Austin entrepreneurs press on to stake claim in Bitcoin economy

Mar 7, 2014
Austin Business Journal

Can Austin be a Bitcoin hub? Ravi Iyengar thinks so. “I don’t think there was ever a time before, or in the future, to play such a role in shaping the financial ecosystem of the world,” said Iyengar, who gathered Wednesday along with representatives from his company and an estimated 1,000 attendees on the opening day of the inaugural Texas Bitcoin Conference at the Circuit of The Americas


Iyengar, formerly the lead CPU architect at Samsung, is the founder and CEO of CoinTerra Inc., the Austin startup that manufactures powerful computers used to verify Bitcoin transactions from across the Internet, otherwise known as Bitcoin miners. The miners, as a reward for lending their computing power to the verification process, earn Bitcoin in the process


Iyengar’s company is one of a small-but-growing number of Austin startups – and in some cases, individuals – that have begun trying to earn a profit servicing the burgeoning Bitcoin industry


Also on hand at the conference were representatives from a number of Austin-based companies and organizations who hope to play a big role in the developing digital currency economy


One of those startups is the Digital Currency Exchange of Texas, based in Round Rock. It aims to enter the crypto-currency exchange market, and plans to launch in five states soon, according to President and CEO Matthew Whittington. There’s also BitAustin, the local tech incubator program focused on Bitcoin-related startups


BitAustin is funded by BitAngels, a network of angel investors spread across 40 countries. BitAngels is headed by Executive Director David Johnston, who said the network invested more than $7 million into 12 companies in 2013


Since launching in August,  Iyengar’s company has already shipped more than 1,000 units and gained more than six percent share in the Bitcoin mining market


He said that there’s one big reason why Austin’s tech scene could be the epicenter of an emerging digital currency and distributed computing economy: it has both microprocessor manufacturing capacity and tech talent in abundance


“Austin is the CPU capital of the world,” said Iyengar. “Central Texas is very, surprisingly, self contained. I don’t think there’s any other job industry in the world where you can build an entire ecosystem within a region.”


“There are a ton of people here who align with Bitcoin, especially the chip manufacturing industry,” said BitAngels' Johnston. “And there’s a huge startup scene here, and Bitcoin is still in the startup phase itself.”


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