[Editor’s note: After publication, we received comments from a contact in San Francisco, which have been added to the article below.]
Earlier this month, Cointelegraph readers voted to choose the people, places and companies who deserved the most recognition for their achievements in our 2014 Bitcoin Industry Awards. After the votes were counted, I reached out for comments and gathered facts about the year’s highest achievers.
“Bitcoin is still evolving at a breakneck pace. ... In its wake, hundreds of alternative coins and other inventions based on blockchain technology are also sprouting.”
The greatest highlight and “biggest news story” of the year, according to readers, came toward the end, when on December 11, Microsoft began accepting Bitcoin for digital purchases. The only announcement by the company appeared on their blog, but account holders soon noticed the new Bitcoin payment option. They quickly spread the news on Reddit.
Many people were so surprised by the sight of the first shared images showing the payment option that they wondered whether they were a hoax. Microsoft account holders soon verified that they were true. In the eyes of many, the acceptance of the cryptocurrency by a merchant as big as Microsoft gave Bitcoin an ultimate proof of legitimacy.
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was positive about Bitcoin earlier in the year, when in October he went so far as to say, “Bitcoin is better than currency”:
“Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient.”
I reached out to Microsoft regarding their status as “biggest news story” and a company spokesperson offered the following comment:
“Customers have responded positively to Microsoft providing additional flexibility in the ways they can add value to their Microsoft Account.”
BitPay, the company voted “most successful” in 2014 also made it to prime time. They hosted the first ever St. Petersburg Bitcoin Bowl on December 26, with plans for two more in the coming years. Cryptocurrency fans had the chance to see Bitcoin in larger-than-life-form on giant television screens.
The Bitcoin symbol appeared in the center of the football field, the logo was in the background at all times during the game, #BitcoinBowl trended on Twitter, and fans chanted “Bitcoin”—although their chants may have been drowned out by football fans. The moment was surreal for Bitcoin fans in a huge stadium among cheering thousands.
Many football fans wondered on Twitter what “this Bitcoin thing” was. Those who attended the game to support Bitcoin, rather than watch football, soaked in the excitement when ESPN showed the first-ever prime-time televised BitPay Bitcoin commercials.
By the end of 2014, BitPay had increased its merchant account numbers to a total of more than 50,000. During the year, they hit a daily transaction amount of US$1 million. CEO and Co-Founder Stephen Pair had this to say to CT readers:
“[The year] 2014 has been a great year for Bitcoin and BitPay and we appreciate the communities’ recognition. We expect that 2015 [will] be even more successful. Thank you for all your support.”
The next company on our winners list was the only one to earn two awards. Readers voted ChangeTip both “startup of the year” and “most innovative product.” ChangeTip launched their startup in February, and just a few months later in November, their internet tipping and micropayment service went viral. Functionality started out on Reddit, YouTube, Twitter and then included a blog widget. ChangeTip recently extended tipping capabilities to Facebook and Slack.
CT’s financial analyst Tone Vays had the chance to talk to founder and CEO Nick Sullivan in person last week when they saw each other at The North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami. Vays was kind enough to ask Sullivan a few questions for this article.
Cointelegraph: What is your response to having been chosen for the awards by CT readers?
Nick Sullivan: Delighted and excited! ChangeTip will play an important role in driving the mass consumer adoption of Bitcoin, enabling the entire ecosystem to succeed.
“Our social mission for 2015 is to enable micropayments for charities, causes, fundraising, and donations.”
CT: What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in 2014?
NS: Thriving in a difficult environment.
CT: What are you looking forward to in 2015?
NS: Our social mission for 2015 is to enable micropayments for charities, causes, fundraising, and donations. This year we will see ChangeCoin [ChangeTip’s parent company] bring together the virality of social media with low-friction payments.
Sullivan and ChangeTip just happen to be based in San Francisco, another winner in our Bitcoin Industry Awards. Out of several major cities in the world, San Francisco earned the title of “Bitcoin Capital.”
Taariq Lewis, Co-Founder and Asset Custodian of DigitalTangible—“a secure precious metals and digital money platform” with headquarters in the city— offered comments:
“We are very proud and lucky to have the CT readers give us the vote for 2014 and hope it continues for 2015 as well. ...
"[The years] 2014–2015 will test San Francisco’s Bitcoin community resilience to build and learn regardless of the Bitcoin price. Many of us will now have lived through three years of bitcoin bubbles. Through growth of focus on the mission ‘To Decentralize All the Things’ we hope to keep San Francisco at the top of mind for bitcoin and bitcoin-related technologies.”
Speaking from the home of Silicon Valley, the dot-com boom, many tech companies and entrepreneurial startups, he said, “We hope more engineers will make San Francisco their home and that we’ll celebrate the continued [vibrancy] of our Bitcoin community.”
On January 25, one of those speakers will be Andreas Antonopoulos himself, who happens to be our final 2014 award winner, whom readers named “person of the year.” Antonopoulos will travel to San Francisco to host a Q&A session and sign copies of his book Mastering Bitcoin, which was published last year on December 20.
Antonopoulos provided the most generous response to my questions about receiving the award from CT readers. First, however, he requested that his answers focus not on his own greatest achievements over the previous year, but on those of Bitcoin.
“The technology has been making tremendous progress and the price serves as a distraction. From my perspective, bitcoin is stronger than it's ever been and only getting stronger.”
Cointelegraph: Many critics have said 2014 is the year that Bitcoin died. Would you say it came more to life?
Andreas Antonopoulos: Perhaps the use of bitcoin as a get-rich-quick speculative investment died in 2014. If so, that would be a blessing, because the technology has been making tremendous progress and the price serves as a distraction.
From my perspective, bitcoin is stronger than it's ever been and only getting stronger. The price is not bitcoin and bitcoin's success as a technology cannot be measured in the USD exchange rate.
CT: Did anything change for you and your experiences with Bitcoin during the year?
AA: So much changed, it's hard to pinpoint a single event. 2014 was a whirlwind year for me personally, as it was for bitcoin overall. I think the most significant change for me was the opportunity to talk about bitcoin to much more mainstream audiences, such as on the Joe Rogan Experience and in front of the Canadian Senate.
“[The year] 2014 saw a flurry of investment in startups, creating thousands of jobs and pouring fuel on the innovation bonfire that was already ignited.”
CT: Please reflect on Bitcoin's greatest 2014 achievement(s).
AA: In 2014, bitcoin evolved with two very exciting new innovations that went from the drawing board to consumer software at lightning speed. The first is multi-signature transactions and the second is hierarchical deterministic (HD) wallets. Both of these technologies pushed bitcoin forward by making it possible to do things that were not possible before. Already, we are seeing HD wallet technology in almost all the mobile wallet software and multi-signature transactions are now storing 3% of all bitcoin, climbing fast.
Meanwhile, 2014 saw a flurry of investment in startups, creating thousands of jobs and pouring fuel on the innovation bonfire that was already ignited. A lot of those investments were not converted into bitcoin and were therefore unaffected by the price drop. In fact, the investment rush into bitcoin in 2014 rivaled the early-Internet investment in 1995.
These two technologies and the possibilities created by their deployment show that bitcoin is still evolving at a breakneck pace. Ironically, both of those innovations were the result of research and development done in 2012 and 2013, well before all the investment money poured into startups. We can only imagine what will happen once those investments start bearing fruit in 2015 and beyond.
CT: Can you share any other reflections on the year 2014?
AA: Bitcoin "died" at least three times during 2014, allowing the most clueless and sensationalist of the media to write their "obituaries." Yet, bitcoin continues to be a relentless anomaly that refuses to be bought, co-opted, corrupted or stopped. It survives each setback and continues to grow, evolve and develop. In its wake, hundreds of alternative coins and other inventions based on blockchain technology are also sprouting. We are still at the beginning of this incredible journey that will have world-changing effects for decades to come.