LeWeb 2014: Fred Wilson Still Bullish on Bitcoin

Each year, some of the world's best visionaries, entrepreneurs and startups, come to LeWeb's annual conference to talk all things tech. This year, the event took place in Paris, at Eurosites Les Docks, from December 9 to 11, and welcomed once again, Fred Wilson, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures (USV), for an industry outlook.

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LeWeb 2014: Fred Wilson Still Bullish on Bitcoin

Each year, some of the world's best visionaries, entrepreneurs and startups, come to LeWeb's annual conference to talk all things tech. This year, the event took place in Paris, at Eurosites Les Docks, from December 9 to 11, and welcomed once again, Fred Wilson, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures (USV), for an industry outlook.

"A bunch of things happened in 2014," started off Wilson. "The sharing economy went mainstream, [...] I think crowdfunding has also became mainstream with the IPO of LendingClub, which is happening this week, being an example of that."

Another thing that happened in 2014, continued Wilson, is that Bitcoin went out of favor and under the radar. "Bitcoin was all the rage a year ago and now nobody's talking about it," he explained.

However, Wilson stressed that Bitcoin is still continuing to grow and develop, and that the technology underlying Bitcoin, the Blockchain, is quickly emerging as an important piece of technology that can power other things, such as distributed identity services.

Fred Wilson, Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures

Last month, OneName, an open source identity provider, announced it had closed an undisclosed seed round backed by USV. The service is planning on extending its open source software portfolio in order to disrupt the current online authentication process.

"We made an investment in a company called OneName that is trying to create a decentralized identity system on top of the Blockchain. That's exciting to me. [...] Everyone in this audience could go to onename.io and claim a name, and start to use that as the hub for their identity."

Overtime, OneName is expected to offer authentication services the same way Google, Facebook and Twitter do, explained Wilson. Whether the service will become mainstream is yet to be determined, but if it does, it could be a big hit for the company, as well as USV, he noted.

Identity and control of data

Services such as OneName are based on open source technologies built on top of the Blockchain. These kinds of services will never be able to control identities in the way that Google, Facebook or Twitter could, argued Wilson.

The VC added that governments could play an important role and be a facilitator of a decentralized identity system and "wrestle identity out of hands from Facebook and Google." That's what governments should do, he argued.

"The problem is that governments want to do what Facebook and Google are doing. I think we are going to need governments to be more enlightened about what their role should be here."

Overall in 2014, Wilson stated that USV had made investments in all the areas that he believed held opportunities, and for 2015, major trends should include healthcare and wellness, wearable tech, and we should witness a wave of crowdfunding and sharing economy companies’ IPOs.

Finally, Wilson concluded mentioning his firm’s most successful investments as Twitter, Etsy and Kickstarter, which he said were "near and dear to [his] heart because of the kinds of networks that they are," as "peer produced and people powered networks."

On Bitcoin, Wilson remained optimistic and stated that USV is looking into investing more money in Bitcoin-related startups:

"I'm quite enthusiastic. We continue to invest in that sector. I like that it's going out of favor because it actually makes investing pretty easy - at least less expensive."

Watch the full presentation:


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