Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is interviewed by GeekWire’s Todd Bishop at Town Hall in Seattle Oct. 14.

When thinking about what the next big technological advancement that takes the world by storm will be, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian tends to rely on an unexpected source: his father.

bitcoin_logoYep, that’s right — not a tech expert, his peers or a guy on Wall Street. Just his good ol’ pops, a 30-year veteran travel agent.

[Related: Reddit co-founder wants to reach profitablity with membership program, not ads]

During a fireside chat at Seattle’s Town Hall Monday night, GeekWire’s Todd Bishop asked Ohanian what he’s most excited about as an investor.

Bitcoin, an emerging decentralized, digital currency gaining popularity and making mainstream news headlines lately in light of the FBI shutting down Silk Road, was the first thing that came into his mind.

“I am cautiously optimistic about it — but I am intrigued,” said Ohanian, who has put money into more than 60 startups so far after selling Reddit in 2006.

The Cheese Wizards food truck hops around Seattle serving up grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. They also are now accepting Bitcoin as a payment option.
The Cheese Wizards food truck hops around Seattle serving up grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. They also are now accepting Bitcoin as a payment option.

Bishop brought up the fact that a Seattle foodtruck recently began accepting Bitcoin, and Ohanian said he knows of a bar in New York City that does that same.

But he’s not totally sold yet — that is, until his father starts talking about it.

“If it can get to the point where my Dad is like, ‘Hey, tell me about this Bitcoin thing, I’m really intrigued by it’ — then I’ll be like, ‘OK, all right,'” he said. “That’ll be the moment.”

Ohanian, who also noted crowdfunding as a space he’s optimistic about, was in town promoting his new book, Without Their Permission. We’ll have more from his talk later today on GeekWire.

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  • Christopher Budd

    Technically, Bitcoin isn’t the first virtual currency. Second Life’s Lindens have been around for a while (admittedly though in a much more narrow confine).

    I think the fact that Bitcoin’s value was impacted by the SIlk Road takedown is a mark of how volatile this currency is. And currencies aren’t something to mess with lightly. I worked in the securities industry right out of college and playing currency games were a great way to get rich and the lose it quickly.

    The biggest thing I think people don’t appreciate with Bitcoin is it lacks a number of controls and safeguards that we associate with modern, mature currencies. And so that just exacerbates the risks I’m talking about.

    And that’s not even accounting for the role of shady or criminal elements in using and manipulating the currency.

    I wouldn’t use Bitcoin as anything more than something like Microsoft points: you buy them to use them right away. I sure wouldn’t sit on any.

    • Voogru

      “And that’s not even accounting for the role of shady or criminal elements in using and manipulating the currency.”

      Because there’s no shady or criminal elements using and manipulating the US dollar.


      In fact, not only do criminals use US Dollars, but when the biggest ones get caught laundering money, they get off as long as they pay off the regulator.

      Sounds like rule of law to me.

    • Mark Williams

      Some people are “impulse shoppers”. When the impulse shoppers that had acquired bitcoins heard that Silk Road had been shutdown, they concluded that the utility of bitcoins had been lost and sold their bitcoins in accordance with that conclussion. That conclusion, however, was not a reasonable one according to the article located at Speaking to both Silk Road and Atlantis (a similar site that closed up shop prior Silk Roads’s shutdown) Bitcoin transactons, the reporter writes, “So about 0.5% of Bitcoin transactions were to buy drugs.”

    • Roger_Murdock

      Linden dollars and Microsoft points are centralized. They require trust in the issuing authority. And they can easily be shut down by a government should they ever get “too big.” Bitcoin is a new animal entirely. Here’s my standard explanation for why I consider Bitcoin to be so revolutionary and important:

      The reason it’s so hard for most people to understand Bitcoin is that most people don’t really understand money. Money isn’t wealth. It’s an accounting system used to facilitate the exchange of wealth. (The paradox of money is that while everyone wants it, no one actually wants it – they want the stuff they can buy with it!) Many people are put off by the fact that bitcoins are “just data.” But that’s what ALL money is, information! More precisely, money is a means for credibly conveying information about value given but not yet received (or at least not yet received in a form in which it can directly satisfy a person’s wants or needs).

      To put it yet another way, money is a ledger. With fiat currencies like the dollar, that ledger is centralized. And that gives the central authority responsible for maintaining that ledger tremendous power, power that history has proven will inevitably be abused. With Bitcoin, the ledger is decentralized. And that means that no one individual or entity has the power to arbitrarily create new units (thereby causing inflation), freeze (or seize) your account, or block a particular payment from being processed. We’ve had decentralized money before. After all, no one can simply print new gold into existence. And the “ledger” of gold is distributed because the physical gold itself (the “accounting entries” in the metaphor) is distributed. But with gold, that decentralization comes at a heavy price (literally). The physical nature of gold makes it hugely inefficient from a transactional perspective.

      Enter Bitcoin.

      It is the first currency in the world that is both decentralized AND digital. It is more reliably scarce than gold, more transactionally efficient than “modern” digital banking, and enables greater financial privacy than cash. It could certainly still fail for one reason or another, but if it doesn’t, it has the potential to be very, VERY disruptive.

  • dakini_3

    Here is Seattle #throughglass Album from last night’s event:

  • ParanoidPanda

    Bitcoin is not the first virtual currency to exist. Bitcoin is the first *decentralized* currency to exist. We had been trying for a while to implement a decentralized currency, but we couldn’t solve the “double-spending” problem in a decentralized way. There had been this notion of “time-stamping” a transaction to prevent double-spending, but nobody knew how to pull it off in a trust-less decentralize system. That is what Satoshi figured out. He solved the double-spend problem. He invented/discovered a way to time-stamp transactions in a trustless decentralized system (the solution manifests in what we call a blockchain). This had never been done before. He pulled together some very powerful ideas in an incredibly brilliant way. The first implementation, Bitcoin, followed shortly after.

    I think this is important to point out. Too many people think of bitcoin as just some re-hashed version of eGold, or any other virtual currency. They aren’t aware that bitcoin actually is something brand new, with properties that have never existed in any currency before it (virtual or otherwise). It really is new technology, and offers things that no other currency has to offer.

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