Cryptocurrencies continue to be a topic of wide debate so we decided to use our Socratic process to dig through this challenging topic. Acton alumni, Peter Kirby and Abhi Dobhal, were the perfect duo to lead this discussion, as they’ve been running a block-chain company called Factom since 2014 and have a ton of insight into the space. However, they were not here to profess. Rather, they asked critical questions in a room full of smart, motivated, and courageous individuals in order to elicit an energy-filled conversation aimed at pulling out new lessons and questions about cryptocurrencies and block-chain.
The following is a brief (and rough) transcription of some of the core questions that Peter and Abhi asked, as well as some of the commentary points that were made.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these questions. Chime in and give us your perspective in the ‘comments’ section.
Is Bitcoin the future of money or a Ponzi scheme?
• “The underlying technology has no value – the US dollar does not have any fundamentally different value.”
• “Ponzi scheme – this is the very beginning, too much unknown, a lot of progress has to happen, Bitcoin is a brand, not the future. De facto standard now.”
• “Future of money – insane amount of value to people who do not have bank accounts who can access a bitcoin wallet and move money… it’s the access!”
• “Is this a question of whether bitcoin will be the next widely used currency, or that some cryptocurrency will be the world’s next major currency?”
• “Bitcoin may not be the future as it relates to the de facto world standard – blockchain will move us forward.”
Is Bitcoin the new gold or is it the blockchain that is the important part of bitcoin?
• “What’s so powerful is the fact that you can have recorded transactions without the overhead.”
• “Blockchain is the important part, it’s the permanent ledger.”
• “It’s so new that I have a hard time wrapping my head around bitcoin, but it’s got to be the ledger. It’s indisputable.”
• “The ledger we’ve had in the past can be tampered because it’s held at a central source. Blockchain is on computers all over the world.”
There is something that is not clear in this statement – what is value?
• “Is Bitcoin worth $____ because of the ledger?”
• “Bitcoin has a critical mass that you can actually buy things with, which establishes its value.”
• “Gold does not have value either – bitcoin only has value because people are trading it.”
• “How much is bitcoin being used for transactions and how many people are just speculating on it? How does speculation affect the value?”
Does bitcoin exist because no one is in charge or because there is healthy governance?
• “I think they are the same thing. I thought it was the social network.”
• “No one owns the ledger; therefore there is healthy governance.”
• “20% of bitcoin mining is done by one entity, so someone is in fact in some control.”
Is governance better with aligned incentives or the rules?
• “Open source – I can make it better. I can modify the code to make it better. There is no king of bitcoin.”
• “Aligned incentive keeps this anarchy in equilibrium.”
Are ICOs a scam or a new way to fundraise? What are they selling?
• If it is 100% speculation, it is a scam?
• What is the promise? That later this thing that I made up is worth more.?
• In an equity market, you are investing in the cash flow.
There is an ICO happening. We are investing in telegram. You are a VC in Austin and you need to decide to invest or not. You have the partner on the phone. What will your fund be doing? What’s keeping you up at night?
• Do we have control?
• How fast is liquidity?
• Is there enough market volume for liquidation?
• Can I afford to sit on the sidelines?
Conclusion: One of the things we do at Acton at the end of a discussion is focus on lessons learned and those not yet learned.
What are some lessons you all will take away from tonight?
• “What is money? Is it the paper in my wallet? Gold? What do we agree is money?”
• “Lots of hesitation in the community to adopt it.”
• “Anarchy stood out to me. Something to explore.”
• “Reconfirmed to be overweighed on technical founders. Great technologists are a scarce resource --- you want to be badass techies.”
• “Invest in something you understand. The more I learn about this, the less I feel like I know.”
• “Not understanding is not an excuse not to try to do so.”
• “The more I know the less I understand about any money.”
Lessons not yet learned:
• “To what degree you can instill in ethics to something like currency.”
• “The value of the ledger – is it really necessary?”
• “Token the same as a share?”
• “Does block-chain give us a way to get back to currencies that have intrinsic value.”