Indonesia’s Blockchain Scene Heats Up: Report From BlockBali 2017
Just when it seemed Indonesia’s blockchain fintech scene was about to fizzle out — thanks to the Bank of Indonesia ruling against cryptocurrencies as a payments channel — “BlockBali 2017” reassured us the local scene is as lively as ever.
Large Event for a Small Island
Bali’s first-ever blockchain conference happened in the grand ballroom of The Trans Resort Bali, a five-star resort hotel a short drive from Bali’s famous tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak. It was organized by Black Arrow Conferences, which have also organized successful blockchain conferences in Mumbai, India and Jakarta, Indonesia — together with a local organizing team comprised of Bali-based cryptocurrency afficionados.
The event was surprisingly large for a small island. Conference sponsorship slots and attendee tickets were completely sold out, filling the room to capacity with 315 registered attendees and 33 partners, supporters and sponsoring organizations and companies from around the world.
A mix of Indonesian and international companies were in attendance: Bitcoin Indonesia, PundiX, BlockchainZoo, Coindo, Blocktech, BBW, Cybermiles, Genesis Mining, Decent, Emurgo, Cointed, Waves, MiCai, Eximchain, Coinscore and Datum as well as representatives from the Indonesia and Bali Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Police Anti-Terrorism Unit Densus 88.
Bali a Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Historic
As we reported here at Bitsonline previously, Indonesia has a thriving trading community and blockchain startup scene.
Bali is a popular place for blockchain companies looking for a place to temporarily relocate for some focus time on their projects, while also enjoying the lush beauty in the hills of Bali near the town of Ubud. Companies like Consensys, Changetip, Satoshipay and personalities well-known to many in the community — such as Joel Dietz, Toni Lane Casserly and Andreas Antonopoulos — have all spent quality time here.
Ubud is also a favorite of Sir Richard Branson, who once toyed with the idea of buying a villa not far from town. In decades past, Charlie Chaplin, Buckminster Fuller and others have come to rest and recover, and to test new ideas that they would bring back to the world.
Blockchain Companies Work Together to
Strengthen the Industry in Indonesia
Bitcoin Indonesia, the country’s largest exchange, boasts 550,000 registered members, and is developing an international focus. Its representatives meet with regulators often, in order to keep abreast of changing opinions within the bank, which have the effect of being treated as law.
Just last week, Bitsonline reported that the Bank of Indonesia is forbidding payments platform providers from using cryptocurrency. However any service which converts currencies from bitcoin to Indonesian rupiah — for the purpose of completing a transaction — is exactly the same thing as a purchase with a foreign credit card in Indonesia.
Companies Already Building Legal Workarounds
However, companies are already developing legal workarounds (don’t you just love blockchain?). PundiX CEO Zac Cheah demonstrated cryptocurrency exchange POS devices which complete a bitcoin conversion — which is legal — before the customer makes and settles payment in Indonesian Rupiah.
The heads of the Indonesian and Bali Chambers of Commerce and Industry attended, and showed their support in working with blockchain companies in Indonesia to find a regulatory solution that would allow the industry to continue to grow.
A representative from the Densus 88 Special Forces Anti-Terrorism Unit in charge of ending terrorist financing, presented the American version of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations. However he admitted there was only one known case of terrorism financing using cryptocurrencies that he was aware of — without going into details.
BlockBali Conference Will Become an Annual Event
Bitsonline interviewed speaker Roberto Capodieci, CEO of Blockchain Zoo — which is about to open a Blockchain Center in the town of Ubud. He told us:
“Crypto in paradise! The god’s island of Bali, home to thousands of digital nomads, and my home since 2004, is indeed the right place to hold this kind of conference. Not only is there already a large audience on the island, but it makes a great reason for international experts to participate and extend their stay for a day or two and enjoy a short tropical holiday! Furthermore, BlockBali was organized in an excellent manner, had several key people from the industry to present, and a variety of topics to keep the audience constantly attentive and interested. I really look forward to more conferences like this one.”
Sarfraz Patel, CEO of Blackarrow Conferences, was similarly optimistic for a future conference:
“The success of BlockBali has been outstanding. A great turnout of 300+ people from 31 countries. This being our second conference in Indonesia, we have seen a 50 percent growth in attendance and we can clearly see the Indonesian community rising up to blockchain and cryptocurrency. This definitely paves the way for much bigger and better conferences in the future.”
Would you like to see more industry events combined with holidays in places like Bali?
Let’s hear your thoughts!
Images via Stephen Demeulenaere