Roger Ver gave this speech at Coin Congress in Singapore in May entitled “Why Bitcoin is Important for the World.” It is a sort of quick introduction into the world of Bitcoin and how Bitcoin can be a powerful tool to promote global understanding and help stop nations from conducting war.
Hi everyone, my name is Roger Ver. I have a feeling I’m going to be preaching to the choir for the most part here, but can I see a real quick show of hands? Who here has wondered and is kind of interested in learning about Bitcoin, but doesn’t know a whole lot about it? Is there anybody that fits into that category? Okay, that makes it real easy for me. I see one guy that maybe was halfway raising a hand. Okay, don’t be shy. But basically I’m going to be talking about Bitcoin, as you may have guessed, and I’ve been saying it for years and years now, and I’m saying it because I don’t think it’s an exaggeration that Bitcoin is really one of the most important inventions ever. It’s really that important.
Bitcoin: Getting Started
It’s easy. There are all sorts of free wallets. The one I recommend is Blockchain.info. It’s easy to buy Bitcoins. There’s all sorts of places you can do that. If you’re from the U.S. or live in the U.S. or have a U.S. bank account, Coinbase.com, again, is fantastic. There are all sorts of places that you can use to spend your Bitcoins. In fact, I even bought my plane tickets to come here to Singapore with Bitcoins. You can buy just about anything at this point. A real question is what can’t you buy with Bitcoins at this point? And there aren’t too many things on that list.
Why it’s so important
Bitcoin, is the first time in the entire history of the world in which anyone can transact with anyone else anywhere in the world, and without asking for permission from any bank or government or politician or any other human being, for that matter. Two people can interact with each other anywhere on the planet without requiring permission from anybody else, and that’s really revolutionary. That’s never existed before, ever.
And the way it works is through this revolutionary invention called the Bitcoin Blockchain or the Blockchain in general, which is a public ledger that allows anybody to see what’s going on and make sure that people aren’t spending the same Bitcoins twice. It’s in an open, decentralized network. Anybody with programming skills can read the software code. If you can’t read it, you can read what all sorts of other people who can have to say about it. So you don’t have to just believe me or any one corporation or entity. It’s out there for the entire world to look at and audit and check. And the same is true of lots of the different Bitcoin clients as well.
I got so excited once I realized the characteristics of Bitcoin make it the best form of money the world has ever seen. And the characteristics of good money are that it’s harder – in Bitcoins’ case, basically impossible – to counterfeit. It’s scarce. There’s a limited supply. We cannot say that about the U.S. dollar or Euros or Yen. Governments can print them at will any time for any reason. Bitcoins are easily divisible. Currently, they can be divided down to a one hundred millionth of a Bitcoin. Homogeneous. All Bitcoins are the same. Each one is tracked individually, but at this point no Bitcoin is considered really to be worth more than any other Bitcoin, which is a characteristic that’s shared with gold.
Durable. Bitcoins are, I guess, more durable than pieces of paper in your wallet or even precious metals for that point. Bitcoins last forever, as long as you keep the information stored somewhere. Talk about easy to transport. You can send a million dollars worth of Bitcoin from Singapore to Moscow or London or South America or absolutely anywhere instantly for free, and it’s impossible for anyone to block you from sending or receiving that payment. Try doing that with a wire transfer or a suitcase full of pieces of paper or gold. You can’t do it. But with Bitcoin, you absolutely can. And with Bitcoin, it’s easy to store. You can keep any amount of Bitcoin right there in your pocket or on any other computing device, or you can even print them out onto pieces of paper. So all of those things together just make Bitcoin really, it’s the best form of money the world has ever seen.
But don’t lose your money
Be safe with your Bitcoins. All that’s required to spend a Bitcoin is the private key. So when you have Bitcoins, make sure that you’re storing that private key yourself. Don’t trust that to somebody else to store for you, unless you feel that you are not capable of doing that and you’re absolutely horrible at computer security, I suppose, or even physical security with pieces of paper. But the big problem, for those of you that are aware, with Mt. Gox recently was a Bitcoin exchange that lost somewhere around 600,000 to 800,000 Bitcoins of other people’s money. The reason that was possible is because other people entrusted them to hold their Bitcoins for them. With wallets like Blockchain.info – the one I recommend – nobody but you has access to the private keys to spend your Bitcoins. So use a wallet like Blockchain.info or Electrum or the Satoshi QT client or Armory or any of these in which you’re storing the private key. If you have any significant amount of Bitcoins, that’s definitely the way to go. Don’t trust other people to hold your Bitcoins is the short version there.
Regulation is changing
I think we saw a real similar picture a presentation or two ago. We’ll see what happens in the future, but at the end of the day, Bitcoin is simply a peer-to-peer protocol. There’s no central office. There’s no central server. There’s no central place that even if all of these countries listed on the map here turn red and didn’t like Bitcoin at all, that wouldn’t stop Bitcoin. The only way to stop Bitcoin would be to shut down the entire internet in the entire world. And lots of people, we hear speculating, “Oh, Bitcoin’s going to be $10,000 or $100,000 or maybe even $1 million for one single Bitcoin. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what price Bitcoin is. You can still use it to send money anywhere in the world instantly basically for free, whether one Bitcoin is worth one penny or $1 million. It still works the same.
The rate of growth of Bitcoin
This is just the stats from one particular website. But you can see just over two years ago there were basically no users of this website. Today, there are over 1.6 million users, and just even a year ago, there was less than half a million users. So we’ve added over a million users in just the last year, and we’re adding new users at the rate of somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000 new users per day, depending on the day of the week.
The Bitcoin price
This is an interesting chart here. I remember back when last year Bitcoin hit around $266. Everybody was saying, “It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble.” They said it again when Bitcoin bumped up over $1,000. They said, “It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble.” And that makes the people that were saying, “Bitcoin’s a bubble at $260 something a Bitcoin,” seem a little bit silly. What unfortunately this picture doesn’t show is if we go way back to 2011 when I first got into Bitcoin, Bitcoins had a similar spike that looked similar to this, but they went from $2 to $32 in the course of about two weeks. And at that point everybody was saying, “It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble.” And before that, Bitcoins jumped up from about 10 cents to $1, and everyone was saying, “It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble.” And I wasn’t involved in Bitcoin even before that though, but you can read the forum posts on the internet when Bitcoins jumped up from around a penny a Bitcoin up to 10 cents a Bitcoin. Everyone was saying, “It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble. It’s a bubble. It can’t last.”
But the reason we see these price increases all the time are because more and more people around the world are realizing just how incredible of a currency Bitcoin is and how incredibly useful it is for people all over the planet to use to conduct commerce. So I’m sure in another few months or a few years from now, all the people that were saying that Bitcoin was in a bubble when it hit $1,100 a Bitcoin are going to look just as silly as the people who said Bitcoin was in a bubble when it hit 10 cents a Bitcoin. And part of the reason for that is because all of the merchants all over the world that are starting to accept Bitcoin. Some of the most popular shopping websites in the entire United States are accepting Bitcoins. Incredibly, popular shopping websites in Europe are accepting Bitcoins, and probably in Asia as well.
I hear there’s a number of restaurants and shops here in Singapore that accept Bitcoin already. A real interesting website to find places near you that accept Bitcoin is Coinmap.org. You can find physical shops that are near you that’ll accept Bitcoin as well. This graph really is starting to show that Bitcoin isn’t just kind of a curiosity or a technological interesting thing for people to look at, but if we look at it here, Bitcoin is starting to transfer a similar amount of money to some major major payment companies that we’re all aware of. You can see on the particular day that this picture was taken, Bitcoin was between Western Union and Discover for the amount of money sent that day. On some days, you’ll see Bitcoin transfer even more money than PayPal or similar to Discover. And the number of transactions per day too is just increasing, and this picture’s probably a month or so old now since this was put together, but it’s growing over time. And it’s just amazing to see how many more people around the world are starting to use Bitcoin for real payments.
This is taken from Bitcoincharts.com. 1, 2, 3: a list of a number of Bitcoin exchanges around the world. Just a few years ago, when I got started in Bitcoin, when I first found this website, there were maybe three or four exchanges listed on it. Now, we couldn’t even fit all the exchanges in one slide. There’s literally hundreds of exchanges listed here and more and more are coming online every week. So it’s just becoming easier and easier to convert Bitcoins to and from traditional government-issued Fiat currency. And here’s an example of some additional ones. It’s really sad and horrible what happened with Mt. Gox, but I think the whole world is using that as a learning experience and better and more trustworthy and more reliable exchanges are coming on board. And the Bitcoins Blockchain technology allows them to prove that yes, they do actually have their customers’ money, and hopefully people will pay attention.
And my other advice for you is if you’re using a Bitcoin exchange, send your fiat in, get your Bitcoins out, or send your Bitcoins in and take you fiat out. Do not use a Bitcoin exchange as a wallet. You’re asking for trouble in the long term. The amazing part about Bitcoin is that you don’t have to let anybody hold it for you. So if you have Bitcoins, hold them yourself. And the ecosystem is just growing by leaps and bounds. I do Bitcoin full-time every day for over three years now, and every day I’m hearing about more and more new things, and it would be absolutely impossible for any single human being to keep up with all the amazing things that are going on. New clients are coming out all the time. New block explorers, new exchanges, new payment processors. It’s hard to even count – in fact, it’s impossible to count – how many things are just happening all the time, and we’re hearing about some of them here at this conference. And there’s an entire internet filled with people doing additional exciting things and really really exciting things.
Mastercoin, ColorCoins, Ethereum are all based on Bitcoin technology. Incredibly exciting, interesting stuff. If you have time, Google those and read about those as well. And Bitcoin isn’t the only one. There’s a whole slew of Blockchain based related currencies. Here’s a partial list. Obviously, Bitcoin is by far and away the most popular one, but there’s all sorts of interesting other things that people are doing out there. At this point, Bitcoin has a huge, huge, huge lead over the others, but we’ll see which one winds up winning over time. But at this point, Bitcoin definitely seems to be the one with the most momentum and developers and enthusiasm behind it, although the Dogecoin people do have a lot of enthusiasm as well.
The number of start-ups related to Bitcoin
It’s just innumerable at this point. This one particular page lists over 300 start-ups. To be honest, there probably over 3,000 and maybe even more than 30,000. There’s just so many people getting so excited about Bitcoin all over the world because it allows so many things that were never possible previously. And you can see, there’s just a list of all sorts of things. And it’s not just from the U.S. or Singapore or any one country. It’s all the people from all over the world. When they hear about Bitcoin and they understand the properties of Bitcoin, they realize that this is a fundamental world-changing technology. It’s going to change the way human beings interact with each other.
Previously, you needed to get permission from a government or from a bank or some other payment processing company in order to be able to send and receive money with somebody else. Bitcoin totally destroys that system. Now you can send and receive any amount of money with anyone else anywhere on the planet and you do not require permission from somebody else. That’s a really, really fundamental change in the nature of human relationships on the planet. And here’s another list of more companies that you can shake a stick at that are getting involved in Bitcoin. And we don’t know which ones are going to wind up being popular or safe, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that with this much activity, there’s going to be some real exciting things that are going to come of it all including ATM machines are popping up all over the world. I hear there’s quite a number already here in Singapore as well.
Banks are starting to pay attention and actually work with some Bitcoin companies. A number of banks still aren’t that friendly, but Fidor bank in Germany seems to be very friendly towards Bitcoin related things, and Coinbase makes it incredibly easy in the United States. You just link your traditional bank account with Coinbase and you can have Bitcoins right away. My advice is to transfer your Bitcoins from coin base to a wallet in which you control the private keys, but Coinbase is an absolutely fantastic way to buy or sell Bitcoins.
It’s hard to imagine or even describe just how quickly things are moving in the Bitcoin space. When I got involved three years ago, there were no mobile wallets. There were none. You could only use it in the core client on your computer. Today, there’s more wallets than any one person could even study or learn about. And if you go on the Android App Store, there are so many Bitcoin wallets there. Take a pick. The most popular one is Blockchain, but Coinbase has wallets. There’s the Andre Chauvin Beguin wallet. Mycelium is another incredibly interesting one. There’s just so many fantastic wallets and developers out there working on that sort of thing that makes it really easy for people to use Bitcoin in their day-to-day lives.
And people are using Bitcoin to send and receive money all over the world. I’m using a PowerPoint slide here, but for anybody who has your computer open at some point, go over to Blockchain.info and it’s mesmerizing. You can see the transactions on the Bitcoin Blockchain happening in real time. And as they scroll by, you realize that these are real people, real human beings, that are sending and receiving money with people all over the world. And there’s a little bit more than one Bitcoin transaction happening every single second to the tune of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars worth of value every single day.
And people just absolutely love to use Bitcoin for philanthropy. People are donating Bitcoins to all sorts of causes all over the world, and it makes it incredibly easy to do so. It makes it incredible safe to do so also. Lots of people in this room are probably fans of organizations like WikiLeaks. Lots of government agencies are not necessarily fans of WikiLeaks. Bitcoin makes it incredibly safe to give to organizations like WikiLeaks without having to be living in fear of a reprisal from whatever government you happen to live under. And I think that’s another fantastic thing that we can thank Bitcoin for allowing.
It allows micropayments
With previous forms of payment, you can’t send and receive small amounts of money with other people. With Bitcoin, you can send very small amounts of money, both on and off the Blockchain. And that sort of thing wasn’t possible previously. Game companies. We’re here at a game conference. Pretty much every single person I’ve talked to that wasn’t here specifically for the Bitcoin conference already knows all about Bitcoin, and they’re already actively considering implementing it into their games, or already are actually implementing it into their games. So it’s just such a natural fit for games, and people who play these games are already used to dealing with online points and credits so Bitcoin doesn’t necessarily feel like anything new to them, even if they don’t understand the underlying technology behind Bitcoin.
And people are placing bets for their Starcraft games in Bitcoin as to who’s going to win. I think that’s really interesting, because you sure can’t place bets as to who’s going to win a Starcraft game with your credit card company or PayPal or any of these other things. But with Bitcoin, anybody can engage in any sort of transaction they want, and they don’t need to ask for permission from anybody. And if you believe people own their own money and should be allowed to do what they want with it, then you should think Bitcoin is great because of that. And lots and lots of people apparently do. It’s getting lots of attention in the media. There’s even a Bitcoin magazine now that’s being sold. Lots of documentaries on Bitcoin. Just a huge amount of attention.
The most important thing
And that leads me to I have just a couple of minutes left, but I want to rant a little bit about the thing that has me the most excited about how Bitcoin is going to change the world for the better. And I’m pretty open about my philosophy. I consider myself a voluntaryist. And that means that I think that human beings should be allowed to do absolutely anything they want, so long as it’s peaceful, and they shouldn’t be allowed to use aggressive violence against anybody else. And I don’t make exceptions for groups of people, and especially not for groups of people who get together and put on uniforms and work in buildings that happen to have flags out in front of them.
And one of the things that really upsets me the most about the world that I live in is I see governments and they have this thing called fiat currency that they completely control. And not only do they control it, but they can print as much of it as they want at any time. And I would be annoyed by that in general if they were using it only for building schools or roads and bridges and things like that. But I’m someone who’s born in the United States and I see the United States government printing money like crazy. And then they use that money to build all sorts of tanks and bombs and airplanes and murder people all over the world. And if you think about it, that’s what war is. It’s a group of people who go and murder other people who they’ve never met and don’t know anything about because another group of strangers in Washington, D.C. or some other capitol told them to do it.
And all that’s being paid for by printing money. And with Bitcoin, because there’s a limited supply, that sort of thing can’t happen in the world if the world is using Bitcoin. And that’s what has me so incredibly excited about Bitcoin, is it’ll prevent governments from being able to just print money at will and then use that to buy tanks and guns and bombs to murder people around the world. And so I see a world in which everybody is using Bitcoin and interacting with each other on a voluntary basis as just a much, much, much happier and peaceful and safer world for every single human being on the planet. And when I realized that Bitcoin has the potential that to become the currency used all around the world, and would have the ability to basically undermine every government on the entire planet’s ability to wage war, I knew I had to get involved and start promoting Bitcoin full-time. And that’s what I’ve been doing for three years, and that’s what has me so excited.
And I think maybe I have one or two minutes left. If anybody has any questions, I’d be happy to answer questions about that. But that’s why I think Bitcoin is going to change the world for the better.
Love Roger. Keep doing what you do. So Roger is also referred to as Bitcoin Jesus for his evangelism, but also his gifting of Bitcoin. When were you given that name?
To be honest, I don’t remember when it first started. I think it happened, I was at a barbeque party and there were a whole bunch of high school kids from the house next door that came over, and I was telling them all about Bitcoin, and they were all excited. And kids understand Bitcoin right away. And I was helping them all set up Bitcoin wallets on their phone, and I gave each of them, I don’t know, a dollar or two worth of Bitcoin. And another person looking on said, “It’s like you’re a Bitcoin Jesus, and you have all your disciples around you,” because these kids were so excited about Bitcoin. I think that’s probably where it started. So thank you all.
Roger Ver has served as the full time CEO of MemoryDealers.com, directly employing about 30 people, and serving happy customers around the world. Over the last decade, under Roger’s leadership, Memory Dealers has grown to become a world leader in the used Cisco memory and networking equipment industry. In early 2011 Roger discovered Bitcoin. MemoryDealers became the first mainstream business to accept bitcoins as payment, and Roger has since become the most prolific Bitcoin related startup investor. Roger has funded the seed rounds for such Bitcoin startups as: Bitcoin Foundation, Coin Lab, Blockchain, Ripple, Kraken.com, Coinapult, OGRR, BitcoinStore, Bitcoin Chipin, and several more.