Currently, one of the most popular hashtags within the Bitcoin industry is #Bitcoin2014, which stands for the biggest Bitcoin conference, organised by Bitcoin Foundation in Amsterdam. Too many “Bitcoin” words in the latter sentence? Well, one cannot ever calculate how many times this word is spoken out here, in the city of tulips, beautiful channels, legal marijuana and… Bitcoin.
The unofficial opening of this year’s conference started with an International Affiliate Summit — a closed event for the current and potential members of the Bitcoin Foundation. Moderated by Mark Woods, the new Affiliate Director, and Jon Matonis, the Executive Director and a Member of the board, this short summit gave a considerable idea, how the Bitcoin Foundation actually operates.
“We don’t have a full-time staff. We’ve got regular jobs”, Jon Matonis. No wonder that the Bitcoin Foundation is trying to put down roots in all the countries possible by means of the Affiliate Program, supported by the slogan “think globally, act locally”. Bitcoin Foundation claims to cover three big directions, such as digital right (like Electronic Frontier Foundation), technical issues (Linux Foundation, for example), protection of user’s privacy and anonymity on the Internet (Tor project). And this all not speaking about the promotional component, which includes educating public with local events, clarifying misconceptions, working on Bitcoin technology projects, sponsoring projects to promote ease of use and wide adoption in the countries. Bitcoin2014 conference is a huge part of the promotional direction. Being only the second conference in a row, organised by the Bitcoin Foundation, and having 30-40 conferences from the last year’s one, this event still holds the place of the #1 Bitcoin conference in the world. Jon Matonis is sure, it soon won’t take 2 days, and thus, the Bitcoin Foundation is already partnering with the upcoming CoinSummit (July 10-11th, London) and even Money 2020 (November 2-6, Las Vegas).
Coming back to the affiliates, it looks like the Bitcoin Foundation is going to conquer the world, actively engaging people from different countries to create local representative daughter organisations. Sounds logical along with the goal for 2014, which is “internationalisation, globalisation of the foundation in a positive decentralised way”. To what extent can it be decentralised? That is a question. If an individual is a member of the affiliate, then he or she is automatically a member of the Bitcoin Foundation. Local affiliates get financing from the general funds of the Bitcoin Foundation, if they get it at all. However, affiliates are really free to choose the way Bitcoin Foundation helps them and coordinates the process. It can be promotion, legal help, management (leadership training) or even step-by-step quide on how to develop an affiliate. From the positive point of view, not only members of the local affiliates become members of the Bitcoin Foundation, but vice versa as well.
Jon Matonis explained, there can be even multiple affiliates in one country. In the USA case, this is absolutely necessary. Thereby, the plan is to go to the states and act there. The same situation with China, considering large population and aggressive government policy towards Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. “If we had a spokesperson in India, who could pick up the phone and answer, we could fight for the right of Bitcoin to be there”, says Jon. Putting down the roots everywhere, as said before.
Introduction of the Affiliate Program was followed by presentations from the three countries: Mexico, Australia and Canada, — all of them incredibly far away from Amsterdam, where the Board of Directors holds the meetings. Raúl Nogales, President of the Satoshi Nakamoto Foundation, presented interesting statistical data of the current situation in Mexico:
- 115 million people
- 90% have a cell phone
- 25% are banked
- +42% increase in e-commece from 2012.
The data vividly shows, there is a growing need for sending money online, so Bitcoin solution is more than suitable here. Still, “we need to change the perception about Bitcoin among media and people”, Raúl believes, and adds, how important it is to work with the journalists, government and financial authorities, so that they can really understand Bitcoin.
Bitcoin Association Australia, which is an affiliate of the Bitcoin Foundation, was about to follow. The guys seemed not so optimistic and claimed to have lack of resources, community dissatisfaction and problems with Australian tax office, — all these interfering the association from the stable development and growth. As Mark Woods asked the guys, where the Bitcoin Foundation could actually help, they said they were just making sure to create a real organisation, a real affiliate. As for the figures, Bitcoin Association Australia has about 10 Bitcoins in their yearly budget.
Finally, the floor was taken by the affiliate from Canada, where the national bank has recently issued a new statement, declaring that “there could be potential risks to overall financial stability if Bitcoin became a significant means of payment and the Bitcoin system remained unstable”. So, it looks like this is one more country, where Bitcoin should be fought for. Thus, the Canadian speaker believes, it is necessary to find lawyers, which are interested in Bitcoin, professors, which could spread information about Bitcoin among the young generation, as well as create useful FAQs on Bitcoin for the journalists, so that they could highlight the cryptocurrency in the right way, not in the one banks are telling.
The International Affiliate Summit was closed by the lunch and active discussion between speakers, Bitcoin Foundation representatives and attendees.
Inspiration, long-term perspectives and great plans are in the air on Bitcoin2014. And these will be definitely covered in the numerous upcoming presentations…
Follow us on Twitter for the conference live broadcasting and come back later to read the summary of the Day Two.