Two-day Bitcoin Conference in Raleigh to explore emerging digital currency
“With Wall Street investors, hedge funds, and merchants looking at [bitcoins], it’s gone beyond the tech guys in the basement. Even the Post Office is considering it. North Carolina has a tremendous opportunity to lead the way in an innovative sector.”
– Raleigh entrepreneur Dan Spuller
RALEIGH, N.C. – The founders of the Cryptolina Bitcoin Expo set for the Raleigh Convention Center on Friday and Saturday believe it’s the right moment to experts on every aspect of the digital currency.
“There is a window of opportunity here,” says Dan Spuller. “A year ago would have been too early, a year from now, too late. We thought the moment was now.”
Spuller, who partnered with Faruk Okcetin to put on the event, points out that “This is the first bitcoin event in the South other than Miami. It’s the first real event a former Mint director ever spoke at, and I believe it’s the second formal conference for Adam Draper.”
Edmund C. Moy, 38th director of the U.S. Mint from 2006-2011, is among the highest ranking former government officials to “weigh in” favorably on bitcoin.
Draper, son of well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper is founder/CEO of Boost VC, a California-based startup accelerator that focuses on bitcoin related companies such as BitBox, Bitpagos, Bitwall and Coincove.
The potential to boost regional startups and entrepreneurs interested in bitcoin related services is one of the prime motivations of both Cryptolina founders.
“The event is just a first step. We want to see startups similar to those in California and elsewhere in the Triangle and the North Carolina, South Carolina region,”
“We want to build on the event to bring investors and startups here. My motivation is what sorts of doors bitcoin can open for entrepreneurs.”
After the event, he adds, “We want to stay in contact with all the participants and demonstrate the event wasn’t just a show. We may do more events on a smaller scale.
We want to ensure a flow of resources into the community and startups.”
Okcetin is himself an entrepreneur who sells products and services to orthopedic doctors via his company, Aspire Medical. He was previously involved in banking, and owned a restaurant business.
Both Spuller, who works for the state, and Okcetin see great potential for bitcoin as a payment protocol. Merchants who use bitcoin (more than 100,000 accept bitcoin) can save significant amounts of money because bitcoin transactions don’t require them to pay 2 percent to 4 percent to credit card companies.
Dell, Reeds, Overstock accept bitcoins
Dell and Reed’s Jewelers, one of the largest jewelry retailers nationally, both recently announced they’ll be accepting bitcoin. Mitch Cahn, director of marketing and business development for Reeds Jewelers is participating in the event.
“Dell, Overstock, Dish Network, Reeds, these are not mysterious low profile companies,” says Spuller. “I think it’s only a matter of time before competitors step up and that could lead to a snowball effect, raising consumer awareness.”
Workshop for merchants
Okcetin notes that “The goal here isn’t just to have an event. We’re hosting a free merchant workshop from 2 to 4 Friday. The entire event is not free, but any merchant can come to the workshop and learn how to incorporate bitcoin into their business.”
Bitpay, (https:www.bitpay.com) a major bitcoin payment processor with several people speaking at the event, is sponsoring the session. Bitpay guarantees merchants the full value of purchases made with bitcoin regardless of the virtual currencies current value (at this writing, it is $540.84 for one bitcoin).
The expo touches on every aspect of the bitcoin universe, from a bitcoin 101 session early Friday, to the premiere of a short documentary, “Bitcoin: Buenos Aires” during the closing dinner. In between there are sessions on bitcoin security and the regulatory environment, a startup showcase, and a fireside chat with Adam Draper.
Security is concern since several high profile thefts of bitcoins by hackers and a warning from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that virtual currencies such as bitcoin and others are federally insured like money in banks, have volatile exchange rates, and have been targeted by hackers and scammers.
Risky or safe?
“Consumers are stepping into the Wild West,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. Still, he admitted that virtual currencies may have potential benefits, particularly as a payment protocol.
Spuller responds that “While all currencies are subject to theft, Bitcoin is more secure than the dollar. Every bitcoin transaction is publicly listed (on Blockchain: https://blockchain.info/). Online, in fact, paying with bitcoin, which doesn’t reveal any hackable financial information, is safer than using credit cards and other payment types.
Regulatory issues, such as a recent New York ruling that Okcetin says he thinks overstepped a bit, will also get a hearing at the expo.
“With Wall Street investors, hedge funds, and merchants looking at this, it’s gone beyond the tech guys in the basement,” says Spuller. “Even the Post Office is considering it. North Carolina has a tremendous opportunity to lead the way in an innovative sector.”