessions led by Bitcoin Shop CEO Charles Allen; CloudHashing’s Lukas Gilkey; and a surprise session led by Charlie Shrem, who appeared via a telepresence robot.

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Regulation debate continues

Although not as apparent in today’s discussions, New York’s proposed regulations for bitcoin businesses proved to be a continued topic of interest – one that was addressed most forcefully by Bitcoin Association board member and an outspoken critic of bitcoin regulation, Bruce Fenton.

Fenton delivered an impassioned speech to the morning audience that encouraged attendees to question the information they have been receiving from New York state officials.

Further, he suggested that NYDFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky may be motivated by higher political office in his decision making, or that the regulations may have been the product of his involvement with the banking industry.

The regulation was also dissected during a panel on bitcoin 2.0 innovations, though there the proposal was viewed more as a disappointment to a community that had expected to be given the same room for experimentation that the Internet enjoyed during its formation.

The panel addressed how the laws would impart a number of restrictions on the broad application of bitcoin’s underlying technology in its attempt to ensure consumers are protected from financial harm, and touched on the negative impact this could have on the ecosystem as a whole.

Innovation ahead

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The afternoon’s schedule was interrupted by the absence of BlockStream’s Austin Hill, whose session never materialized. Levin was not able to comment on the reason for the rescheduling, however, Hill did address the subject with a presumably tongue-in-cheek tweet.

Ultimately, the session was replaced, however, by a diverse panel discussing bitcoin 2.0 innovation, or the development of alternative ways to apply bitcoin’s decentralized technology. The talk featured Bitcoin Foundation general counsel Patrick Murck; Marco Santori; Ripple Labs CTO Stefan Thomas; Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin; and Perkins Coie senior counsel Jacob Farber, among others.

The gathered speakers discussed broadly how bitcoin 2.0 projects are innovating and adding to the bitcoin space, while touching on problem areas such as how consumers could differentiate between the complex offerings and when and if their related products could impact that average bitcoin user.

Speaking to the consensus of the group, Farber said:

“There’s the notion that the [bitcoin] 2.0 ventures being a set of tools that aren’t mutually exclusive. I think there’s going to be more interlinking over time.”

In the talk, Thomas also built on points mentioned in his earlier speaking slot, which addressed how Ripple is seeking to use smart contracts with its latest launch Codius.

Similarly, Buterin echoed comments from his earlier speech, in which he gave an overview of cryptographic systems, how centralized payment methods like PayPal can be improved, and Ethereum and its ongoing development.

BitPay moves mainstream

The extended breakdown of bitcoin 2.0 was contrasted by an earlier talk given by BitPay executive chairman Tony Gallippi, who aimed to broadly connect the company’s recent moves to illustrate how they form a cohesive vision for taking the initial application of bitcoin technology mainstream.

Gallippi discussed BitAuth, the company’s decentralized digital authentication platform, its new, open-source multisig wallet Copay and its new payroll API.

Notably, Gallippi suggested it may be this last offering that may be the most impactful of all, stating:

“It’s a benefit that employers can offer [bitcoin] to their employees. It’s something that people are asking for, more than half of IT professionals are interested in this.”

He added that payroll should perhaps be a larger focus for the community, as most people throughout the world receive their local fiat currency through this method.

Gallippi ended the talk by welcoming ESPN’s Brett Dulaney to speak about the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, which he said BitPay is seeking to leverage so that it provides maximum exposure for the entire bitcoin community.

For more on the conference and its announcements, read CoinDesk’s full analysis of day one of the event.

Images via CoinDesk