Report for Day Zero of Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments

The Bitcoin 2013: The Future of Payments conference is being held from Friday, 17th May until Sunday, 19th May at the San Jose Convention Center. The unofficial start to the conference was the GigaOM and Ribbit Capital Bitcoin Meetup on Thursday evening at The Tech Museum of Innovation. Paul Walborsky, CEO of GigaOM, introduced the meetup and Jeff Roberts led the discussion in a packed auditorium.

First up was David Barrett, CEO of Expensify. Expensify is an expense reporting solution. David talked about Expensify's support for Bitcoin reimbursement. The feature allows companies to manage reimbursement to international contractors through Bitcoin. It is a lightweight integration. Nonetheless, its inclusion in a mainstream business application such as Expensify is very exciting. David also pointed out the lack of innovation in international payments in recent decades.

Next up was Mike Hearn from Google and Bennett Hoffman, co-founder and CTO of Buttercoin. Their discussion was centered on the infrastructure and technical aspects of Bitcoin. They dismissed any near-term impact of quantum computing on Bitcoin. They argued that the Bitcoin core is very secure but there are weaknesses in the periphery (hosted wallets, exchanges, malware and viruses, etc.). Mike also spoke about the upcoming identity features where a Bitcoin merchant or receiver can use an SSL certificate to prove their identity so that a sender can know exactly who they are sending a payment to. He also spoke of a hardware device for securely storing Bitcoins that is safe from malware or viruses. They discussed Bitcoin thefts. Mike noted that thiefs are generally hoarding stolen Bitcoins. It is difficult to say whether this is due to the difficulty in exchanging Bitcoins for other currencies without revealing the thief's identity or if they are simply speculating on the future value of Bitcoins. Bennett suggested that there may be a stratification of Bitcoins in the future due to their provenance. For example, some may be tainted if they were reportedly stolen.

Peter Vessenes, CEO of CoinLab, Wences Casares, founder of Lemon, and Meyer "Micky" Malka, Managing Partner at Ribbit Capital covered the business and disruptive potential of Bitcoin. Wences, an Argentinean, made the case that people who live in countries with unstable currencies understand and appreciate the value of Bitcoin more readily. He gave an anecdotal description of purchasing a property in Argentina through funds held in an offshore account, usually in US banks and the expense this process incurs on both the buyer and seller. Meyer explained one of the reasons why Ribbit Capital is the largest investor in Bitcoin startups: more people have mobile phones than bank accounts and they too need to conduct financial transactions safely and securely in countries with unstable currencies. There was also a short discussion with three representatives of the Bitcoin Foundation: Peter Vessenes, Executive Director, Roger Ver, CEO and Founder of and Patrick Murck, General Counsel.

Finally, Jeff called all of the speakers back on stage where they answered questions from the audience.