Sunset in Manila. Photo: iStock

“People have made fortunes off Bitcoin, some have lost money. It is volatile, but people make money off of volatility too.” — Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic

Could Bitcoin one day replace gold as a currency standard? Certainly not the most popular idea, but Luis Buenaventure, CTO of startup BloomSolutions, believes it very well could.

“Personally, I like BTC,” he said in an interview. “I am a bit of a maximalist in the sense that I think BTC is the cryptocurrency that will matter the most in the long run.

“I think it will eventually prove itself to be a genuine replacement for gold. This will be a common vehicle for investment and a store value for a lot of people who don’t have access to gold.”

Buenaventure will speak on this issue, and others at the upcoming Blockchain and Bitcoin Conference Philippines on December 6.

The one-day event, held at the Holiday Inn & Suites Makati, will be visited by technology developers, entrepreneurs, investors and miners, as well as top industry experts who will discuss relevant issues regarding Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and the emerging crypto world.

It is coordinated by Smile-Expo, an organizer of 47 successful Blockchain & Bitcoin Conferences in 25 countries.

Why the Philippines?  For one, the country has an established Blockchain Association of the Philippines (BAP), which aims at educating the population about the technology and connecting crypto businesses to enhance further innovations.

In addition, the Philippines’ Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has already given licenses to 19 different crypto exchanges. One of these DLT-based companies is an advanced crypto payment app, Coins.ph.

According to ValueCoders, the blockchain market is expected to be more than US$3 trillion by 2024, with continuing investment from 90% of European and North American banks.

It is estimated that banks could save 8%-12% annually by using blockchain technology.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin’s price soared 2,000% from January 2017 to December 2017 — from $953 to $20,089 — settling back down to about US$3,687 in late November. Despite that volatility, roughly US$9.8 billion has been raised through sales of new coins, or ICOs, since 2016.

And just this past week, The Independent reported that Bitcoin’s recent travails could be “the calm before the storm.” Following a recent selloff, which some have blamed on Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) crackdowns and other factors, market analysts still expect to see prices increase substantially over the long term.

Clearly, the future potential of DLT is there for the taking, and what better setting to get on board this rapidly expanding industry than the Blockchain and Bitcoin Conference.

Also slated at the event, a star-studded group of accomplished speakers, including Arvie de Vera, head of the Fintech Business Group at UnionBank of the Philippines. The latter  is one of the largest banks in the country, and has already integrated DLT into different internal processes.

Other speakers include:

  • James Florentino, CEO at MergeCommit — a company that plans to become the first DLT-based organization in Southeast Asia by 2025.
  • Lito Villanueva, Chairman at FinTechAlliance.ph — a collaboration of digital finance experts who plan to improve the country’s economy.
  • Luis Buenaventura, CTO of BloomSolutions — The firm’s total volume since inception has exceeded $125,000,000 as of March 2018, making it one of the most successful DLT remittance startups in the world. 
  • Business owner at TagcashMark Vernon — will explain what are the permissioned blockchains and will demonstrate use cases with MultiChain and Stellar. He will also touch on shared KYC, international remittance and supply chain tracking.
  • Jorge Azurin, CEO and Founder at MediXserve, will describe how DLT works in the medical industry, present real-life use cases and examine the future of healthcare with blockchain.

Buenaventura, in fact, believes that Bitcoin has already made substantial inroads into global financial circles.

“I think that digital coins enter our daily lives naturally,” he said. Remember the natural hype around cryptocurrencies in 2017, when prices were increasing. No marketing could have done that.

“BTC is discussed on TV, on Bloomberg, almost every hour now,” he added. “This is definitely what attracts new people to the market and investments to BTC.”

He also cites Monero as another useful digital currency.

“Talking about other digital coins that I like, I would mention Monero because it specializes in anonymity and I think it will always be useful. And that’s why I like Monero a lot.

“As for others, I certainly like Stellar but not necessarily because it’s crypto. I like the Stellar blockchain because it’s a specialized blockchain for money transfers. My company does a lot of work with the Stellar Foundation, and we’ve spent quite a lot of engineering hours helping Stellar to improve their product.”

Buenaventura — a fintech entrepreneur and author of “Reinventing Remittances with Bitcoin” — is also eager to address legal concerns over cryptocurrencies — an issue that has hurt its progress in North America.

“Countries regulate cryptocurrencies: there are laws for digital money exchanges and for DLT-based companies.” he said. “In the Philippines, there are certainly guidelines for that released by our Central Bank. So, if you are a remittance company which intends to utilize crypto, there are specific things you must do in order to be compliant with the law.

“But the good news is that the law actually exists. So, it’s not just the Philippines, it’s in Japan, in South Korea, and in a couple of other countries. I think that over the next few years, many more countries will just follow it. Cryptocurrency is just a thing that companies need to be able to use in a legitimate fashion.”

The conference’s program will also feature a panel discussion where professionals will talk about smart and legal contracts. One of the discussion’s participants will be Rafael Padilla who has been one of the founders of BAP.

Innovative developments in the industry will be presented in the exhibition area, and visitors will have a chance to discover new mining hardware, crypto payment solutions and DLT-based apps, as well as network with potential new business partners. 

According to Symantec, cryptocurrency mining was the biggest trend of 2017. “The surge in interest in this area was such that detections of coin miners on endpoint computers in 2017 surged by 8,500 percent,” the security firm wrote in a blog post.

Startups will also get a unique opportunity to find investments, as they will share ideas and introduce their brands during the pitch sessions. The most interesting initiative will receive capital for further project development.

Around the World:

It is worth noting that Switzerland is considered to be the leading blockchain country because of its positive treatment of the technology, tax-free environment and welcoming regulatory atmosphere.

One of the reasons the country has taken the first place is its virtual coins hub — “crypto valley” — which is located in the city of Zug.

Apart from that, the country demonstrates numerous innovative applications of the technology. For instance, in July 2018, it tested the DLT-based voting system.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Guardian, DLT-based companies in the UK have received more than £500 million (US$637 million) in investments during the past two years.

Then, in spring 2018, the country’s government announced a crypto asset task force to monitor cryptocurrencies and fintech industry with the aim to manage risks around crypto assets.

The Bank of England has also planned the advancement of Proof-of-Concept (PoC) blockchain by 2020.

In Germany, BTC is considered a legitimate currency. Also, in spring 2018, German securities bank, Wertpapierhandels Bank, has started to trade crypto coins.

The German solarisBank supports cryptocurrencies and offers a “blockchain company account,” which can be opened by DLT-startups.

The German population treat digital coins positively as well: recent report by the German Consumer Centers of Hesse and Saxony showed that over a quarter of young Germans are willing to invest in crypto.

In the Netherlands, the crypto investment environment remains unregulated according to the Netherlands’ Financial Supervision Act.

It also has the Dutch Blockchain Coalition — an organization including insurance giant ING, ANB AMRO bank, De Volksbank bank, Port of Rotterdam, Delft University of Technology and Tilburg University.

Divided into 20 groups, these organizations are implementing 35 separate DLT-based pilot projects, 25% of which are funded by the government.

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