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Kiev Bitcoin Conference Draws Big Turnout, but Challenges Remain

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:51 PM
Lester Coleman
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:51 PM

A strong turnout of engaged listeners at the recent Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference in Kiev reflects the high level of bitcoin interest in Ukraine as it fights recession, according to NASDAQ .

One of the main speakers, however, Max Krupyshev, COO of Cubits, a London-based bitcoin wallet, and exchange, noted bitcoin faces some big challenges in that country.

Krupyshev spoke to a packed hall in the beginner’s track about bitcoin basics, including proof-of-work and bitcoin addresses. He noted afterward that the attendees were engaged listeners seeking to learn more about bitcoin and blockchain technology.

Bitcoin Demand Strong

Demand for bitcoin is strong in Ukraine, largely on account of a recession caused by the war in the Eastern part of the country. The hryvnia, the national currency, lost around 70 percent of its value over the past two years.

Many Ukrainians are likely looking at bitcoin as a hedge against inflation, as a way to hide funds, to send money abroad, as an investment, or a job opportunity, Krupyshev said. He noted that people who work as programmers are among the few making good incomes.

The Kiev conference is now in its third year and has grown every year. This year’s conference drew 600 compared to 400 last year, according to Pavel Likhomanov, the conference coordinator. Likhomanov said fintech, blockchain, and bitcoin are becoming increasingly popular in Eastern Europe, particularly in Ukraine.

Diverse Conference Topics

Conference topics were diverse. They included explanations of the Casper proof-of-stake consensus mechanism proposed for Ethereum; bitcoin’s value proposition in an investment portfolio; and cold storage’s importance.

The conference included three different tracks: business professionals, the technical aspect, and a track for newcomers, according to Likhomanov.

Notably absent, however, was Ghash.IO and its parent company, CEX.IO, which was the largest bitcoin mining pool at one time. Despite its Ukrainian roots, the company is presently based in the United Kingdom.

Krupyshev, for his part, a year ago moved to Berlin to work for Cubits after founding the Ukrainian Bitcoin Foundation. Krupyshev noted that his move out of the country could reflect a trend.

Bitcoin’s Challenges In Ukraine

There are numerous skilled Ukrainian developers and entrepreneurs, he said, but Ukrainian venture capitalists remain stuck in the “old world.” Investors want to see tangible products, despite the fact that Twitter is currently valued at $1 billion USD.

In addition, bitcoin’s legal status is unclear in Ukraine, Krupyshev said. The cryptocurrency is not illegal, but nor is it necessarily legal. Such uncertainty and weak investment are pushing Ukrainian developers to leave the country.

Several of the conference speakers and sponsors included familiar blockchain and bitcoin names such as ether.camp, Ambisafe, and Bitmain Warranty.

Ukraine has a larger bitcoin footprint than many people realize, Krupyshev said, but the country’s “real activity” with bitcoin is mostly hidden in foreign organizations. In reality, there are a lot of Ukrainian executives and developers working abroad, officially at least.

The Kiev conference is one of four Blockchain & Bitcoin Conferences planned in Eastern Europe this year. Smile Expo, the organizer, also has events in Moscow, Prague, and St. Petersburg. Moscow’s conference is next on the schedule on November 10.

Images from iStock and Kiev Blockchain Conference.