On Friday, June 19th the Canadian Senate’s Committee for Banking, Trade and Commerce released its report on digital currencies. Ultimately, the report is very positive and hopefully a sign of how Canadian regulators will approach innovative applications of blockchain technology in the future. Decentral Consulting Services put together an overview of the report, along with some analysis of how its recommendations fit into revent developments in the blockchain industry.
You can find the report here
Toronto Techno Crypto 2015-09-16
Hi! I’m Josh, the new COO of decentral.tv. I’m excited to be joining the team here at Decentral, and want to take a minute to tell you a little about what we have planned in the coming months.
First, a little about me. Before coming to Decentral I worked at a legal consultancy, and before that, I articled at a full-service law firm in downtown Toronto. My JD is from U of T, and my Bachelors’ was from McGill, in International Development Studies & Philosophy.
I first heard about Bitcoin during law school (from the now-infamous Gawker article about Silk Road). Like many at the time, I mostly dismissed it. The price surge of 2013 obviously caught my eye, but it wasn’t until this past December that I started to understand why so many people are passionate about it.
After spending 3 months consuming everything about Bitcoin and blockchain that I could get my hands on, I started hanging around meetings at Decentral, and eventually, volunteering and helping out with events. When Anthony offered me an opportunity to join the team, I jumped on it. After a whirlwind trip to the Texas Bitcoin Conference in Austin, I’m back in the office building the new decentral.tv.
The goal of decentral.tv is simple: get interesting people in front of a camera and learn as much as possible from them. There are three ways I want to do this better:
1) Panels & debates. The Bitcoin community likes to argue. About a lot of things. Should Bitcoin companies partner with traditional financial institutions, or is the whole point of the technology to work around them? What’s the best way to increase mainstream adoption? Should we increase the block size? What role should organizations like the Bitcoin Foundation play?
These debates are important. This is a young technology, and we’re a young industry. The people building both are making difficult decisions every day, and the answers they come to on the questions above will play a part in determining the future direction of the industry. We want to play a role in that conversation.
We’re going to pick big issues the community cares about, find notable people with strong opinions about those issues, and let them have that debate on camera. The point isn’t to create conflict. The point of a debate is to get smart people to hash out the flaws in each other’s arguments, and through that process, present the best version of each side of an issue to our viewers. It’s also something I know a little about.
2) Interviews relevant to the news of the day. We’re a small team juggling a lot of other responsibilities, so it isn’t always easy to get content up the same day we film it. But we’re going to try and do this more often. We want you to be able to come to decentral.tv and watch people in the industry giving their views on the news of today, not news from last week.
3) Guests from outside the community. We want to have more people on the show from outside the Bitcoin community. A lot of the Bitcoin media is focused on a small number of people at a small number of companies. We want to broaden our reach to include more people from outside the industry who have a valuable perspective to add. Economists, policy wonks, lawyers, consultants, merchants, and activists all have valuable perspectives that aren’t always present in the (still relatively small) Bitcoin community.
We have a lot more planned, but that should give you a good idea of the direction we’re taking. More to come as our plans take shape.
DEC_TECH, formerly known as the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup, will connect startups, entrepreneurs, investors, and marketers who have a passion for decentralized tech, cryptocurrencies and fintech.
Decentral is pleased to announce that the first ever Decentralized Technology (
DEC_TECH) event will be held at MaRS Discovery District on March 17, 2015. The keynote speaker will be Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop, antonopoulos.com), a renowned Bitcoin evangelist and author of Mastering Bitcoin. His keynote address will be on “Bitcoin and the Future of Payments.” Register here.
“As one of the most recognizable names in the cryptocurrency space, we’re thrilled to feature Andreas M. Antonopoulos at our inaugural DECTECH event,” said Anthony Di Iorio, CEO and Founder of Decentral and host of
DEC_TECH. “Antonopoulos has spoken at events around the world and is a highly sought-after consulting authority.”
Last year, Antonopoulos addressed the Canadian Senate and recently helped make the case for Bitcoin before the Australian Senate. His book, Mastering Bitcoin, is considered to be the authoritative resource on Bitcoin and blockchain technology.
DEC_TECH will begin at 6:30p.m. with an introduction by host Anthony Di Iorio. Presenters include Amber Scott, chief AML Ninja at Outlier Solutions, on the topic of the current state of digital currency regulation in Canada, and Gerald Cotten, CEO of QuadrigaCX, which recently announced that it is set to become the first publicly traded Bitcoin exchange in the world.
In addition to the presentations,
DEC_TECH will showcase select Toronto based Bitcoin companies including Coinkite, QuadrigaCX, and Cryptiv.
“As Toronto’s fintech community continues to grow, MaRS is excited to connect the startups, entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts who are passionate about decentralized tech, cryptocurrencies and fintech advancement,” said Adam Nanjee, lead, MaRS FinTech.
See a full list of participating startups and speakers at the
DEC_TECH event page.
Space for this free event is limited and guests are asked to register in advance. Doors open at 6:00p.m., with presentations from 6:30p.m. until 8:00p.m. and networking opportunities and refreshments to follow until 8:30p.m.
Formerly known as the Toronto Bitcoin Meetup,
DEC_TECH is organized by Decentral in Toronto in partnership with MaRS Discovery District to provide a hub for people with a passion for decentralized tech, cryptocurrencies and fintech advancement. Join the community and register for the event here.
About MaRS Discovery District
MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD) in Toronto is one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs. MaRS cultivates high-impact ventures and equips innovators to drive economic and societal prosperity. MaRS provides expert advice and market research, and makes connections to talent, customers and capital. MaRS startup ventures have created 6,500 jobs and, in the last three years alone, they have raised $1 billion in capital and generated $500 million in revenue.
For more information, please contact:
Anthony Di Iorio
CEO and Founder
Manager, Media & Community
MaRS Discovery District
*Decentral.tv, the premier source for bitcoin and decentralized technology videos, is now the exclusive video content provider for BTC Media*
Decentral.tv is excited to announce that it has entered into a partnership to become the exclusive video content provider for BTC Media LLC, the world’s largest Bitcoin media group. BTC Media LLC is the parent company of financial technology magazine yBitcoin and its website http://www.ybitcoin.com, as well as the recently acquired Bitcoin Magazine and http://www.bitcoinmagazine.com.
“yBitcoin has always stood out as a well-run publication,” said Anthony Di Iorio, founder and CEO of decentral.tv. “Now that Bitcoin Magazine is also in the capable hands of BTC Media and Calli and David Bailey, I’m excited to see where he’ll take this publication moving forward. This partnership between BTC Media and decentral.tv has great potential to provide a valuable service to the bitcoin community.”
David Bailey, CEO of BTC Media, was equally enthusiastic about the prospect of co-operating with decentral.tv. “For us, partnering with decentral.tv was a no-brainer,” he said. “Live video is the next step in delivering high quality content to the community in real time, and is sorely needed in the Bitcoin space. Given Anthony Di Iorio’s proven track record of executing and delivering on challenging projects, we jumped at the chance to bring our readers first hand access to decentral.tv.”
As part of this alliance, decentral.tv will provide exclusive video coverage of major events on behalf of BTC Media, as well as contribute weekly written content to Bitcoin Magazine, including recaps of Decentral Talk Live episodes, information on upcoming shows, and articles highlighting topics featured in selected DTL episodes.
Decentral Talk Live is a daily talk show that airs Monday to Friday. Hosts Anthony Di Iorio and Ethan Wilding, along with a rotating panel of guest hosts, cover a variety of topics relevant to the Bitcoin community by interviewing prominent names and companies in the crypto space.
Decentral.tv is a 24-hour interactive dashboard featuring video segments, interviews, curated news and information, a Twitter feed, charts, and customizable exchange tickers. It delivers globally relevant content with news about Bitcoin and other decentralized and disruptive technologies.
For media and partnership inquiries or to suggest news and story ideas, please contact Ethan Wilding or Anthony Di Iorio at info.decentral.ca or call +1-416-831-9593.
Wed. January 28th. 7pm
A recent study out of the University of Colorado Boulder outlines the ways in which money transfers from migrant workers to families in developing countries help reduce poverty and improve their standard of living. The study was conducted in partnership with money transfer service company Western Union, and it touts the benefits that transferring money via Western Union brings to low-income communities around the world. Here are some of the highlights:
Communities that are recipients of remittances benefit from the influx of foreign currency, both directly and indirectly.
a) Recipients will often reduce their work hours or drop out of the workforce altogether, usually in order to get an education or care for young children or aging relatives.
b) Older recipients are able to retire and enjoy a better quality of life.
c) This diminished local workforce often results in higher wages for other members of the community.
d) Spending on local goods and services, as well as personal savings, increases, indirectly benefiting the rest of the community by creating better employment opportunities and supporting higher wages.
Remittance flows have become the second largest, and most stable, source of foreign currency and development assistance worldwide.
Official development assistance used to be the largest contributor but, in the past 25 years, it has been outpaced dramatically by foreign direct investment (FDI) and remittances. FDI can be extremely volatile and unstable, depending on global financial markets, but remittances have seen steady and stable growth.
- Most remittances flow to middle income countries (71%) with just 6% flowing to low-income countries
- Remittances to low income countries, however, now represent 8% of the GDP (up from 2% in 2008), compared to 2% of GDP for middle-income countries. Thus, the impact of remittances is felt more acutely in low-income countries.
The general trend worldwide is toward lower official transmission rates, according to a World Bank report in September of 2014.
The global average transmission rate fell below 8% for the first time in Q4 2014, to 7.9%, down from 8.93% in Q3 2013. The average remittance cost declined most sharply for East Asia.
The Philippines as a case study
According to the study, every ₱100 spent by households generates ₱223 of additional output. On average, each Western Union affiliate office transmits ₱23.2 million in remittances ($552,941 USD), enough to support an additional 85 full-time jobs, usually in the area where the WU office is located. (272,949 = 1 f/t worker)
Overall, remittances through WU offices in the Philippines are then calculated in the study as:
- 25% of all remittances for the country
- generating approximately 720,825 full-time jobs
Apart from banks and Western Union, informal remittances contribute another 30-40% of foreign currency that flows into the Philippines.
A Bitcoin Perspective
The most interesting thing about this report, from a bitcoin perspective, is the overall conclusion that remittances offer a net gain for recipient communities. There are some potential drawbacks, but the study concludes that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Imagine if even one half of those Western Union remittances had been sent using bitcoin.
In the Philippines, sites like coins.ph and rebit.ph make it safe and simple for Filipino recipients to receive and convert bitcoins into pesos. According to the Rebit website, they charge no fees on their transaction.
Fees may be charged to exchange your BTC for pesos, depending on how you choose to receive your money:
“These fees are paid directly to the provider you select. For example, Cebuana Lhuillier cash pickup will charge an additional PhP240 for a PhP10,000 transfer. Meanwhile, a bank account deposit within Metro Manila is free. As you fill in the rebittance form, the pricing display on the sidebar changes to show you what the total cost of the transfer will be.” – rebit.ph
Using this model, let’s see what would happen if even half of those Western Union transfers had been made in bitcoin:
According to the study out of University of Colorado Boulder, each Western Union office, on average, handles ₱23.2 million in remittances. Half of those remittances equals ₱11.6 million. Transferring that ₱11.6 million in bitcoin would have saved ₱812,000 (@7%) in fees. (I based this percentage on the average quoted in the study.)
According to the study’s calculations, ₱272, 949 in remittances = 1 full-time job created. That means approximately two more full-time workers could have been hired (1.97) at each Western Union location if just half of those transaction had been made in bitcoin. Nationally, that works out to about 167,450 additional jobs!
I also spoke with Philip Agyei Asare, a Bitcoin advocate in Ghana, and asked him if it was just as easy for average Ghanaians to buy, transfer, and sell bitcoins as it is for them to use Western Union and other traditional remittance agencies. He assured me it was; in fact, many Africans also use bitcoin to shop online.
“[People] just need to be educated on how to use the platform [and then be able to educate] the people in diaspora because they will be sending in money to their family and loved ones in Africa,” he said.
Asare is doing his part to help educate: He has been invited to speak on the topic of “Bitcoin in Africa” at the [Bitcoin Consumer Fair in Atlanta] (http://bitcoinconsumerfair.com/) this April. (If you would like to support his efforts to attend, you are welcome to send tips/donations to his address: 1BNht8bCmbZVkmR2FJQaWh7Gmcr2qLZCod).
Some final thoughts…
There are two lines in the report that stood out for me:
- “The Central Bank and other bankers dislike any proliferation of informal remittance agents who transfer funds through informal channels for lower fees than formal banks and transmission services can charge. However informal transmissions may begin to slow as the cost of formal remittance cost declines.” Perhaps what we can take away from this statement is as follows: Banks and other formal remittance services are having to play catch-up when it comes to charging less for remittances now that other informal channels – like bitcoin – are offering cheaper and faster alternatives.
- “As the [cost percentage] rate of formal services declines, senders will increasingly utilize formal mechanisms, due to higher convenience and security, compared to informal channels.” Unless the informal channel you are using is Bitcoin, of course, with its highly secure protocol. The flipside to this statement in the study is that people are looking for low-cost, secure ways to send and receive money. Here is where bitcoin is able to make inroads.
As for expecting people to return to using traditional transmission services just because their fees go down a bit, that might be wishful thinking on the part of the Central Bank and Western Union, especially if they could understand just what sort of impact the savings could have on the local economy.
Disclaimer/note: Referencing coins.ph and rebit.ph does not mean that I endorse either website, or that one company is any better than the other. I chose to use rebit.ph in my example simply because I found the website a bit easier to navigate and the answers to my questions were clear.
From a New York apartment (with the Freedom Tower posing ironically as a backdrop) Charlie Shrem beamed into the Toronto Decentral meet-up on Wednesday evening. He talked about his history with BitInstant and his plans for the future in front of the standing-room only crowd, and answered questions for an hour. Here’s are some of the highlights of what he said.
On his Bitcoin beginnings:
Shrem first became interested in bitcoins when he heard about its ability to send value over the Internet without having to trust a third party. He didn’t think it could possibly be secure so he set out to “break” the protocol. Of course, like so many others who first got into bitcoins this way – he couldn’t.
As the price of bitcoins started to rise (and fall and rise again!), he realized that the most important thing for him to do was to get them into the hands of as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. That was how BitInstant was born.
On the banking industry:
“I think I’ve been kicked out of every bank personally – and corporate – in New York City,” said Shrem with a laugh.
On BitInstant and its legacy:
Shrem reflected on the cumbersome, time-consuming process of buying bitcoins before BitInstant. In its heyday, BitInstant provided access to bitcoins at a million different locations worldwide – 700,000 in the USA alone – and employed twenty employees. Then, in June 2013, FINcen regulations had made it impossible to continue operations, and Shrem was forced to shut BitInstant down.
“We were already onto our Bitcoin evangelizing at that point. I really wasn’t too sad about it. We didn’t owe anyone any money,” Shrem reminded the crowd. Not too many defunct bitcoin companies can make that claim.
On the Bitcoin Foundation and its “pivot” toward core development:
Shrem recalled the early discussions in 2013 he had with Gavin Andresson, Roger Ver, and Eric Voorhees in Austria. Silk Road had been garnering a lot of negative press for bitcoin and they talked about the need to have better information and representation for Bitcoin.
A little while later, after talking with some other people, “Standardize, Protect, Promote,” became the goal of the Bitcoin Foundation.
Shrem agreed that the scope of the Foundation had become too wide over the past few years and it needed to narrow somewhat. The idea of focussing strictly on core development isn’t exactly what the Foundation originally set out to do, but it’s what it needs to do now. He stressed that the Foundation isn’t the only “voice of Bitcoin;” it represents its members, not the whole Bitcoin community.
Shrem praised the Bitcoin community for calling out scammers when they see them. He used the recent outcry over Paycoin as a good example of this sort of community monitoring.
Shrem also praised Moe Levin, TNABC organizer, for not revoking Josh Garza’s invitation to speak at the conference, for the sake of openness and transparency, and thought the situation played out just right in the end.
On his new project, ActionCrytpo:
Shrem said he was impressed by the transparency and openness on on-chain gaming sites. “One great bitcoin utility is gaming,” he said. The Internet gaming and gambling industry is rife with scams and cheats, but by using the blockchain and time stamps, that negative part of the equation is eliminated.
With ActionCrypto, people can buy an option on the future price of bitcoin at a particular point in time. The blockchain deals with everything; it’s totally transparent and no-one can cheat, he says.
So far, ActionCrypto has been making inroads around the world in countries like Canada, Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey and a variety of EU locations – just not in the US. “All US addresses are blocked,” says Shrem, citing regulatory concerns.
On going to jail: “A good place to be to talk about Bitcoin!”
While going to jail for any length of time is not on anyone’s wish list, Shrem seemed content with the way his case was resolved. It could have ended up a lot worse, he pointed out: at one point he was facing the prospect of up to 30 years in prison. “This time next year, it will all be behind me,” he said.
On the future of Bitcoin: Price, adoption, and regulation
Shrem’s recurring advice on bitcoin was “Buy and hold!” He pointed out that he has already seen many ups and downs over the years with the price of bitcoin – “This is about my fifth bubble” – and reminded the audience that “the price is not a sign of the economy” of bitcoin.
He expressed his faith in the Bitcoin community’s ability to grow the Bitcoin economy through education and advocacy. The biggest roadblock to adoption, he said, was misinformation. Plenty pf people have heard about Bitcoin at this point, but don’t know anything about it. He said that we need to (1) give people a reason to use it and then (2) make them use it without even knowing it.
Companies that play wth the utility of Bitcoin are the ones that will drive Bitcoin into the mainstream, Shrem said. Micropayments and remittances and anything that reached out to the underbanked of the world are key areas for companies to build on.
Want to hear more about Charlie Shrem’s perspectives on his trial, his politics, Mt Gox and Mark Karpeles, and the future of Bitcoin in the USA? Watch the full meet-up interview here on decentral.tv
Updated: Tuesday, January 20
Last Wednesday at the Decentral meet-up, part of the discussion touched on the idea that while it’s getting much easier to SPEND bitcoins, buying bitcoins is still a pretty daunting task.
Sure, there are a few bitcoin ATMs sprinkled around the world, (including one here at Decentral), and there’s also LocalBitcoins as an option. But what if you don’t live in a city with a BTM? What if there isn’t a LocalBitcoins trader handy? Or if you don’t feel like schlepping across town to find the BTM or the trader?
This lack of access to coins was lamented as a real barrier to adoption. Why would anyone in the Western world go to the trouble of sourcing out bitcoins when fiat money is so darn handy? And using PayPal for online purchases or accepting payments? Piece of cake!
Philosophical arguments aside (and yes, those definitely came up!) I thought I’d try to challenge this premise by going right back to the roots of setting up a bank account, a PayPal account, and an account on an exchange. Since I’ve never tried to set up a new bank account with a new bank online, and it’s been 10 years since I set up my PayPal account, I decided to start from scratch. I’m not much of a techie, so I figured, if I can sort my way through the processes, anyone can.
(Note: I could also have gone into the process of applying for a new credit card but chose not to go through that whole thing too. Suffice to say, the last time I got a card, it took a good week and a half to get it delivered and the PIN number – mailed separately – got lost in the mail.)
For now, let’s imagine I live in Northern Ontario. There are no BTMs and the nearest LocalBitcoin trader is a dogsled ride away. But there is a bank down the road and I have a decent Internet connection.
Scenario 1: Get an online bank account.
To get a bank account at one major Canadian bank, here is what they want me to do:
That’s a lot of personal information. And some of it has to be mailed, depending on the option I choose.
So I go through the process of applying for my account. That part is pretty quick and easy. Verfying my account, however, requires that I ALREADY HAVE an account at another bank. Otherwise, I have to go into a branch in person. So much for getting all set up strictly from the comfort of my living room.
Scenario 2: Set up a PayPal account:
Some of us at the meet-up talked about the ease of using our existing PayPal accounts to make and accept payments. Again, philosophical arguments aside, I decide to investigate how easy it is to work with PayPal, starting from the account sign-up stage.
Signing up with PayPal is also pretty easy. I just use my email address for verification, and it takes about 5 minutes.
So I now have my new bank account and new PayPal account.
Scenario 3: Set up an account at a bitcoin exchange
First, I open a new account on the QuadrigaCX exchange and it takes about 5 minutes. Now, if I want to buy bitcoins, I need to fund my account; that is, I need to put money into my Quadriga account so that I can use the money to buy bitcoins. Quadriga offers a few ways to do this:
If I want to get my bitcoins, I’ll need to transfer money from my bank. Getting my money transferred right away using INTERAC Online will cost me at least $5 and I’ll need to get verified. These are the documents Quadriga asks for in order to get verified.
- My phone number
- Scan of a Passport or Drivers license (Must be in colour)
- Scan of a bank statement or utility bill showing my name and full address
- Photo of me holding the ID that I have provided
Once I email or upload these documents to the site’s secure server, it can take up to 48 hours for them to get verified. That is a bit of a set-back if I want to buy bitcoins today.
Scenario 4: Set up an account at a digital currency retailer
Undeterred, I also open an account with Harbor.ly. The verification process at this digital currency retailer is pretty simple as well, but if you aren’t comfortable using social media as third-party authenticators, this site might not be for you.
Next, I have to hook my Harborly account up to my bank account. Once again, like QuadrigaCX, it’s going to take up to 48 hours to get a new account verified.
So, yes, getting set up online to buy bitcoins can have a bit of a delay while your account is verified. Keep in mind that most of these processes are part of KYC compliance requirements.
On the other hand, the amount of personal information that I handed over to the exchange and retailer is comparable to setting up a bank account and a PayPal account.
It’s also going to take about a week for me to get my new bank card in the mail. There are plenty of delays no matter what you’re trying to do.
All set up and ready to get me some BTC
Now, let’s look at costs:
- Harborly charges 1% on transactions
- QuadrigaCX charges 0.05% on all completed trades.
With QuadrigaCX, once I have my account verified and funded, it only takes me a few seconds to buy my bitcoins. And if I want to sell my coins and transfer the money to my bank account, it usually takes a few hours for an e-transfer to go through.
Let’s look at what it costs to move money around with PayPal. It has a pretty complicated fee schedule. Here is what it would cost me to receive $500 from somewhere within Canada:
Whoa. In my case, I have several US clients. That costs even MORE to get paid by them.
But now, let’s look at how long it takes to actually GET funds. Some banks will hold deposits on new accounts for up to 5 business days. When I get paid by clients using PayPal, it takes 3-5 business days for funds in my PayPal account to show up in my bank account. So there is still a significant waiting period involved there.
UPDATE: Another way to get BTC online right away
I also tried buying some bitcoins on QuickBT. If you really want to get your hands on a small amount of bitcoin ASAP, you can buy up to 0.2BTC almost instantly. All you need is a wallet address (if you don’t have one, they provide a links to Blockchain.info and Coinkite), a phone number, and an email address.
I entered my wallet address and got an instant quote:
Then I entered my phone number, received a PIN code, and paid online from my bank account via INTERAC. (Note: I couldn’t use my new bank account yet since I still had to wait another week or so for my new bank card.)
Moments later, I had my bitcoins and a confirmation was emailed to me.
By far, this was the quickest and most convenient way to get started with bitcoins. The only drawbacks are that (a) you can only buy a small amount in any given day, and (b) it will cost you more (about 10.5% in fees) than waiting a few days and buying through sites like QuadrigaCX or Harborly.
I will grant that since most of us have bank accounts and some of us are already hooked up with PayPal, the pressing need to set up an account at a bitcoin exchange isn’t really there unless we really want to get our hands on some bitcoins. Of course it is easier to stick with what you know. But if you are willing to wait a day or two to get verified on an exchange like QuadrigaCX or Harborly – or get started in minutes on QuickBT if you are willing to pay a bit more – there are definite benefits. It’s not really as onerous a task as you might have thought.
When you compare the effort involved in setting up an online bank account to setting up an account on a bitcoin exchange, it’s not all that different. The main difference, of course, is that you probably already have a bank account. In the end, however, I’ve found it has saved me both time and money to move funds around in bitcoin, so it seems to have been well worth the small initial effort.
For another interesting discussion on this topic that has more of an international/American bent to it, check out this Reddit thread that, coincidentally, popped up over the weekend:
So – how do you buy your bitcoins?
Wednesday, Jan. 21st. 7pm