Bitcoin Comes To Business Schools

After an MIT: Sloan MBA raised $500,000 for a bitcoin project, the crypto-currency is making its way into the world's business schools.

An MBA student at MIT Sloan School of Management helped kick-start a bitcoin storm at business schools across the globe. Dan Elitzer, founder and president of the MIT Bitcoin Club, along with sophomore Jeremy Rubin, raised $500,000 for a project to distribute $100 in bitcoin to every undergraduate student at MIT this fall.

The cash, raised primarily from the school’s alumni, will be dished out to build up the bitcoin ecosystem at MIT, the leading US business school.

Plans for the MIT Bitcoin Project involve a range of activities – including working with professors and researchers to study how students use the bitcoin they will receive, as well as spurring academic and entrepreneurial activity within the university in this burgeoning field.

Jeremy, an electrical engineering and computer science student, said: “Giving students access to crypto-currencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the internet era.”

“We want to issue a challenge to some of the brightest technical minds of a generation: ‘When you step onto campus this fall, all of your classmates are going to have access to bitcoin; what are YOU going to build to give them interesting ways to use it?’” added Dan, a first-year MBA student.

The pair hope that the school’s bitcoin project will inspire academics across campus to study how their students use bitcoin and how the currency might spark academic and entrepreneurial activity.

As well as providing bitcoin to students, the capital raised will help support infrastructure and informational activates related to the initiative. These have in the past included helping campus merchants accept bitcoin payments.

They are also working with MIT's Big Data Living Lab to get IRB human subjects approval for these potential academic studies.

Thomas Hardjono, executive director of the MIT Kerberos and Internet Trust Consortium, said: “Bitcoin and related crypto-currencies pave the way for personal data to be recognized as a new digital asset class. The MIT Bitcoin Project is a truly exciting venture that will provide the foundation for research into other classes of digital assets.”

Business schools across the world have been trying to tap into the virtual currency’s potential. The Harvard Business School Club of New York (HBSCNY) held a dedicated bitcoin event last month. The b-school club reckons bitcoin will be the next big thing in finance.

Speakers included Marshall Swatt, CTO of of Coinsetter, an NYC-based forex trading platform for bitcoin, and Steven Nerayoff, the CEO of Maple Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on emerging technologies.

Berkeley's Hass School of Business in California last month held a bitcoin roundtable discussion with a bevy of leading bitcoin commentators.

The event, hosted by the school’s master of financial of engineering program, drew Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken, a start-up that has developed a crypto-currency exchange, and Keren Zhou, chief economist at Buttercoin, a start-up that provides bitcoin exchange services to other companies.

USC's Marshall School of Business last month held a forum exploring trends and product innovations, and the regulatory environment likely to engender a tipping point for the mainstream adoption of bitcoin.

The US business school’s event speakers included Micah Winkelspecht, CEO of bitcoin wallet solution BitVault, and Travis Skweres, CEO of CoinMkt, which allows users to buy and sell bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

The University of Glasgow’s Adam Smith Business School recently hosted a panel of experts to discuss the bitcoin phenomenon.

The list of speakers included Michael Parsons, a bitcoin entrepreneur who regularly liaises with the British government regarding Bitcoin; Garrick Hileman, an economic historian from the London School of Economics; and Javier Marti, a bitcoin investment consultant.

The event, organized by the school’s Adam Smith Economics Society, drew more than 100 guests. The business school society’s online member list has since swelled to more than 1,000.

Aside from panels and forums, some academic institutions have begun accepting bitcoin as tuition payment. The University of Cumbria’s Institute for Leadership and Sustainability claims that it is the first public university in the world to do so.

The acceptance of bitcoin will initially be limited to two of the university’s programs, which address complementary currencies. These are the Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange, which will be taught from the university’s London campus in 2014, and the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership, which will be taught from its Lake District campus this year.

Professor Jem Bendell, founder and director of IFLAS, said: “We believe in learning by doing, and so to help inform our courses on complementary currencies, we are trialling the acceptance of them. The internal discussions about currency and payment innovation and the practical implications for different departments have been insightful.”

He added: “We think it [bitcoin] is essential to become better informed, and analyse it from many different perspectives.”

The University of Nicosia, Cyprus’ biggest private university, and New York-based arts university King’s College have also announced plans to accept the digital currency for tuition payments.

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