Bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money?

Menu IconA vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines. We know some of you laughed. If you did, you may want to read on. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Satoshi’s creation has the potential to change how much of commerce itself works, and for reasons bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money? even many Bitcoin fans realize.

In the real world, this problem gets avoided with cash, which is quite difficult to counterfeit. In practice, digital counterfeiting is much easier. Satoshi’s solution was what has become known as the blockchain: a ledger of all transactions owned and monitored by everyone but ultimately controlled by none. It’s like a giant interactive spreadsheet everyone has access to and updates to confirm each digital credit is unique.

It is this technology that programmers are now working to deploy for uses that go far beyond Bitcoin. Satoshi does not appear to have been looking to solve this problem when he created Bitcoin. As a computer scientist, and in computer science in general, when you talked about building distributed systems, there tended to be a purely theoretical view about how computers would talk to each other, how to keep them coordinated. I don’t think the computer science community has really caught up yet. I don’t think the computer science community has really caught up yet,” Garzik said. The breakthrough means that, theoretically, any act of commerce on the Web can be decentralized and stripped of a controlling authority.

Bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money?

Perhaps the most straightforward example of a post-Bitcoin service using Satoshi’s blockchain is Proof of Existence. Created by Manuel Araoz, a 25-year-old developer in Argentina, the site allows you to upload a file to certify that you had custody of it at a given time. Neither its contents nor your own personal information are ever revealed — rather, all the data in the document gets digested into an encrypted number. A slightly more politicized application of the blockchain is a project called Namecoin.

Currently, the international nonprofit ICANN governs nearly all top-level Web address domains such as “. But three years ago, engineers developed Namecoin, which serves as a new domain-name system for registering Web addresses that end in “. In this case, instead of ICANN controlling the domain name system, you and all the other people in the Namecoin system control the domain names. Again, blockchain technology makes it so that something that previously required a centralized authority can now be managed via community. At this point, payment processors like Western Union probably have the most to fear from blockchain competition, according to Gil Luria, a managing director at Wedbush Securities covering financial technology.

You may have heard this before, but Luria explained why the blockchain is the true threat: Most processors use hub-and-spoke models, he said, which are able to charge fees for crossing jurisdictions, and for smaller transaction amounts. It’s a much more competitive business model,” Luria told us by phone. A startup called Ripple represents the most active threat to the mega-processors. We profiled Ripple, and the group that created it, last month.

This allows transactions to be processed instantly and without a third party. The blockchain is even stalking credit-card companies. In an interview in Goldman Sachs’ note on Bitcoin last March, Fred Ehrsam, the CEO of mega-Bitcoin payment processor Coinbase, observed that a Bitcoin-like payment network would solve the problem of having your credit-card info stored with a big-box retailer like Target. Of course, it’s possible the existing financial behemoths could adopt their own blockchain technologies.

He calls such futuristic entities distributed autonomous corporations. We give power to shareholders without centralizing in any way, because we’ve eliminated the barriers to entry for starting a company,” Larimer told us at the recent Inside Bitcoins conference. There are, of course, loads of technological and regulatory hurdles that must still be overcome for all of this to materialize. And there are plenty of things that could be reset on a blockchain. Fred Wilson are betting big in this space.

Bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money?

Our 2014 fund will be built during the blockchain cycle. Our 2004 fund was built during social. Our 2008 fund was built during social and the emergence of mobile. Our 2012 fund was built during the mobile downturn. And our 2014 fund will be built during the blockchain cycle. I am looking forward to it. I think we see every week now somewhere between one and three entrepreneurs come in with blockchain ideas,” Andreessen Horowitz’s Chris Dixon told Business Insider.

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There’s definitely some momentum behind it. We’ll leave you with an extremely futuristic example of how the blockchain could be deployed. In a talk given last fall at the Turing festival, Mike Hearn, a former Google employee who quit his job to work full-time on Bitcoin, laid out this scenario: A 20-something Scottish girl named Jen wants to meet up with her friends downtown. Jen’s node then ranks the bids and presents them to Jen based on criteria including price but also things like whether she’s used that cab before and what other people have said about it. All of this is done on a distributed blockchain system, so no centralized taxi company needs to manage the orders.

Bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money?

The blockchain, by the way, will have improved that recommendation process, Hearn says. Currently, many recommendation systems at places like Yelp or Seamless say they use your social network to help you choose services. In practice, they end up producing what amounts to spam reviews, since it’s unlikely a friend you trust will have reviewed the same service you’re looking into. They can submit bids to the car about how much they’re going to charge to use them. If she’s in a hurry, Jen can choose a road that’s a bit more expensive but which will allow her to get into the city faster. This is possible because of Bitcoin,” Hearn says.

Bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money?

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Bitcoin has no intermediaries, therefore there’s really nothing to stop a computer from just connecting to the Internet and taking part all by itself. All you need to do to instantiate a Bitcoin wallet is generate a large random number. Any transactions that are fast, lightweight, and commoditized — which the current system Hearn says is bad at — could be done so much better on the Blockchain. With a handful of exceptions, like Proof of Existence, it’s too early to see fully functional applications of blockchain technology. Ripple, for instance, is still courting financial institutions that would benefit from using its payment rail.

The blockchain helps end the debate about what Bitcoin is. There’s been discussion about whether Bitcoin is a currency, a commodity, or a technological protocol. There are good arguments for each categorization, but each is unsatisfying in some way. Now we know why this debate is so unsatisfying. Bitcoin represents a novel form of organization — a blockchain-based entity — that’s not quite like anything seen before it. Get the latest Bitcoin price here.

Will Glaxo spin off consumer arm to focus on its pharmaceuticals and vaccines? Watchdogs say you may lose everything so who do YOU believe? Close your eyes,’ says a glamorous woman wearing a sparkly jacket and a smart black dress. In front of her, 30 people look around awkwardly as she affects a soothing tone. British Virgin Islands and had a private appointment with Richard Branson because you have similar investments. You flew there in your own private jet and you’re hiring a boat to Miami. Pictures of a cruise ship, a white town house and sports car pop up on a screen behind her.

Lilia Severina, pictured, praises the benefits of Bitcoin in a posh conference room in a Central London hotel. These are just some of the basic toys that would be very accessible as a result of a not very high investment’, she says, flicking her hand towards the images. It’s the sort of luxury we’ve all secretly dreamt about — and apparently attaining it is oh-so-simple: just invest in Bitcoin. The lure of making big bucks with barely any effort explains why so many people have poured into this posh conference room in a Central London hotel on a cold Wednesday evening. The advert claims investors could double their money every three months. It sounds too good to be true, but the event host, Lilia Severina, says it isn’t.

Some people in this room will be multi-millionaires in a very short period of time,’ she says. According to Lilia, pictured, Bitcoin is the next big opportunity that could make the people sitting in this room multi-millionaires. It’s been impossible to escape news of the dramatic rise of Bitcoin over the past year. The virtual currency is being talked about in pubs, hairdressers, at football matches — you don’t have to go far to find someone who fancies a punt.

And they’re being spurred on by talk of lucky investors who have made a fortune from this so-called cryptocurrency — everywhere from Silicon Valley to rural Oxfordshire. The City watchdog says Bitcoin is so risky that ordinary savers should be prepared to lose everything if they decide to invest. Some high-profile banking chiefs, meanwhile, have claimed it’s a Ponzi scheme. So Money Mail has gone undercover to find out what the people who run Bitcoin seminars are telling savers about the risky investing craze that has got everybody talking.

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Could this simple trader’s tool help you dodge a crash? Are the wheels coming off the cryptocurrency bandwagon? But our investigation reveals grounds for serious concerns about investors being given the impression Bitcoin is a sure-fire lucrative investment with few downsides. When I arrive at the Grafton Hotel, I’m met by Lilia’s assistant, who ticks off my name and shows me to the small conference room. I take a seat in the front row next to three women in their late 40s who are clearly friends and deep in conversation about their busy jobs and children.

Behind me is a young mother in a bright pink jumper who runs out the room to take a video call from her husband and screaming toddler. On the other side of the room is a man in his 50s with a notepad on his lap, two young couples and a group of men in their 20s who look like they might work in finance or IT. There is a projector screen in front of us playing a 90-second video on a loop. It starts with dramatic music, then cuts to a young man giving a glowing review of this seminar.

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Just when I think I’m going to scream if I hear it again, Lilia puts on a different video showing American news presenters interviewing the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson about Bitcoin. Finally, the videos end and Lilia approaches the podium to introduce herself. She says she’s been in the financial technology industry for more than 20 years and advises companies about launching their own virtual currencies — known as an initial coin offering, or ICO. She also lectures at universities, presents at conferences globally and is a mentor for The Prince’s Trust, she says. Lilia is also chief executive of the firm holding this seminar — UGlobal Growth. We promise you that working with us will open a large number of opportunities in front of your eyes. We will guide you on how to capture them and how to scale your success.

All you have to do is take action. According to Lilia, Bitcoin is the next big opportunity that could make the people sitting in this room multi-millionaires. Bitcoin, she says, listing politicians such as Al Gore Jr, who served as vice-president to Bill Clinton. It’s an impressive pitch — at least on the surface. Bitcoin is an entirely digital currency. The idea, Lilia says, is to have one currency that is available to everyone in the world, regardless of their background or where they live.

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Billions of people across the globe don’t have a bank account or access to credit, but virtual currency could change this, she explains. In five years from now, the whole banking system will be transformed,’ she says. You have no choice but to be in it. Everybody is in it now, but the ones who got in it early are multi-millionaires and they are not in this room. Why experts have warned on bitcoin Bitcoin is one of many cryptocurrencies, which exist only in cyberspace. You can exchange it via computers to pay for things, or trade it for hard cash. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is not controlled by major banks or central governments.

This means you don’t need to pass a credit or identity check to use it, Lilia says. She claims this could help people buy a house in the future as they would not need to pass a credit check to borrow money. But experts fear this makes Bitcoin the ideal currency for criminals. And British mortgage lenders and brokers are so concerned about Bitcoin being used for money laundering that many refuse to accept it as a deposit for a house, as they can’t trace it to find out where the cash came from. Storing Bitcoin is a minefield, too — you can’t simply deposit it into a regular bank account.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, someone could easily hack into your computer and steal it. And it is difficult to spend Bitcoin, as so few places — and certainly no major High Street store in Britain — accept it. So if the currency collapses, you could end up stuck with a bunch of worthless virtual coins you can’t use to buy anything and that nobody else wants. If you want to invest in Bitcoin, be prepared to lose all your money.

Lilia doesn’t seem put off by any of these potential pitfalls, though. In fact, she barely mentions them during the evening. But, she says, she knows how to manage these risks and the audience will be able to as well. Some of you will make millions.

Some of you will make nothing. Those who act will make it good. It’s quite a claim in light of the recent price swings of Bitcoin, but Lilia has an answer to that, too: she says the falls make it a great time to invest, before the price starts going back up again. To reach these giddy heights, it would have to rise by 483 pc or 1,066 pc in ten months. To put that in context, the largest ever ten-month rise in the FTSE 100 index of UK shares was 57 pc, between March 2009 and January 2010. Lloyds and Virgin Money have banned customers from using their credit cards to purchase cryptocurrency amid fears that people are racking up debts they may never be able to repay. Meanwhile, Facebook has announced a ban on companies advertising cryptocurrencies on its website.

The rival cryptocurrencies and lure of mining Bitcoin is not the only option, Lilia continues. There are new coins being launched every day, such as Ethereum, Ripple and Dash. On the screen it says that by investing in these lesser-known cryptos you could earn returns of up to 3,000 pc. But many of these have also crashed recently. And it is nearly impossible for ordinary savers to know which coins will do well. 99 pc of these hot new cryptos will crash and burn’. 2,685 in ten days — a 300 pc return.

Bitcoin 2013 conference: the future of money?

This is how new coins are created. Instead of digging with a shovel, you allow other people to use your computer power to process Bitcoin transactions and are compensated for providing that service. The beauty of mining, she says, is that returns are currently around 144 pc and once you’ve signed up you don’t have to do much more for the money to roll in. Back in the room, eyes are starting to glaze over. It’s almost 8pm and Lilia has been talking for more than an hour. But her pitch is about to tug on our heartstrings. 5 in her pocket, and now earns a fortune.

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How much money we can make is only limited by what we believe we deserve,’ she says. So please don’t do that,’ she says. Once you get the confidence you could consider doing that, but initially just put in the money you can afford to risk and learn on. We’re here to make it a success for you, but it is a learning experience and there is risk involved. The only time Lilia’s friendly smile slips is when someone in the audience tries to ask a question. If you are a true believer in cryptocurrency and you think it is unstoppable, why would you ever convert your money back into pounds?

Because I like to have a good lifestyle and I want to buy a new car and a house for my daughter and maybe a plane,’ she counters. So far, Lilia hasn’t shared any real advice — only raved about the huge returns you can make if you get it right. To get practical help and access investment opportunities, people have to sign up to her paid course later this month. This is apparently so popular there are only five spaces left — and so exclusive that Lilia won’t even tell the audience the price.

It’s expensive, but you can afford it,’ she says. Those who are serious about applying are told to fill in a form and explain why she should choose them. The team will then email them to arrange an interview. As I go to leave, I pass a handful of people scribbling down their details.

Some look sceptical, but others seem excited. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, about what it could do for them if they decided to test the water and educate themselves about this emerging market. She says the seminar represented her view of the market and she did not see an issue in presenting these views to anyone. My role in training is to turn the individual into a better investor. In the process I am uncovering multiple opportunities in this emerging market and am encountering new people to partner with,’ she says. The danger is people think Bitcoin is a one-way bet. Unfortunately, get-rich-quick schemes can make you poor just as fast, and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Bitcoin has shown itself to be very volatile, and should be considered only by sophisticated investors who understand cryptocurrencies and are using money they can afford to lose. Remember bitcoin yields nothing and its main source of value is scarcity. Most bitcoin activity is trading not investing. Once you then start moving down the cryptocurrency ladder things become even more speculative. Research coin wallets, the digital vaults where cryptocurrency is held, and consider security carefully. Bitcoins have been stolen before, understand how this happened. The price can move by 20 per cent in one day and you could easily lose half of your cash in a far quicker time that investing in the stock market.

Consider how you would cash in any gains. There are reports that this has proved hard for some people. A time of market stress could lead to people being locked in and unable to trade. Read our guide to How to be a successful investor, which looks at the far less high octane world of long-term investing and how to make it a success. The digital currency that most will be familiar with is free from government interference and can be shared instantly online.