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As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, DCC interviewed thought leaders who will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in San Diego on December 14-16, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Lisa Cheng, Director of the Vanbex Group.

Tell us about how you got interested in digital currencies and blockchain technology.

I had heard about Bitcoin in the news like a lot of people and didn’t pay any attention to it (though I wish I had because Bitcoin was $2 at the time). It was only after a friend showed me a newspaper article about the Deep Web and I went to immediately download the Tor Browser that I really started taking a profound interest in Bitcoin. The very idea that there is a hidden network that underlies the very public internet we use everyday struck that part of my brain that I couldn’t turn off, it fascinates me. It was even more interesting to me that Bitcoin was being used fluidly in this hidden, underground network that made it possible for anonymous markets to function. It demonstrated that Bitcoin works, there is no need for an intermediary to process and validate transactions – it was at this point that I ventured down the rabbit hole and consumed as much information as possible on the topic of Bitcoin.

You’ve been involved in a number of breakthrough ventures. Tell us a little about some of the projects you’re currently working on.

Thank you, it’s been an interesting year and I feel fortunate to be working on these different projects. Currently I’m working with Spells of Genesis – we are helping them with marketing, communications, and business development as I believe they are the perfect use case for how traditional gaming companies can move from a centralized to decentralized model using the blockchain.

I’m also working with an upcoming Bitcoin exchange that is going to be releasing a futures derivative product and we are helping with market research as part of their upcoming launch, we are helping them prepare for the private beta in the new year. Lastly, we are in talks to work with an upcoming decentralized content distribution project that is working on some really interesting things using the same technology that powers BitTorrent. We try to keep our projects limited to 3 or 4 at a time, as our team is 5 people and we don’t want to be spread too thin – our priority is first to our client projects, and I’m always concerned with making sure we are delivering.

What are you most excited about in digital currencies and blockchain technology right now?

I just got back from presenting Bitcoin to a group of banking Directors in Europe, and the growing interest among the Banking and Technology sector has me really excited about the potential for integrating Blockchain into their legacy systems. They (traditional finance) understand that there is an opportunity here, but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is yet in terms of customer experience or back office efficiency. The recent news from Goldman Sachs about their patent application for a virtual settlement currency is exciting, and I hope it is an indication of further plans from these traditional banking institutions to adopt Bitcoin/Blockchain technology.

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the industry?

To be honest, the Bitcoin industry needs better product communication and community cooperation. We are essentially at the risk of bad media coverage and the whims of outside industries taking an interest in what our technology can do. It’s great that reputable companies with brand recognition are publicly stating their interests in Bitcoin/Blockchain – but I am concerned with whether these interests will coalesce into something tangible other than a research project for a select group in the company. Bitcoin/Blockchain should stand on its own and it’s the community that can really make the difference here – we need to help newcomers getting started with Bitcoin, provide a clear message on what Bitcoin is, what Blockchain is, and have industry wide standards for how businesses should operate in order to filter out legitimate companies from those who are using the word Bitcoin in order to defraud and act in a criminal manner. The challenge is how can we change the image of Bitcoin – this is something that everyone working in the industry should be concerned with.

What’s ahead for you in 2016?

It’s hard to say – things happen really quickly in Bitcoin and sometimes on short notice. Over the holidays and into 2016, I will most likely be working on growing the Blockchain interest group I created at IEEE Collabratec to encourage academics, professionals, and technologists to share their white papers, project ideas, and connect with each other in a professional online environment.  Also, I am likely going to be growing Vanbex – hiring more people and growing the business. I think there is a lot of opportunity out there and we unfortunately have to decline working with new projects right now because of resource constraints. I’m still pretty new at managing and running a business, and as an INTP (personality type) my strengths aren’t necessarily people skills. I like research and constructing the product narrative and will most likely be looking for new opportunities in the next year.

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