Overcoming the Crypto-Winter in Sunny Barcelona

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The recent BTCONF2019, held in Barcelona in mid-July, was a great opportunity to asses the state of the crypto-industry. Saga’s VP Product, Shai Kritz, shares his observations

It’s safe to say there is no shortage of cryptocurrency events in Europe, but finding a conference that brings together leading minds in the trading, payment, crypto and exchanges space is still rare. The recent Finance Magnates Barcelona Trading Conference (BTCONF2019) managed to achieve this with two days of panels on securities, tokenization, and blockchain, but what were the key takeaways from the event? I would like to share my perspective.

One prominent theme was that the industry is starting to mature and as each day passes businesses are developing a greater understanding of what their role is in the ecosystem is. But is this any different from 12 to 24 months ago? Well, when we think back to 2017, “what will the price of bitcoin be?” was the question everyone was asking, but there is now a change in attitude at industry events; regulation, strategy, and purpose are the topics dominating conversations.

These three points stem from the crypto winter the industry suffered back in 2018, and while there is no doubt that the Bitcoin crash hurt a lot in the industry, this moment provided a sense of realisation for many. Firms have taken a step back and have had a hard look at their proposition, and as a result, they are now focusing on strengthening their foundations to make sure the infrastructure is in place to succeed in the coming years.

When speaking to attendees at the event, discussions about Bitcoin were practically non-existent. Instead, stablecoins were a hot topic of conversation. Stablecoins rose to prominence following the price crash in 2018 and many see them as a viable alternative to Bitcoin.

Saga’s Founder, Ido Sadeh Man, participated in the panel debate about definition and ramifications of stablecoins. While some believe stablecoins are the solution we need, he believes “stablecoins are not currencies nor do they have a monetary essence and this is by design — they are just renouncing all other functions in favor of stability.” This view was actually agreed upon by most of his fellow panel members.

Naturally, the conversation then moved to the elephant in the room: Facebook’s Libra. While attendees at the event weren’t focusing on Libra as much as the media, those in the room still had strong views on the digital currency, with Ido making the point that “Libra is not a Stablecoin, Facebook would benefit a lot from us thinking it was a Stablecoin. From a monetary perspective, Libra makes sense, however, I am afraid we may see that the current governance mechanism of Libra may lead to unification, not fragmentation.” This sentiment seemed consistent across the room with attendees overall being skeptical of Facebook’s new digital currency.

After two days of panels and keynote speeches, looking back to the discussions myself and the team was having with attendees, we can boil the event down to three key points:

  1. In light of recent market uncertainty over the past few months, businesses are sticking to what they know, trying to develop on the foundations set, and looking for partnerships to assist them in doing so.
  2. The market is tough, but every time a company moves forward it strengthens the ecosystem on the whole.
  3. The industry is filtering out the scammers, and with fewer projects being launched, we are seeing solid propositions remain.

There’s no doubt the last few months have been turbulent for the crypto industry. We’ve seen highs and lows, and we’ve seen firms try to run before they can walk. But based on our visit to Barcelona, we are certain of the industry’s internal strength and are assured that only the firms that know their purpose in the ecosystem will survive.

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