Ten observations from the Crypto Currency Conference in Atlanta

1. Charlie Shrem is in the trenches of the regulatory fight. When he spoke on the panel of entrepreneurs he gave glimpses of a very ugly struggle for legality. He spoke quickly, in hurried detailed — big gushes of information. He spoke in terms of problems and solutions, the language of someone lost in the fight. There were banks closing the accounts of bitcoin businesses because they were competitors, because regulations were uncertain, for no reason whatsoever. There were impenetrable layers of bureaucracy and gatekeepers who say “that’s ridiculous” and hang up the phone. I’m rooting for you, Charlie.

2. BitPay’s Tony Gallippi says they’re going to start contrasting their service with that of credit cards, and the many hidden fees and burdens they impose. I can’t wait. Did you know that in the hospitality business, credit card companies can hold your money for four weeks before transferring it to you?

3. It was a big, diverse crowd. Bitcoin, as we should expect, impacts many sectors.

4. I know more than I think. Much more. This is a recurring problem for me. I always imagine the world full of logical, rational, hard working people who know more than me. But when I look more closely, where ever I look, I see trial and error, 60% solutions and dubious decision making. This is what entrepreneurship can look like. It’s a beautiful thing, really. It takes courage to blaze a new trail.

5. This relates to the previous point: Nobody is in charge, nobody completely knows what’s happening, and that’s awesome.

6. I hate streets named Peachtree, and high school parades that shut down large parts of a city, especially when I’m running late.

7. It was really cool to meet the people behind the Life on Bitcoin documentary. The couple has a great state presence. They offered a great idea for converting merchants: promise to organize a bitcoin bash at their restaurant, and leave a deposit to prove you’re serious.

8. When someone has a seizure, as happened during the conference, you mostly have to protect them from the good intentions of concerned bystanders. Don’t put anything in their mouth! (more) Cooler heads prevailed, and the unfortunate young man regained consciousness while waiting for first responders.

9. What the hell is this Russian hang-up with Ukraine? It came out of nowhere in the last place I expected, Atlanta. I had lunch with a seemingly nice guy who was both a libertarian and a bitcoin enthusiast. He should be an ally, right? As soon as I mentioned I was from Lviv, it started. That’s the poorest section of Ukraine. (It isn’t.) It’s the worst customer service in Europe. (My opinions vary.) Everyone who lives there wants to leave. (The population decline is actually the least dramatic in the west.) Ukraine’s economy isn’t even a fifth of Khazakstans. (Official numbers show them as close to equal, in fact.) Moscow, by contrast has had western style customer service for a long time. (I’ll take his word for it, because I have no desire to visit.) It’s a shit-hole. (Lviv rated #1 European city to visit.) His relatives are apparently burdened with occasionally having to visit the many apartments they own in Lviv — a consequence of their Soviet military past. The barbs kept coming. I politely disagreed, stated contrary impressions, failed several times to change the subject and restrained myself from escalating. Maybe I shouldn’t have. After lunch, he said goodbye with “nice meeting you, but I’m not sure I’d want to live in Lviv.” (I support that decision.) Maybe Muskovites like him fear Ukraine. They fear their own identity will be revealed as a hollow shell without the Ukrainian culture they claim as their own. I hope he watched the Klitschko – Povetkin fight.

10. Atlanta’s High Museum is awesome, and free for military veterans.


I also managed to visit Atlanta’s wonderful High Museum: