On Thursday, Eli and I went to the first official Bitcoin meetup at the year, hosted by Espacio Bitcoin. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but were excited to be in a bigger group of Bitcoin users and learn more about some of the startups in the space.
We arrived at 6pm, and in typical Argentine style the hosts hadn’t yet set up for the meetup. More guests arrived and mingled upstairs while the Espacio Bitcoiners, unhurried by the onslaught of guests, continued to set up. Once we were all seated in the room it became strikingly noticeable that of the 40 or so people in attendance, only three were women.
Ariel Aguilar, the “Evangelista Bitcoin” who we met last week, greeted us and explained that he was going to give the same introductory presentation as last week, and gave Eli and I a beer for sitting through it again. Hearing the presentation again cleared up some of the language barrier issues for me, and it was clear from the audience’s reception that many people in the crowd knew less about Bitcoin than we initially thought. The next presenter spoke about Bitcoin’s specific role in the financial market and the amount of worldwide investment in cryptocurriences over the last year. Despite showing a chart that displayed the major price drop in 2014, he remained optimistic and projected that 2015 would bring a huge rise in the amount of merchants accepting the currency. Some of the audience was clearly lost at this point, and the presenter just sort of stopped midway through to answer questions as side chatter filled the room.
The final presenter was Ramiro Gamen, representing Factom, one of the startups in the space. One of the most interesting and significant aspects of Bitcoin is its underlying technology — the “Blockchain” (where transactions take place) makes it impossible for users to falsify data or personal information. The blockchain acts as a permanent public record, making reading that information extremely useful to companies and governments. Factom is a company that reads the blockchain and sorts the data based on user and transaction type, essentially packaging together information to then be sold. In essence, a cryptographic data mining company. While we were able to keep up with most of what Mr. Gamen was saying despite the language barrier, it seemed that much of the audience was completely lost. Although Gamen spoke about Blockchain in fairly simple terms, the audience could not wrap their heads around the technology, or its use. After a somewhat unclear analogy about publicizing land titles via the Blockchain, the presentation devolved into an argument between an audience member and Gamen over the ethicality of land titles being publicized.
Overall, we were disappointed in the event’s lack of organization — however, we felt like we definitely got a better understanding of the Argentine bitcoin user. From our observation it seems that aside from the small group of Bitcoin experts who are running companies and heavily involved with the foundation, the more casual user is mostly interested in learning how Bitcoin can help them avoid sending money through Western Union to their family abroad, or as a way to skirt the Blue Dolar market. We’ll be posting soon outlining just how this is possible.