In Europe’s most talked-about gathering of today’s brightest technological innovators and visionaries, last Tuesday’s ‘Le Web’ conference in Paris saw Bitcoin advocates responding to the risks and obstacles that have recently made news alongside the digital currency.
Fred Wilson, a prominent tech investor and co-founder of Union Square Ventures, deemed the Bitcoin trend as one of the most “investable” he could see.
“We will now see payments and money flow on the Internet in the same way that content flows on the Internet and in the same way that images flow on the Internet,” he said, further noting that “there is a lot more that is going to happen in the world of money very quickly, and that’s because of Bitcoin.”
Even PayPal President David Marcus, who has made it known that he owns bitcoins himself, envisions people using them on platforms such as eBay in the future. He concedes, however, that for Bitcoin to be more widely accepted as a unit of currency, the issue of volatility will have to be overcome.
“It’s not a [real] currency and it won’t be a currency until volatility slows down,” he said.
At a separate event held in the Time Warner Center on the same day, influential advocates of the digital asset emphasized that the process itself of “mining” Bitcoin, which essentially uses powerful computers to solve complex equations, contributes to the infrastructure of the currency. But they held out hope that Wall Street firms would get involved, lending Bitcoin a measure of stability.
According to Barry Silbert, founder and chief executive of SecondMarket, “We’re three to six months away from Wall Street dollars moving into Bitcoin in a big way.”
“Once Wall Street starts putting money into Bitcoin — we’re talking about hundreds of millions, billions of dollars moving in — it’s going to have a pretty dramatic effect on the price,” he added.
Earlier this year, Silbert also launched the Bitcoin Investment Trust, the first investment vehicle to allow institutional investors to put money into the Bitcoin market without having to personally hold the currency. With a minimum investment of $25,000, the trust is open only to accredited investors.
“The value of a bitcoin has soared this year — from roughly $13 in January to well over $1,200 — on hopes that the experiment in digital money will eventually become a legitimate global currency,” CNNMoney reported earlier this week. At the same time, it was trading at $947 on the Mt.Gox exchange.
Bitcoin has received a measure of support from officials at the Federal Reserve, including chairman Ben Bernanke, who said the currency “may hold long-term promise” as part of the international payment system.
Skeptics of Bitcoin have not gone unheard. In addition to the many legitimate uses, lawmakers have drawn attention the potential for Bitcoins to be used for a number of illegal practices including drug trade, child porn, and tax evasion.
Promoters of the crypto-currency have plenty of convincing to do elsewhere, too.
China’s central bank issued guidelines last week specifying that Bitcoin is not to be considered a currency. While the new rules do not outlaw or prevent individuals from owning Bitcoin, they do prohibit financial institutions in China from trading, underwriting or offering insurance in Bitcoin.