I recently listened to an interview with Anthony Di Iorio, the creator of the Jaxx wallet and one of the six original founders of Ethereum. When Anthony caught the crypto bug back in 2012, one of the first things he did was create the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup to find and interact with other enthusiasts.
Less than 10 people showed up to the initial meeting.
It’s hard to imagine a time when the crypto space was practically empty and only a few hard core enthusiasts were interested. Especially after 2017, when Bitcoin became the most overhyped buzzword and every media outlet was announcing the latest price.
Over 150 people attended the first Crypto Monday NYC Meetup event last week in the West Village. With more than 700 members of the Meetup page, we should expect the turnout to increase throughout 2018.
The event was organized by Lou Kerner and James Haft who are co-founders of CryptoOracle, LLC, a VC and advisory firm focused on companies in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.
Kerner was kind enough to answer a few of my follow-up questions about the event via Twitter.
Why did Crypto Mondays catch on so quickly?
“I think Crypto Mondays NYC is simply riding the Crypto wave. People are passionate about it and want to talk, and learn from, and cut deals with, others who share their passion.”
What was your biggest takeaway?
“Crypto Mondays is going to be a thing in NYC, and around the world.”
What will be the biggest benefit to the NYC crypto community?
“NYC will benefit from a more engaged Crypto ecosystem. But the ecosystem here is awesome and already engaged. The far bigger impact will be in smaller cities where 20-30 people attend the Crypto Mondays Meetup and, for the first time, get to hang with others who share their Crypto passion.”
I arrived at a little early at Bagatelle NYC, located in the West Village. It’s a decent-sized restaurant, with plenty of space for mingling as well as a long bar for keeping the libations flowing. Getting there early enabled me to spend a few minutes with James Haft while he was waiting to be interviewed by ICO Investor.
Haft was excited to describe their new crypto investment fund where they are raising money to invest in pre-ICO sales of selected companies. One of his priorities is leveraging blockchain to promote social good, so I would expect their focus would be on companies that help the environment or disadvantaged communities.
Haft apparently couldn’t wait for the fund before launching his own crypto initiative for social good, which is a token, aptly named ClimateCoin. According to the white paper, it will allow people to participate in the fight against climate change by democratizing the markets for carbon trading.
Standing right next to Haft, also waiting his turn to go in front of the camera, was Kevin Chen, Evangelist at the IOTA Foundation. Chen delivered a quick overview of the goal of IOTA to function as the backbone of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IOTA advantages are its zero transaction fee, (claimed) unlimited scalability, ability for nano transactions and quantum resistance. If these are true, then IOTA could overcome all the limitations of traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.
Pharmaceuticals offer a huge opportunity for blockchain technology, according to Todd Breeden, principal at Kiwiventure Partners. A company they have invested in on the West Coast is leveraging blockchain to help drug companies track their products through their complicated pipeline and distribution networks.
Next up was Ed Maguire, managing partner at Bluemont Partners, a corporate advisory firm working with investors and crypto startups. Ed explained that while he has been watching disruptive technologies for a number of years, his interest in crypto was spurred when he noticed that ICOs exhibited the same growth characteristics as the exponential technologies as defined by futurist Ray Kurzweil. The growth rate of exponential technologies is often imperceptible in the early stages, so it’s easy to miss the trends before it is too late.
At an ICO conference last fall, Ed realized that the number of ICO’s was growing at an exponential pace. He compared this to doubling the number of grains of rice on a chessboard, where the amounts become astronomical by the last square. Will the world be able to handle 2^64 ICOs? We might soon find out!
In the 90’s, we talked about “Internet time” when referring to how fast new companies were launching and trying to deliver innovative ideas, Kerner mentioned. Now we have what he referred to as “crypto time” as new ICOs and tokens are coming out even faster.
After the interviews ended, I looked around and realized that the room was almost half-full. I made my way over to the thirty-foot-long white marble bar and eyed some tuna tatar that had been carefully arranged on serving plate. “They’re delicious, you should try one,” implored Dan Goldman, VP of Business Development for Cryptalgo (pronounced crypt-TAL-go).
I helped myself to a spoonful of the delicious, bright red fish cubes while Dan treated me to an overview of Cryptalgo’s plans to build an institutional cryptocurrencies trading system. This piqued my interest due to my experience working with trading and portfolio management systems.
Financial services firms will definitely need connectivity to crypto exchanges when they begin offering cryptocurrency investments to their clients. Their own trading systems should have no problem handling cryptos since they trade in the same way as fiat currencies.
If Cryptalgo can capture enough liquidity that their customers can tap into, they could become a player. But they need to move fast since existing companies are already connecting buy side to sell side for crypto.
One of the leading providers of connectivity between asset managers and broker-dealers is a company called Flyer that has built a large network using the Financial Information Exchange (FIX) protocol. This week they announced support for connections to crypto exchange on their existing FIX network that will allow trade order execution and post-trade transactions for cryptocurrencies.
Another industry that can benefit from crypto technology is healthcare. Victoria Saucier, CEO of Gainfy, described how her firm is leveraging blockchain and AI to improve areas such as chronic care management, securing medical data and better aligning economic incentives with patient outcomes.
As new companies enter the crypto space, there will be a need for ancillary services such as legal, accounting and marketing. Hannah Swayze, CEO of Liminal Media, is already providing her marketing services to a few new ICO offerings. Swayze is leveraging her experience creating video content for the Chinese market. Which they are currently blocked from investing, this could be useful for Chinese-speaking investors living outside of the mainland.
Crypto Investing (This is Not Advice!)
Average investors would be making a huge mistake if they ignored cryptocurrency as a viable asset class, Haft warned. He believes it is wise to invest 5-10% of your liquid net worth to avoid missing out on future growth. Although, be prepared to lose a large chunk of that if the crypto markets turn against you, he cautioned.
The opportunity for average people to get exposure to crypto investments is amazing, Bluemont Partner’s Maguire added. The number of publicly traded companies available on US stock exchanges has gone down by half over during the past twenty years. With over 1,400 cryptocurrencies available (and counting), this space is expanding into the vacuum left by the US equity markets, he noted.
Lisa Chai, Maguire’s partner at Bluemont, commented that they are advising a number of companies in the crypto space and have seen expanding interest in ICOs from asset management firms. Firms like Bluemont, who boast an extensive track record of success analyzing traditional companies for investment, should have an advantage when evaluating prospective ICOs.
Your Next Crypto Meetup
I would encourage anyone in the NYC area who is interested in the crypto space to attend at least one upcoming Crypto Monday event. You should not pass up the opportunity to meet someone who could educate you or even point you in a new direction for your career.
Congrats to @jfhaft & @loukerner on the success of 1st Crypto Monday NYC! 150+ attendees enjoyed interacting w/ other #crypto #blockchain enthusiasts https://t.co/qW3LI6sKWY pic.twitter.com/aISr8t7yQC
— Craig Iskowitz (@craigiskowitz) January 9, 2018