History Of The Austin Bitcoin Meetup & Texas Bitcoin Conference – By Jon Rumion

Tai: What’s up guys this is Tai Zen again, I got my buddy Leon Fu here with me and we’re from prisonorfreedom.com and we like to talk about the tools, the technologies and the strategies that are available to help people find more freedom in their lives and we’re here at Brave New Books, at the corner of Guadalupe and Martin Luther King.

We’re right across the street from the University of Texas in the city of Austin, which is the capital city of the state of Texas in case you guys live outside the US. With us here today, we have John, he is the founder of the Austin Bitcoin meetup, can you tell me about yourself and what prompted you to get into Bitcoins? What prompted you to start the Bitcoin meetup here in Austin?

Jon: Well Bitcoin has always interested me because of the free market aspect, with the stock market if you want to buy stocks, you have to go through a broker, a middleman and you can never actually own your own stocks.

With Bitcoin, it kind of made me realize that it was possible for people to own shares in something, pieces of something without going through a middleman and actually control their own destinies in the market, looking at exchanges like Mt. Cox at the time or BTC-e.

All these people that were able to just trade freely and there were little market fees here in there but there was no middleman doing the trading for them so it’s a direct person-to-person transaction.

This started back in 2012 and I was always a little bit interested in it but my interest peaked last year when Mt. Cox took the price up to two hundred fifty dollars and I had 4 Bitcoins at the time and I sold them and as the price went up and down for the next consecutive two days three days.

At the time I made quite a bit of money but I also realized that there was a problem that we had centralized exchanges or decentralized currencies and that didn’t really make sense. There was like a broken link in the chain so at the time I started a project, peer-to-peer exchange, p2p0x, it was supposed to be a peer-to-peer piece of software for facilitating exchanges of cryptocurrency.

Tai: What’s your background and to do something like that you had to be a coder like Leon

Jon: I guess I come from the hacker background when I was 12 I taught myself C programming and then Linux and I graduated from college when I was 17. I worked at Rackspace for seven years and I worked at Hewlett-Packard for two years and now I work for Monetas.

Tai: You have some extensive corporate background when you saw this decentralized technology called Bitcoin you just really gravitated towards it?

Jon: Definitely I think I’m naturally anti-corporate and I think my coworkers at the time definitely saw that issues, it’s probably why I felt I needed to get out of the places that I was at

Tai: So we basically we got like another version of Vitalik here, talk a little bit about the Bitcoin meetup in Austin you started here. Was it just you who started it or was it a group of Jon: people

Jon: Well I always run meetups here in Austin, I did some EVE Online, I helped facilitate the ATX 2600 hackers’ meetup, so I knew a little bit about the meetup sphere and I looked for a Bitcoin meetup but I couldn’t find any so I just created one because I knew it needed to be done.

For the first couple of months it was just a handful of people here and there every meetup, I didn’t come to every meetup of course, they were very small but then as the price started to go up and the price skyrocketed, our meetups exploded and we’ve had over a hundred people.

Tai: This is one of the first meetup I’ve been to where you guys had quite a bit of people I actually wait for people to clear out up to interview you. Speaking of meetup right, let’s scale it up a little bit and talk about conferences, right now word on the street is that you were responsible for your part of the organizing the Texas Bitcoin Conference, is that true, false?

I spoke at the at the Texas Bitcoin Conference and Leon was there also. You went from doing a small meetup here and now your scale to a huge conference and at the international level so where did you get that inspiration from, what sort of the stumbling blocks you guys ran into?

Jon: I think from conversations with our meetup members back in November, October we always had the idea of running a conference and stir it up, we decided we were going to run a conference.

We had to look at the logistics of what we needed to run a conference and it’s time we were going to do a small conference, it was going to be a small, there were going to be a couple hundred people, it was going to be really scaled down, we were going to have cheap tickets, a hundred dollars a ticket at the most and that was where we were aiming for and in order to throw one of these conferences we needed a business entity.

So I along with some other meetup members started the Texas Bitcoin Association which was supposed to help facilitate the money needed to run one of these conferences. Unbeknownst to us, they also ran up the price of the conference.

Tai: When you say “they”, who is it? The government, the CIA, the members the meetup?

Jon: The Bitcoin association was originally 4 members it, was me – Jon Rumion, it was Rafael Rodriguez and Paul Snow and Steve Wilkinson, we’re the 4 voting members of this association.

Tai: Now is that for certain or is that something that you just made up, I mean like some people, they go somewhere and they say “I’m part of this foundation” or “I’m part of this organization” you find out the members are buddies or something, so you are an actual member, you were one of the original founding members and creators of the Texas Bitcoin.

Jon: In fact, I was the vice president of the Association and the money was used to start this association and to register the name with the States Secretary was the money from the meetup group, all the money that people had been donating over the months preceding then became the wallet for paying the money to start the Association.

So over the coming months as the conference’s becoming closer the deadline of the conference was, of course,  South by Southwest, it was the date of South by Southwest

Tai: South by Southwest is like the biggest music technology festival that’s in the state of Texas, probably one of the biggest ones in the country and it’s in spring around March so the deadline was to get sometimes March to have the conference right especially right before South by Southwest.

Jon: The day before South by Southwest because we anticipated there was going to be a large influx of technical people because of South by Southwest Interactive so it started two days before South by Southwest Interactive and started on a Wednesday but I should actually backpedal because when we first started the conference.

It was only supposed to be a one-day conference because part of starting this association did not only do we want to do these conferences, we also wanted to educate Texas, we wanted to have like a Central Association essential group for providing educational materials across Texas, we wanted to make pamphlets and billboards and throw classes in Texas.

Tai: So basically the purpose you setting up the meetup was to educate people in Austin, but the purpose of your Texas Bitcoin Conference was to educate the entire state, so you’re staying it up now.

Jon: Because I thought that we had done so well here that perhaps we could spread that out to the rest of Texas and there are other meetup groups in Texas and we wanted to provide resources for them as well

We wanted to go to these other meetup groups and help them start their meetup groups or help them grow their communities and really bring us under one umbrella,where there were educational resources for everybody under this umbrella to get  information from, or for us to be able to easily communicate things out to all these groups in Texas.

So that was my ambition for starting the Association which helped throw this conference and to help educate people in Texas.

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