Reflections on MoneyConf 2015

The organisers of the WebSummit got in touch a few weeks ago and asked me to head across to Belfast for a couple of days to chair a couple of panels at their new event MoneyConf last week. It was a great gathering of some of the big names in FinTech and it was striking just how predominant Bitcoin and/or blockchain businesses were in the conference programming.

MoneyConf 2015
My MoneyConf Panel on 16th June 2015 with Stephen Pair (BitPay), Naveed Sherwani (PeerNova), Matthieu Riou (BlockCypher)

Whilst I’ve spoken increasingly frequently in public on Bitcoin over the past couple of years or so and compered/organised the Scottish Bitcoin Conference, this was actually the first time I’ve chaired panel sessions. I wasn’t too sure of what to expect (how opinionated should you be as the chair, what to do if someone talks too much or – worse – too little etc). However, I’m happy to say that it was a blast. Both panels seemed to go down well and I’m eager to do it all over again just as soon as possible.

My MoneyConf Panel on 15th June 2015 with Damian Kimmelman (Duedil), Anil Stocker (MarketInvoice) & Hiroki Takeuchi (GoCardless)
My MoneyConf Panel on 15th June 2015 with Damian Kimmelman (Duedil), Anil Stocker (MarketInvoice) & Hiroki Takeuchi (GoCardless)

Panel MoneyConfAccording to research carried out by Goldman Sachs, 33% of millennials don’t think that they’ll need a bank in the next 5 years.

Nic Cary, blockchain.info, MoneyConf, Belfast, June 2015
Nic Cary, blockchain.info, MoneyConf, Belfast, June 2015

And, as Nic Cary pointed out, any financial institution that does not have a blockchain strategy discussion of sorts taking place in its boardroom at present is not a business that’s likely to be around in a few years’ time.

It was fascinating to hear Halsey Minor of BitReserve in conversation with Max Keiser (here’s another conversation if they’ve had since). For those of you who aren’t aware, Halsey is – there’s no other words for it – a serious player. When someone who helped to create not one but two billion dollar businesses (CNET and Salesforce)  says that the announcements that he has planned for the next few months about the evolution of BitReserve are by far the most disruptive of his entire career – take note.

One final note: Adam Ludwin of Chain and Vinny Lingham of Gyft announced a ridiculously cool collaboration in the form of blockchain-powered gift cards. I’ve just found the video here of the presentation here as well if you’re interested. So all in all, a great couple of days in Belfast. If I had to find fault with anything, it was the lack of Bitcoin ATM’s…. but you can’t have everything 😉 I for one will be heading back next year to see how the event grows that’s for sure  

Panel1 Day 2

Size Does Matter: Microsoft Gets Some Coins

So there’s only really one story today for me – and no surprises for guessing what that might be…

I woke up to read that Microsoft were now accepting Bitcoin. That’s huge. And a bit out of the blue to say the least.

I couldn’t help but think back to May 2014 when a similar early morning glance at the headlines on my mobile told me that 50 miles away, CeX in Glasgow had suddenly not only unveiled a brand new Lamassu Bitcoin ATM in the store but had chosen not just to promote but to enforce a Bitcoin-only payment option for all customers for a three day period. OK, a *slightly* different scale but still.

Kudos to BitPay for delivering this. Coinbase were clearly pulling ahead in terms of integrations with billion-dollar business so it’s good to see the Atlanta team strike big. The result benefits everyone in the Bitcoin ecosystem – proving that when you’re in such a fast-growing marketplace, competition really is irrelevant. There’s plenty of pie to go around for everyone.

Now as you’ll see when you dig into the details, this isn’t a full integration – yet. They’re letting people use Bitcoin to add funds to Microsoft accounts that can then be spent on various Microsoft services  (such as software, Xbox games, apps for Windows phones). But the importance of this announcement cannot be understated for a number of reasons.

There’s a natural value in using Bitcoin to fund Skype credit and to potentially address the in-game microtransaction payment opportunity that exists via the Xbox. But fundamentally – and most importantly – this is acceptance by a company that the vast majority of people are aware of. Yes, Overstock and Dish are big business (in the US), Dell is well-known (but not to my mum) and Expedia has a strong brand (if you book your own online travel). But I’d hazard a guess that everyone who actively uses a computer today (in the West at least) has – at the very least – heard of Microsoft.

Of course, Microsoft were hardly attracting positive commentary about the pace of their innovation or general strategy under Steve Ballmer’s stewardship. From here, it’s hard to tell whether this move is simply a case of Ballmer’s replacement Satya Nadella being a Bitcoin fan (as has been claimed) or simply a change of direction approach within the business to become more receptive to innovation following a change in leadership.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Because of this:-

It’s been a big 2014. Roll on 2015.