The first edition of TechCrunch Disrupt Europe hit the starting blocks this Monday morning, after the 24h hackathon that already took place. It has been full of interesting startups to meet and interesting panel talks to attend, and it’s getting better and better. Rude Baguette will keep you posted during the 2-day long event.
One of the most interesting panel discussions proposed earlier today was “Is Bitcoin the New Euro?” The speakers: Michael Jackson from Mangrove Capital, former Skype COO, Shakil Khan from Coindesk and Nejc Kodric from Bitstamp based in Slovenia.
As Shakil Khan put it, the bitcoin companies are about great ideas but also great idealists. Very few people understand that there is a lot of regulation out there, and are relying on hope but hope is not a business plan. The European Union has trouble creating a suitable regulation for bitcoin, as it is a virtual currency which pays for real life goods and services. It also implies legal issues about peer-to-peer regulation, software license, security or economic principles. In some respect, the bitcoin could make itself more attractive to consumers and potential commercial partners by providing more clarity on all regulatory issues, and not only in the US, but also in the EU where it falls under the legislation of each country. Europe regulation ended up following traditional regulation, which is not suited for bitcoin business. The question is to know whether the bitcoin falls under the application of the Electronic Money Directive 2009/110/EC, where “Electronic Money” is defined as electronically, including magnetically, stored monetary value as represented by a claim on the issuer which is issued on receipt of funds for the purpose of making payment transactions, and which is accepted by a natural or legal person other than the electronic money issuer. But as kids are the average customers to embrace bitcoin, the three speakers all agreed there has to be some kind of survey, the point is not having regulation or survey at all.
About the difficulty of buying a bitcoin, Nejc Kodric talked about his company Bitstamp, started in 2011 in Slovenia. People have a tendency to think bitcoins are exclusively for drug exchange, as they are usually associated to Silk Road. In 2011 when he started, people hardly knew anything about bitcoins. Kodric also stated that it’s quite simple to buy bitcoins on his site. The Bitstamp team just has to verify the account, and when the money deposit hits their account, they ship right away. Then he joked about a very long private key being involved in the process.
Michael Jackson talked about working with Luxemburg regulators who are interested in what’s happening, as well as more and more finance guys. However, in the world of currency, in 2013, society expects traceability. According to him, the Northern European countries appear to be more interested in disrupting the financial legacy.