As I walked around TechCrunch Disrupt NYC recently, I was bombarded with messaging, product demos and pitches.
Until I met a young lady who didn't know I was a tech journo. She had one goal, after I announced that "Bitcoin isn't my thing." To change my mind.
It didn't matter who I was nor what I did. She saw me as a challenge. To change one mind at a time.
And she did it discretely with diplomacy and gentility; almost lovingly. The things she was saying made so much sense and were made in the context of appreciation for innovation while trying to infect me with her passion about Bitcoin.
Her name was Melanie Shapiro and she's the founder & CEO of Bitcoin' company, Case Wallet Inc. which is based in Rochester, New York. Case offers what TechCrunch called "an insanely secure Bitcoin hardware wallet."
Dr. Shapiro is no slouch. In full possession of an MBA and Ph.D. in Management and Marketing, Shapiro talks excitedly and very genuinely about Bitcoin.
She and the company just landed $1.5 million in investor money, also from no slouches, RRE Ventures, Highline Venture Partners and one of her alma maters, the Rochester Institute of Technology Fund. The heightened significance of RRE's investment is that a co-founder of RRE is James D. Robinson III, a longtime Chairman & CEO of American Express. The legitimacy this adds to a Bitcoin-related business is immense.
Melanie Shapiro worked me over with a series of soft/hard-edged quotes that shifted my opinion about Bitcoin dramatically.
I don't know about you, but I find quotations to be one of the finest learning tools around. My two favorite quotesters are Winston Churchill and Mark Twain. So I decided to use Melanie's quotes here to try and convert you if you're not a Bitcoin supporter and even if you are, Melanie's quotes will provide you with more ammunition.
"There's a lot of misconception about what bitcoin actually is due to media narratives. The most popular reference I hear mentioned is Silk Road, but Silk Road wasn't enabled by bitcoin. People forget or don't realize that Silk Road was enabled by Tor, an 'anonymizing' proxy network. Bitcoin isn't actually an anonymous currency it's pseudo-anonymous. Want to know what's anonymous? Cash."
"The math and technology behind the blockchain is difficult for most to understand, but the beauty is - you don't have to get it to use it. Do you really get how the internet works? TLS/SSL? DNS? HTTPS?"
"If you ask the average person on the street what https is or dns, they likely wouldn't be able to tell you. But these things are underneath most of the applications they use on a daily basis. I think the real success of bitcoin will be when it's the foundational layer on top of which applications and processes are built without people having to understand what that means."
"While we can attribute a lot of our early attention to stories of bitcoin scandal, Mt Gox, and high-profile arrests, the stories being told now are of how the technology could have the potential to bring efficiency to the financial industry."
"The reason you should care about bitcoin's success is not just because it can help reorganize how the financial industry is run, but because it can bring freedom and empowerment to the people who really need it ... the billions of 'un-banked' people on this planet."
"Every CEO, founder, engineer or leader in the Bitcoin ecosystem is an educator - we all spend a tremendous amount of time just explaining what it is that we're doing and what kind of impact it can have. I think we're finally starting to see our hard work paying off. Sometimes it's as if we're all working for the same organization, fighting behind the same line, and on the same team."
"To truly understand the impact (of Bitcoin), consider what the cellphone did for telecom. There are places in the world that completely skipped over traditional landline phones, mostly because it's a resource-intensive advancement, and went straight to cellphones. Bitcoin will be the technology that leaps over traditional banking in these same parts of the world. The people in places that never saw truly established banking services will be able to use those cellphones they have to do their 'banking' in bitcoin."
"To me, bitcoin is just the denomination used to pay the toll to put stuff on the world's first completely transparent and immutable decentralized ledger - the blockchain."
"If you think about it, everything in society lives on some sort of ledger. You have a driver's license, which lives on an identity ledger at the DMV, your credit card purchases are tied to a currency ledger at your bank, you buy a house and that lives on a property ledger. The blockchain is simply a ledger, like all of these other ledgers that our very lives exist on, but instead of there being thousands of different ledgers held by thousands of different central authorities, the blockchain is one global ledger that all of these things can live on."
"You'll hear the word 'decentralized' thrown around a lot when talking about bitcoin. The reason for this is that bitcoin is a decentralized asset that no one entity has control over. This might not seem important, but think about the people who live in places where that central entity that controls your currency is corrupt or unstable."
"If it was as simple as just giving people another way to buy a cup of coffee, I can promise you that no one in our ecosystem would be working this hard. "
"We have to be careful with the word 'disrupt' when talking about the potential of Bitcoin for both banks and government. It may be exactly what we're trying to do, but it certainly doesn't help the conversation - it's just too aggressive of a word I think when trying to start a dialogue."
"It's not that we're trying to replace the current banking system or government; we're trying to work along side them to rethink current processes that are both inefficient and costly. Neither side is going to get anywhere without working together. Ultimately, I think we're at a place now where goals are aligned on both sides. Ultimately, the Utopian goal is a world where all assets, identity, and contracts live on a distributed, public ledger owned by no one central entity, a ledger that even lives underneath people's credit card transactions."
"The amount of people coming from traditional banking and from government that are talking about bitcoin now (in a positive way), are exposing a wider audience to what bitcoin actually is, and is useful for. It's certainly great PR for our entire ecosystem."
"Regulation is a great thing for bitcoin. It gives me, and the rest of us principles by which we have to run our businesses. However, it's important that we are being regulated by people who understand the technology and can give us guidance without hindering innovation."
"It does worry me that bitcoin won't succeed, that something will stand in our way and we'll never see it live up to it's promise and this is sad because there are a lot of people who really need this to work."
"One of the coolest things about a global ledger as a public utility is that it can completely reorganize the way we run our societies, which is why I think the blockchain is one of the greatest human innovations of our time. To all the billions of people who don't truly own anything, or have records of their lives and assets - welcome to the global economy!"