Warren Buffett famously called bitcoin (BTC) “rat poison,” but venture capital experts say he and other naysayers are looking at cryptocurrencies as an “asset class” and nothing more. “This is an entirely new stack we’re going to build applications on, and the tokens are just the fuel,” said Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson during the Consensus 2018 conference in New York.

At the same time, Balaji Srinivasan, Coinbase’s chief technology officer predicted crypto will become the world’s largest equity market: “If Twitter turned everyone on the internet into publishers, blockchain will turn everyone in the world to investors.”

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In a much-anticipated speech Wednesday, Square and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey clarified his past predictions that bitcoin will become the internet’s default currency. “The internet deserves a native currency. It will have a native currency,” he said. “I don’t know if it will be bitcoin. I hope it will.”

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Mobile wallets are in fashion. HTC announced Exodus, what it calls “the world’s first blockchain phone,” featuring a universal wallet and secure hardware to support trading in ether (ETH), bitcoin and decentralized applications.

But that’s not all. As part of its effort to offer a more robust cryptocurrency trading exchange and expand to the U.S., social investing network eToro plans its own mobile wallet. Also, goTenna co-founder and CEO Daniela Perdomo announced plans to marry mobile mesh networking and the Samurai digital wallet to create a mobile app for cryptocurrency transfer called TxTenna.

If such transfers are reliant on internet service providers and mobile carriers, “we don’t have a decentralized currency system,” Perdomo said.

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How do you attract institutional investors to cryptocurrencies? You don’t. Their clients will.

“The best way to get a big bank moving is when their clients demand exposure” to financial products like cryptocurrency, said Juthica Chou, Ledgerx president and co-founder.

So how do you get those clients interested? BitMEX CEO Arthur Hayes said recent lower stock volatility will drive some investors to crypto for a simple reason: “It’s more entertaining.” 

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There was plenty of bling at Consensus 2018. One of the most popular exhibition booths didn’t have much to do with blockchain, but it certainly had flash. Crypto Jewelry showcased a display of jewel-encrusted rings emblazoned with the bitcoin logo. Its website lists a jewel-encrusted bitcoin at $13,350, a bit more than the cost of one bitcoin, as of Wednesday afternoon.

And there was more: Social media photos showed pricey Lamborghinis parked outside the conference. These were matched by a private party featuring rapper and crypto devotee Snoop Dogg, making it truly a Doggy Dogg World.

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As the slowdown in mining cryptocurrency continues, SONM co-founder Aleksei Antonov predicts that “in the end, real-world business tasks and mining tasks will unify in one class of tasks.”

SONM Livenet, launching in June, has 50 companies that “want to offer real-world tasks” for miners to tackle securely and privately. With shifts to proof-of-stake and other challenges without a focus on real-world tasks, the incentives to mine for many might be obsolete “by Christmas,” Antonov predicted.

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How deep are the wounds caused by New York state’s decision to create the BitLicense, a business license of virtual currency activities? Just mentioning the word generated hearty boos from the Consensus audience.

BitLicense made New York look like “an enemy of innovation,” said ShapeShift AG CEO Erik Voorhees. But there’s one consolation: “If New York City loses the financial industry, it could still be the center of conferences,” he said.

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To help drive enterprise adoption of blockchain, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance announced a complete specification for enterprise Ethereum. The specification, which could ultimately lead to standards, will help speed developer adoption. “The market wants competition,” said executive director Ron Resnick. “It wants multiple vendors of choice.”

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Elusive Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto wasn’t at Consensus — at least as far as we know — but his presence was felt in attendees’ sartorial choices. “Satoshi Search Party,” read one T-shirt. “Satoshi is a woman,” read another.

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What’s in a name? If it’s the URL tokens.com, quite a bit.

“You don’t want to know what we paid for it,” said Polymath CEO Trevor Koverko, who also announced the company acquired a large stake in the Barbados Stock Exchange. The company will use the tokens.com web address for a database of tokens.

Mark Toner
Mark Toner is a Washington, D.C., writer and editor. He has covered business, technology, media, education, and healthcare for a wide range of trade and industry publications.