Bitcoins you can grab
Bobby Lee, co-founder and chief executive officer of BTCC, the Shanghai-based bitcoin platform and second-largest bitcoin exchange in the world, certainly stole the show at London blockchain week, a series of conferences held in late January.
Lee, who was born in the Ivory Coast and grew up in the US, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from Stanford University. Before founding BTCC, Lee worked as vice-president of technology at Walmart and before that he was an early software engineer at Yahoo.
“He flew into London like a rock star,” says one witness. Urging delegates to download the firm’s Mobi wallet app, which allows users to send bitcoin to a mobile phone number without the need for long addresses and QR codes, Lee offered the first 100 attendees to do so an incentive. BTCC produces physical titanium bitcoins, with digital currency stored inside them, as collectibles. He came clutching handfuls of them.
With BTCC’s own exchange showing bitcoins valued at $935, Lee was suddenly mobbed.
“It was very interesting to see the change in this sober crowd of software engineers and bankers suddenly lurching towards him,” says one attendee. “Myself included”.
Lee looked taken aback and began handing the coins out, without checking to see if people really had downloaded the app. It was quite the ruckus.
But Lee is no fool. BTCC mints different physical chips representing a whole bitcoin in value, a half bitcoin and one thousandth of a bitcoin. The crowd eventually realized it was the latter he was handing out.
London-based delegates hoping they had got hold of coins worth £750, found themselves clutching chips worth 75p. Did they feel they had been unfairly taken advantage of?
“Not really,” says the delegate. “I believe people are already selling them on eBay at a tidy sum.”