Bitcoin advocates make their case in Chicago for the digital currency
By Cheryl V. Jackson, Special to Blue Sky
July 21, 2014, 4 p.m.
Digital currency presents a big opportunity for young people looking to be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, says bitcoin advocate Andreas Antonopoulos.
“If you’re a young person and you’re looking for a job, having and development skills in things like digital currencies can be as empowering as it was to learn how to build an iOS application seven years ago, or learning how to build a Web page 15 years ago,” he said.
Antonopoulos, chief security officer at bitcoin website Blockchain.info, made his comments during the Bitcoin for Beginners workshop last weekend at the North American Bitcoin Conference at McCormick Place. He was among hundreds of bitcoin entrepreneurs, investors and enthusiasts who gathered to focus on on the five-year-old digital currency.
The conference took place as bitcoin continued to edge its way into the mainstream conversation. On Friday, Dell announced that customers would be able to make purchases on its website using bitcoin. The day before, New York became the first state to propose regulations for virtual currency companies operating in the state.
Also at the conference:
advocates unveiled the nonprofit Chamber of Digital Commerce as, among other things, a go-to source on information about digital assets and currencies;
the nonprofit College Cryptocurrency Network signed up members to promote alternative currencies on campuses;
Sean’s Outpost founder Jason King said the organization has provided 100,000 meals to the homeless with bitcoin donations since it started in March 2013;
and Blockchain unveiled an updated bitcoin wallet and emphasized its security and usability.
“It’s not about using bitcoin as an investment and buying lots of it,” Antonopoulos said. “It’s not about using bitcoin for shopping. It’s about understanding that bitcoin is a technology, and getting skills in this technology can set you up for the next five to 10 years to have employment.”
Security of the currency remains an issue, and Antonopoulos recommends keeping close tabs on it.
“Every problem in bitcoin, you can look at it as a challenge or you can look at it as an opportunity,” he said. “Make an easier way to use bitcoin and you could be the next Apple. Make an easier way to find companies that use bitcoin and you could be the next Google.”
Bitcoin enthusiasts point out that exposure and interest are growing.
“There are probably two (bitcoin conventions) a month now. It’ll make your head spin,” said Adam Ludwin of Chain, a six-month-old bitcoin app-infrastructure company. “It’s really fascinating to see the transition from enthusiasts and hackers and tinkers to early adopters and entrepreneurs to now everyday folks in the Midwest showing up at a conference like this and saying ‘I want to learn about bitcoin.’”