What Bitcoin and Internet of Things Startups Have in Common

Bitcoin has captivated the imaginations of many with its quasi-anonymous, hyper cost-efficient payment network. The potential for Bitcoin to change foreign exchange is hard to overstate. In the same vein, the technologies that enable the internet of things (IoT) like Bluetooth Low Energy and Apple’s Beacons and Electric Imp’s infrastructure will transform the way we interact with the physical world to something akin to the mall in Minority Report.

The startups that bring Bitcoin and IoT to the mass-market won’t declare themselves Bitcoin companies or connected devices companies. I’ve never seen a computer marketed as a TCP/IP machine or a bank that promotes the ACH compatibility of its checking accounts or a social network trumpet its H.264 codec support. I doubt I ever will because supporting a protocol isn’t a value proposition that attracts end users.

Instead, these disruptive startups will market a product, which although enabled by Bitcoin and IoT technologies, wrap and hide the underlying protocol in a product that is significantly better than the competition.

I suspect the first mass-market successful Bitcoin company won’t have Bitcoin (or any subset of the word) in its name. This startup will market itself just the same as a competing financial services company, but offer significantly lower fees for remittances or foreign exchange. Similarly, on its website, Nest, maker of connected thermostats and smoke detectors, never mentions never mentions the words Internet of Things. Even the word Wifi is only found on its customer support pages.

Most of the time, protocol support is table stakes. Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook and others all speak the same language, IMAP, so users can send emails back and forth. Other times, new protocols, like the ones underpinning Bitcoin and IoT, enable disruptive products that solve customer needs in novel ways. In these cases, it’s not the particular protocol that matters but the benefit to the end user.

Thanks to Nick Shalek, who inspired this post.

Published 2013-12-06 in trends 

Tomasz Tunguz is partner at Redpoint. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 20,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.

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