Both Sides of the Coin
It’s been called a fraud that won’t end well, a failure as a currency and the online equivalent of gold. Of course, I’m talking about the cryptocurrency bitcoin. Those recent assessments belong to Jpmorgan Chase & Co. chair and CEO Jamie Dimon, Bank of England governor Mark Carney and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, respectively.
Who do you believe? Dimon has since backpedalled, telling Fox Business Network that he regrets his outburst and that blockchain, the online distributed ledger underpinning bitcoin and other digital currencies, is real. No wonder: like many other big banks, Jpmorgan Chase has joined the game, developing its own blockchain technology for financial institutions.
Investors of all stripes are jumping on the crypto bandwagon, too, at their own risk. For those who subscribe to Warren Buffett’s maxim that you shouldn’t back a business you can’t understand, cryptocurrencies raise a red flag. Even if you do grasp the technology, bitcoin—which was trading below US$7,000 at press time, after peaking at almost US$19,500 last December—is a speculative bet.
All of this left us curious about how B.C. fits into the cryptocurrency picture. In “New Kids on the Block” (p.26), my predecessor Matt O’grady delivers a thoughtful take on that question by profiling several Vancouver players. O’grady focuses on Sean Clark, whose previous venture, online marketplace Shoes.com, crashed and burned early last year. Undaunted, the entrepreneur is back with First Block Capital, a firm he co-founded with Dutch investor Marc van der Chijs.
Bitcoin and blockchain offer Clark a shot at redemption, but what about their dark side? Going back to the bad old days of the Vancouver Stock Exchange, B.C. has been a haven for financial scammers and fraudsters, and lack of regulatory scrutiny around digital currencies leaves investors vulnerable to pump-and-dump and other schemes. Fortunately, experts like lawyer Christine Duhaime, also featured in our story, aim to hold swindlers accountable.
On page 37, we indulge our curiosity in another way by launching the first edition of BC City Guide. With our annual Best Cities for Work in B.C. ranking turning five this year, we decided to boost coverage of the communities that appear on the list, from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island to the Northeast. By looking at them as places to live, work and invest, BC City Guide helps fulfil our mandate to represent the entire province. Thank you to contributors Melissa Edwards and Dee Hon, and to associate editor Felicity Stone and assistant editor Nathan Caddell, for making it a reality.