As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s VP, Sarah Martin, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in Hong Kong on May 14-15, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Leonhard Weese, the President of the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong.
Sarah: Tell us about how and why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies.
Leonhard: I learned about Bitcoins first when I researched ‘Free Banking’ theories while studying economics. I was incredibly impressed with Bitcoin, because it solved an old and complicated problem in a neat way.
I actually found it much easier to understand than the status quo. I only got involved after my master’s degree, though, when I worked for a data mining startup.
Sarah: What inspired you to launch the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong?
Leonhard: It was a collaborative effort by quite a few people. We are convinced that Bitcoin will become very big, and that the community will eventually outgrow itself. Without some degree of organization and coordination we fear we won’t be able to fulfill our potential as educators and lobbyists for this groundbreaking innovation.
Sarah: What makes Hong Kong a unique ecosystem for Bitcoin startups?
Leonhard: Hong Kong is full of contradictions. It’s very well developed and rich, but our banking and payments systems are rather dysfunctional. Yet again Hong Kong is considered a leading financial center, surrounded by places like the Philippines and Vietnam where people rarely have bank accounts. A Bitcoin startup in Hong Kong is able to leverage these contradictions quite well, establishing the bridges that the current system was unable to build. In Hong Kong you find a nice place to live and build with a sound legal system and on the other side a great market around you where you can instantly add value to people’s lives with Bitcoin. Sadly the banks in Hong Kong are still a bit too cautious in dealing with us, that slows us down considerably.
Sarah: What are you most excited about in digital currencies and blockchain technology right now?
Leonhard: We are entering a phase where Bitcoin becomes practically useful to me, even though I’m fully banked. I can do things that I couldn’t do without. I’m also starting to get used to being in control over my own money and identity, and I find that incredibly liberating. It’s already so much easier to use than last year, and I can’t imagine life without it. This will be huge.
Sarah: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry?
Leonhard: Technology startups, and with them society have always profited from a very low barrier to entry. The internet, websites, apps and software were for the most part global, unregulated and – from a legal perspective – easy to set up. The Bitcoin industry would also strive best in such an environment, but they are entering an industry that already is highly regulated and controlled. This regulation often doesn’t make sense in the context of cryptocurrencies, if it ever made sense at all. Our biggest challenge will be to help form this regulatory framework in a way that entrepreneurs don’t have to build the solutions for our banking problems in the fear of being persecuted or arbitrarily restricted.
Sarah: What’s on the horizon for you? What can we look forward to seeing from Monetago?
Leonhard: We are lobbying hard to see acceptance for legitimate Bitcoin businesses outside of just Europe and the United States. These places need Bitcoin the most, and by bringing a reliable and trusted service together with good liquidity, we can connect places and institutions to a global financial world like nobody before us.
Sarah: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Leonhard.