Fortune convened some top cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, bankers, and others to chat about the future of digital money at Fortunes Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. last week. A select group met at the Aspen Institute for a breakfast roundtable discussion on Wednesday morning.
Headliners on the panel included Balaji Srinivasan, CEO and cofounder of 21.co, a cryptocurrency startup that has raised more in traditional VC funding than almost other one. Another was Peter Smith, CEO and cofounder of Blockchain, a U.K.-based cryptocurrency wallet company that recently raised $40 million from GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet, parent company of Google (goog). And Kathleen Breitman, CEO and cofounder of Tezos, a blockchain startup that this year raised more than $200 million in an initial coin offering, or ICO, and which counts celeb investor Tim Draper among its backers.
The crew of experts weighed in on everything from the longevity of Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency and blockchain, or cryptographically secured public ledger, to the latest trend of hosting so-called token sales to fund projects, especially on Ethereum, a rival blockchain to Bitcoins, to the future of a decentralized web. Here are some of the predictions we heard.
Get Data Sheet, Fortunes technology newsletter.
Most people who are enthusiastic about cryptocurrency appear to agree that Bitcoin and its newer rival Ethereum have staying power, though they may be more bullish on one versus the other. “In terms of 5 to 10 years, Bitcoin and Ether will be around I bet,” Balaji Srinivasan told the room of more than 70 people.
Peter Smith said his company, Blockchain, which was early to Bitcoin, has only just started to warm up to newcomer Ethereum. In contrast, Mike Cagney, CEO and cofounder of SoFi, a personal finance company, said during a separate session on the main stage that he was hotter on the latter technology.
Bitcoin “has some purpose but its application for commercial transaction is limited right now,” Cagney said. “The blockchain and Ethereum, on the other hand, have absolutely fascinating infrastructure applications, he continued, mentioning the possibility to overhaul title insurance, which involves policies related to real estate, as one example.
Bitcoin and Ethereum may have stolen the show at this point, but the innovation wont end there. Expect more winners on the horizon.
Kathleen Breitman is hopeful that Tezos, her own blockchain bet, will fill a niche that solves problems with extant blockchains. In particular, she and her projects developers are designing Tezos to automatically push software updates out to the network, thus, in theory, avoiding the divisive feuding over upgrades that has wracked systems like Bitcoin over the past few years.
No one can say how many tokens and coins and blockchain protocols will eventually win out, but the experts seem to think theres room for a multitude. “Its likely that another one or two dominant ones we havent seen yet in the market,” Smith projected. “Another really dominant coin could come out this year or next year.
For the time being, token sales might seem like a fantastic way to raise a lot of money quickly and with few questions asked. Will this lead to riches for some? Undoubtedlyindeed, it already has. And rip-offs for others? Almost certainly.
Smith said he presumes that market manipulation and insider dealing is rampant among purveyors of initial coin offerings. Were cautious about it in the short term, Smith said of his company. But you have to temper that with the idea that every new technology is going to be like that in the beginning.
Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple and a former executive at Yahoo, voiced his less forgiving concerns about the sector on a separate panel. Heavily regulated markets are typically heavily regulated for a reason, he said. Frauds are happening, people are going to jail.
The days of making a pilgrimage to the homes of the holders of purse strings are coming to an end. In a world where anyone can participate as an investor online, physical location matters much less.
It used to be you had to come to Silicon Valley, walk up Sand Hill Road, network with individuals, Srinivasan said about entrepreneurs seeking funding, often strolling up a strip to the west of Palo Alto that long has been associated with venture capital firms. ICOs change all that.
Projects are already getting funded this Kickstarter-like new way. Breitman said she that when she set up Tezos token sale, she aimed to get as many people who wanted to participate in the ecosystem to contribute. The company raised more than $200 million to date and, according to her, more than 30,000 Tezos wallets have been opened.
Elena Kvochko, chief information officer of the security division at Barclays, said that her bank has had talks with regulators about Bitcoin, blockchains, and their ilk. The rule-sticklers appear to be open to the idea as long as know your customer laws are obeyed, although its still early days.
Meanwhile, as governments settle on sets of rules of the road, countries like Switzerland, Singapore, and Estonia are jostling to develop frameworks that easily accommodate the new technology, Srinivasan said. Theyre seeking to displace geographic incumbents and become hubs for a new wave of business financing. If youre a U.S. person or business, you have a good deal to be concerned about, Smith said.
Breitman added that until the rules are agreed upon, its best to be transparent about what one is doing.
As cryptocurrency prices fluctuate wildly, speculators have been having a field day. However, theres reason to believe the markets will become more stable, as Bitcoin gradually has over the past couple of years (despite its still big price swings), Smith said.
In order for these computer coins to catch on big-time, they need a use-case that beats traditional money. Ideally, this ought to be better than merely buying drugs, as Jeff John Roberts, Fortune reporter and the sessions moderator, noted.
Srinivasan proposed one possible scenario. Imagine that all your waking hours are spent in the Matrix, he said, referring to a virtual reality in which everyone is enmeshed in the future. As people from all over the world meet and interact, they will need a medium of exchange. To transact, you cant just hand over a dollar bill, Srinivasan said. You need an international currency for that.
It might take a while but theres going to be more of a need to transact across borders than there is today, he said.
Whenever a consumer swipes or dips a credit card, payment processors charge a fee.
Nicko van Someren, chief technology officer of the Linux Foundation, pointed out that the fee companies like Visa or Mastercard charge exceeds the cost to clear or settle transactions. These businesses can potentially process transactions quicker and cheaper, he contended.
One potential outcome of the adoption of alternate systems, like Bitcoin, is to provide companies with the impetus to improve their services. Bitcoin is good because it will make banks move toward the real cost of handling these transactions, van Someren said. (By extension, in Ethereum’s case, one could imagine upstart companies built on it forcing giants like Amazon, Facebook, or Dropbox to reconsider or improve their respective offerings.)
Smith, meanwhile, was less optimistic about incumbents ability to adapt to such change. I dont think be lot of room for banks to simply adjust their price models, he said.
- Cryptocurrency - Official Site - January 21st, 2018
- South Korea's major cryptocurrency exchanges ... - reuters.com - January 13th, 2018
- Bitcoin-crazy South Korea may face a ban on cryptocurrency ... - January 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency - IC Markets - January 13th, 2018
- Kodak launches cryptocurrency, stock pops 125% - Jan. 9, 2018 - January 10th, 2018
- The cryptocurrency bubble is strangling innovation | TechCrunch - January 9th, 2018
- Coinschedule - The best cryptocurrency ICOs (Initial Coin ... - January 8th, 2018
- CCN: Bitcoin, Ethereum, ICO, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency News - January 7th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency boom: Why everyone is talking about ripple - January 4th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency stocks holding gains despite bitcoin pullback ... - December 29th, 2017
- MobileCoin: A New Cryptocurrency From Signal Creator Moxie ... - December 16th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Definition | Investopedia - December 6th, 2017
- '$300m in cryptocurrency' accidentally lost forever due to bug ... - November 10th, 2017
- Amazon might want in on cryptocurrency - mashable.com - November 8th, 2017
- What is Cryptocurrency - earnlite.com - October 26th, 2017
- Cryptojacking Lets Strangers Mine Cryptocurrency With Your ... - October 21st, 2017
- Introduction to Cryptocurrency - CryptoCurrency Facts - October 14th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Flash Crash Is Said to Draw Scrutiny From CFTC ... - October 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Alternatives to Bitcoin - due.com - October 7th, 2017
- Learn BitCoin and master the world of cryptocurrency - October 7th, 2017
- Almost Every Cryptocurrency Is Tanking Right Now | Time.com - September 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency boom stalls as regulators focus on ICOs ... - September 7th, 2017
- Why Marketers Need to Pay Attention to Cryptocurrency -- Now - Entrepreneur - September 7th, 2017
- Opinion: That Floyd Mayweather-backed cryptocurrency is another sign of a bursting bubble - MarketWatch - September 7th, 2017
- Putin-Backed Political Group Advances 'Green' Cryptocurrency Concept - CoinDesk - September 7th, 2017
- First He Beat Up His Girlfriend, Now He's Selling Cryptocurrency With Paris Hilton - Daily Beast - September 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrencies have already recovered from last weekend's crash ... - TechCrunch - September 7th, 2017
- Venezuela Cracks Down On Cryptocurrency Mining - CryptoCoinsNews - September 4th, 2017
- Mobius Foresees Cryptocurrency Crackdown Sparking a Rush to Gold - Bloomberg - September 4th, 2017
- The Aggregate Cryptocurrency Market Cap Is Up 810% Year to Date - Motley Fool - September 4th, 2017
- How to make upwards of $1,000 a month by mining cryptocurrency - Mashable - September 2nd, 2017
- Chinese Officials Contemplate Suspending Cryptocurrency ICOs - The Merkle - September 2nd, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Investment Course 2017: Fund your ... - Udemy - September 2nd, 2017
- Six Banking Giants Just Decided to Partner to Create a New Cryptocurrency - Futurism - September 2nd, 2017
- Russia Could Pass Cryptocurrency Law This Year, Senior Lawmaker Says - CoinDesk - September 2nd, 2017
- AxionV: AI Cryptocurrency Fund Leading the Way in ICO Security - HuffPost - September 2nd, 2017
- PayThink Custom tokens are the future of cryptocurrency - PaymentsSource - September 1st, 2017
- Litecoin Prices Surge Above $70 as Crypto Market Tops $175 Billion - CoinDesk - September 1st, 2017
- Dharma wants to let anyone borrow a small amount of cryptocurrency - TechCrunch - September 1st, 2017
- PR: Archain Is Building an Uncensorable Internet Archive Inside a Cryptocurrency - Bitcoin News (press release) - August 31st, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Market Just Reached Total Value of $160 Billion - Futurism - August 31st, 2017
- Another banking trojan is trying to loot your cryptocurrency wallets - The Register - August 31st, 2017
- Cointal Revolutionizes P2P Cryptocurrency Trading - CryptoCoinsNews - August 31st, 2017
- $160 Billion: Cryptocurrency Market Sets New All-Time High ... - CoinDesk - August 30th, 2017
- Central Banks Can't Ignore the Cryptocurrency Boom - Bloomberg - August 30th, 2017
- Whoppercoin is a cryptocurrency you can eat or trade - The Verge - August 30th, 2017
- Learn about cryptocurrency mining with this interactive blockchain demo - TNW - August 30th, 2017
- Good Morning, Cryptocurrency! Vietnam To Create Legal Framework For Digital Assets - ETHNews - August 26th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency mining may void warranty on Inno3D GPUs - PC Gamer - August 26th, 2017
- Russian Deputy PM Says He Supports a State-Backed Cryptocurrency - CoinDesk - August 25th, 2017
- How to Learn About Cryptocurrency In The Bitcoin Era - Daily Beast - August 25th, 2017
- Bernanke to Give Keynote Speech at October Cryptocurrency Event - Bloomberg - August 25th, 2017
- Estonia wants to launch its own government-backed cryptocurrency called 'estcoin' - CNBC - August 25th, 2017
- Aimwise to Create Standards for Cryptocurrency Crowdsales - newsBTC - August 25th, 2017
- A Mysterious New Cryptocurrency Is Surging After Being ... - August 25th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Cyber Crime Has Cost Victims Millions This Year - Bloomberg - August 25th, 2017
- This European country may hold an ICO and issue its own ... - TechCrunch - August 23rd, 2017
- Bitcoin Skeptic Mark Cuban to Invest in Cryptocurrency ... - August 23rd, 2017
- $150 Billion: Total Cryptocurrency Market Cap Hits New All-Time ... - CoinDesk - August 23rd, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Market cap Sets a New All-time High of Over $150bn - newsBTC - August 23rd, 2017
- South Africa's Central Bank: It's 'Too Risky' to Launch a Cryptocurrency - CoinDesk - August 23rd, 2017
- Mark Cuban backs new $20 million cryptocurrency venture fund - CNBC - August 22nd, 2017
- VR World Decentraland Raises $25.5 Million In Cryptocurrency - UploadVR - August 21st, 2017
- AMD Releases Beta Graphics Driver for Better Cryptocurrency Mining - Bitcoin Magazine - August 21st, 2017
- Philippines Central Bank Grants First Cryptocurrency Exchange Licenses - CoinDesk - August 21st, 2017
- Media A-Listers Back eSports Betting Firm As It Dives Into Cryptocurrencies - Deadline - August 20th, 2017
- 10 Reasons Why Central Banks Will Miss the Cryptocurrency Renaissance - CoinDesk - August 20th, 2017
- Australia Weighs Jail Time for Cryptocurrency Exchange Offenders - CoinDesk - August 20th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency wallet Exodus adds OmiseGo in latest update - CryptoNinjas - August 20th, 2017
- SEC Statements Spur ShapeShift to Review Cryptocurrency Listings - CoinDesk - August 20th, 2017
- Australian money cops gain powers to regulate cryptocurrency - The Register - August 18th, 2017
- Could Cryptocurrencies Replace Cash? - Investopedia - August 18th, 2017
- NVIDIA CEO Believes Cryptocurrencies Have Longevity - Investopedia - August 18th, 2017
- Substratum Launches Substrate Cryptocurrency to Power the New Decentralized Web - The Merkle - August 18th, 2017
- More Evidence that Cryptocurrencies Are a Bubble? - Investopedia - August 16th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Exchange ShapeShift Acquires Bitcoin Wallet Startup - CoinDesk - August 16th, 2017
- Canada Approves First Cryptocurrency Sale in Property Rights Shake-Up - Voice of America - August 16th, 2017
- From UFC To Fighting Fake News With Cryptocurrency - SportTechie - August 16th, 2017
- Will the Bitcoin Fork Continue to Boost the Cryptocurrency's Value? - TheStreet.com - August 16th, 2017
- 'Father of Financial Futures' Seeks Cryptocurrency Hardware Patent - CoinDesk - August 14th, 2017