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HVCA Panel: Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

Wayne Yoshioka

The Hawai’i Venture Capital Association hosted a panel discussion on electronic currency today.HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

Cryptocurrency – or electronic cash - is built on a public internet database called blockchain.  Cybercom Incorporated Founder and CEO, Peter Kay, explains.


“The blockchain process adds a record to the database.  That’s it.  It’s complicated, it’s complex, it uses these keys, it uses this heavy duty math, but at the end of the day, you’re simply adding a record onto a database in a secure way, that cannot be deleted after its been added.  It’s absolutely verifiable.  It’s done by the group; no one’s in charge of it and everyone can confirm it.”


The public, open protocol database is not owned by any company and currently supports an estimated 15-hundred cryptocurrency apps.  Russell Castagnaro, CEO and Founder of Wampei Incorporated, says 80 percent of the population worldwide does not have 3rd party banking systems but cryptocurrency can transfer electronic cash directly from one person to another, one business to another.


“Worldwide, $24T a year go through retail.  Only $2T of that is paid for electronically in any way.  So there’s a $22T – just for retail – opportunity.  Cryptocurrency is the obvious solution, be it bitcoin or bitcoin cash or some other cryptocurrency.  It’s almost not important.  All that matters is that cryptocurrency is the solution that gets us there.”


Cryptocurrency exchanges can convert electronic cash into money or bitcoins into dollars.  But the state’s Division of Financial Institutions, the DFI, notified exchanges in 2014, that they must be licensed.  State House Intrastate Commerce Committee Chair, Representative Takashi Ohno, says attempts to change that this session failed.


“In the end, this session, we did not find that sweet spot.  As a result, the DFI’s press release still stand.  That they have not licensed money transmitters involved in bitcoin cryptocurrencies and they consider that activity that requires a license.


Hawai’i is currently one of 4 states that does not allow legal cryptocurrency exchanges.  Hibachi Talk television host, Gordon Bruce, says Hawai’i could lead the way, especially in the tourism and hospitality industry.


“I could come here from South Korea, which uses cryptocurrencies a lot.  I bring in $5-thousand worth of bitcoin, I go to the exchange, I convert it to U.S. dollars and then, what I don’t spend, I come back and I exchange it back to bitcoin that I take back to Korea.  I mean, it’s those kinds of things that we’ll get more accolades for being a technologically astute state rather than restricting it.”


The Hawai’i Venture Capital Association panelists agreed that Block Chain database technology has great potential but is still in its infancy.  And, Brian Zisk, founder of the Future of Money and Technology, says consumers should watch out for scams.


“Because what unfortunately happens is, you’ll be approached by friends or relatives or so-and-so saying, ‘Oh, my God, I made 10X, don’t you want in on it.  And it’s very important for people to be able to differentiate between the things that are changing how business is done and folks taking your money.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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