VC panel discusses investment opportunities in bitcoin #BTCLondon

Emily Spaven
Jul 2, 2013 at 17:25 UTC
Updated Jul 7, 2013 at 12:59 UTC

A panel of investors displayed a certain level of scepticism today when they discussed the arguments for and against investing in Bitcoin companies.

Bloomberg senior reporter Stephanie Baker moderated a panel discussion between Nick Shalek of Ribbit Capital, Stefan Glaenzer of Passion Capital and Michael Jackson of Mangrove Capital this afternoon at the Bitcoin London conference.

When asked why he had not yet invested in any bitcoin companies, Glaenzer confessed he’s become a tad lazy over the past two years, since his transition from being an entrepreneur to a VC.

“As an entrepreneur, you push, but as a VC you sit and wait for people to come to you, and no one has,” he said.

Jackson agreed, stating that no bitcoin companies have darkened his inbox, either, questioning whether this is simply because the industry is so new. He went on to say one of the biggest problems investors face with bitcoin is proving to funds that an investment in a digital currency company is worthwhile.

“Funds entrust us with their money because we’re going to invest in something innovative, but I have to present a credible case. We need to be sure the money used is being invested in something secure and legal.”

Funds may be sceptical, but Glaenzer admitted there is certainly space for an industry that facilitates easier online payments.

“The only thing that has become more complicated on the internet is payments. We should focus on delivering great solutions to that problem,” he said.

Shalek, who has invested in bitcoin itself as well as two bitcoin companies, agreed. He suggested that bitcoin is the answer, but conceded that work needs to be done to simplify it and promote it to the man on the street.

“Right now, bitcoin is like the internet was in the early days – it’s mainly techies and geeks who are interested, but it’s not accessible to the masses.”

The topic of the discussion then turned to regulation, with Shalek suggesting that when new technology comes along, it takes time for regulation to catch up, but catch up it most likely will.

Glaenzer questioned the need for regulation, stating that when money first came into existence, there was no regulation, yet it still survived for centuries. He also highlighted the fact that the grey area created by the lack of specific regulation in some ways makes companies in the bitcoin sphere more attractive to investors.

“If everything on the regulations side is cleared up, there’s no grey area, but if there’s no grey area, there’s no room for great successes,” he explained.

Both Glaenzer and Jackson claimed that as the bitcoin industry is currently only worth around $1.6 billion, it’s not really on the radar of many investors.

“From a venture point of view, bitcoin is not significant enough, so that’s why interest in it is low,” said Glaenzer.

This said, neither Glaenzer nor Jackson stated categorically that they would not invest in bitcoin companies in the future. In fact, both expressed interest in investing in the actual currency, which Shalek advised is the “best starting place” for investors wanting to test the digital currency waters.