The Blockchain Summit on Richard Branson's private island has attracted digital currency's top names, and even the likes of Hollywood's Lucy Liu.
The people attending the Blockchain Summit mostly arrived by speedboat. From the outset then, it's clear this wasn't going to be just-another Bitcoin event, however the scale and expense of the four day invitation-only meeting has raised questions around who is attending, and what they're actually getting out of it.
“Educate and enlighten the guests on our goals, accomplishments and region. Also, shaking Richard Branson's hand is a plus! Our main priority was awareness of our market and ensuring the Caribbean was represented.”
Abed explained as he arrived at the conference on May 27 that “it was definitely on the agenda and a top priority to address the region and its potential use-cases with regards to Bitcoin and digital currencies.” Speaking to Cointelegraph in March the CEO had previously explained some of the difficulties his team has encountered whilst developing their exchange based in Barbados.
“The Caribbean is a special place and you need to be well aware on how to approach officials with something as radical and different as Bitcoin. Discussions and education must come first, followed by a proposed business model, before an announcement or declaration is made.”
The opportunity of having a global cast of digital currency experts meeting in the Caribbean is a rare chance for start-ups like Bitt to get their business message out there. In a region where “an estimated 60% of [people] are currently unbanked or under-banked,” the potential market for blockchain based financial products is great.
For others at the conference though, the draw has not been the local Caribbean atmosphere, but more specifically one of the locals. Although the conference is being held on Richard Branson's island, the global entrepreneur has not been involved in the planning of the private event. Regardless though, the 64 year old veteran businessman was invited, and has been attending some of the talks, alongside meeting-and-greeting many of the attendees.
For some however, the chance to meet Branson also meant an opportunity to challenge him on the tennis court, a match offer taken up by a number of conference delegates.
For others, the appearance of actress Lucy Liu over Skype to discuss blockchain identity papers for unregistered children seems to have been a highlight.
The conference doesn't seem to have generated any real news, and other than a single photo showing what has been suggested as BitFury's prototype mock-up lightbulb bitcoin miner, no business announcements seem to have been made either.
Even the networking possibilities that having so many figures from the digital currency sector should create is somewhat limited by the relatively close-knit nature of the event. Other than local startups like Bitt and the resulting exposure, the biggest beneficiary of the conference could simply be the Blockchain Summit themselves, and the conference logistics organizers MaiTai, a company focused on organizing these exclusive networking events, often on Necker Island.
Necker is the 74 acre private island that entrepreneur Richard Branson purchased in the 1970s as a hidden getaway. The whole island however can now be rented for UK£39,000 (US$59,000) a night, split between up to 30 guests. The four day Blockchain Summit event has been sponsored by BitFury and MaiTai.