We haven’t heard much from the local bitcoin community in the eight months since our region held the Carolinas largest cryptocurrency conference, the Cryptolina Bitcoin Expo.
But that doesn’t mean momentum hasn’t built since 350 people came to town from around the nation to discuss and debate issues surrounding the protocol and currency, and to show off their cryptocurrency-related projects and companies.
Today, Cryptolina founders Dan Spuller and Faruk Oktecin announce plans to host their 2015 event August 14-15 in Charlotte, the second largest financial center in the United States. And to continue the conversation locally, they’ll begin a series of workshops and events in the Triangle. The first of those is coming in May to The Frontier at Research Triangle Park and features Duke Professor and cryptocurrency expert Campbell Harvey and Todd Erickson, an Orange County banker on the board of the Bitcoin Foundation. Here’s a link to our coverage of the 2014 Cryptolina event.
There’s been other activity too. Locally, a handful of Cryptolina speakers have joined bitcoin or cryptocurrency companies, many continuing to live in our region and working remotely. One of those is Jameson Lopp, organizer of the Triangle Bitcoin Meetup. He left a job with Bronto Software earlier this year to join BitGo, a venture-backed Palo Alto startup that provides a secure Bitcoin wallet to corporations. He’s working as a software engineer focused on the infrastructure of the bitcoin blockchain and tracking wallet balances.
Local presenters Shannon Code and Christopher Franko (who also has his own cryptocurrency called Franko) joined Ribbit.me, a New York-based rewards program built on blockchain technology that launched at Cryptolina. CoinOutlet of Burlington, NC, Cryptolina’s Bitcoin ATM sponsor, became the first Bitcoin ATM in Overstock.com’s corporate headquarters. And BitQuick.co, a Cincinnati company and Cryptolina sponsor, received an investment from venture capitalist Adam Draper after meeting him at the event.
Oh, and N.C. State University’s football team won the first-ever Bitcoin Bowl.
Meanwhile, bitcoin adoption has continued nationally even as the currency’s exchange rate has dropped and some scandal has continued (The man behind Silk Road was found guilty on all counts, and a Silk Road Two was created and since shut down). Big names like Microsoft, Dell and United Way, along with Republican presidential nominee Rand Paul, have begun accepting Bitcoin as payment. And regulation has become top of mind in at least a handful of states.
New York is weighing the much talked about BitLicense proposal, which many say threatens the future of the state’s bitcoin companies, and New Jersey just released a memorandum requiring merchants that accept bitcoin to collect sales tax. California, Utah and New Hampshire are mulling legislation, and talks are underway in North Carolina. Spuller wrote an op/ed for ExitEvent last week asking legislators here to thoughtfully consider regulation.
Venture capital has also flooded into the industry. Coinbase, founded by two Duke University graduates, collected $75 million in investment in January.
“Bitcoin has been a tale of two cities—the prices have gone down but investment has gone way up,” Spuller says, “So I argue, and a lot of experts do too, that stability is most important with Bitcoin. That encourages companies to adopt it, which increases awareness.”
Education is also important, and that’s why Spuller and Oktecin are back for round two. Late last year, they reached out to the Bitcoin Charlotte group, one much larger than that in the Triangle, to host the event. And the men have already partnered with the Washington-based Chamber of Digital Commerce to provide an anti-money laundering program to help attendees and merchants meet regulations and prepare for compliance reviews. They’ve also made the ask to former U.S. Mint Director Edmund C. Moy to again keynote the event—he was in town last week for a private event at RTP and will confirm soon.
Speakers and topics will continue to be announced over the months leading up to the event, Spuller says. Here’s the list so far.
Lopp meanwhile, hopes to breath some new life into the Triangle Bitcoin Meetup, which typically draws hobbyists to coffee shops on Saturday afternoons. With lessons from his frequent visits and interactions with the Silicon Valley bitcoin community, he hopes to turn the group into a professional organization. It’ll meet during weeknight evenings and work to educate aspiring entrepreneurs about the business opportunities surrounding cryptocurrency.
One wish is to get big companies involved. For example, he’s heard IBM is doing some work involving the bitcoin blockchain.
“If we can start to foster relationships with companies that are actually doing research or creating products and services using this technology, and get sponsorship or have meetups at their offices, it becomes a more professional thing,” Lopp says. “It’s not until people have skin in the game and they’re betting businesses and careers on it that it goes mainstream. That’s the stark contrast on the East Coast vs. West Coast.”