Cryptocurrency Club Looks to Educate YU Community
After dark, a mysterious man in a hooded sweatshirt walks out from a dark subway tunnel. He meets with someone who is waiting impatiently with his laptop. Seconds later, he slips him a brown paper bag. They hastily shake hands and leave through separate exits. The sketchy sale, of course, was conducted through Bitcoin.
In the past year, Bitcoin has become extremely popular and is something Yosef Kerendian, the founder and president of the Cryptocurrency Club at Yeshiva University, took advantage of. The Cryptocurrency Club here at Yeshiva University aims to make Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a known concept around campus. Its mission is to inform students and businesses about the benefits of accepting different cryptocurrencies and their underlying technologies. The club plans to meet at least once a month to discuss new discoveries and news about cryptocurrencies. Kerendian also hopes to bring in speakers and investors to tell their stories, so that students can learn how to get involved.
In a discussion with Kerendian, I asked him about the benefits of Bitcoin. He explained that “Bitcoin users have the opportunity to exchange their coins instantly with the touch of a button, anywhere in the world.” He clarified that “one of its many advantages is that even face-to-face trades must be completed through an electronic device.”
Kerendian started researching and learning about Bitcoin in the summer of 2014 and founded the Cryptocurrency Club after tremendous growth in value of cryptocurrencies. “I overheard a peer of mine making some great points about Bitcoin and immediately decided to meet up with him and discuss some of our thoughts on cryptocurrency,” said Menajem Benchimol, VP of the Cryptocurrency Club. “The meeting was a success and we decided to form the club.”
Kerendian quickly notified the students at Yeshiva University and explained how Bitcoin works. Bitcoin is known to be very mysterious. Most people know it can be used to buy things on the dark web, and therefore associate it with fraud. One of our clubs’ goals is to inform people that Bitcoin can be used to buy daily necessities from websites like Overstock.com and Dell.com, and also to buy gift cards from Gyft.com. “As Bitcoin becomes an essential part of day-to-day life, it’s important that the students and businesses around Washington Heights and all around NYC become aware of its many benefits,” said Kerendian. “Paper money will fade and die, and eventually there will only be one cryptocurrency which will run the world’s money supply.”
A mysterious character known by the name Satoshi Nakamoto invented the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. As people began to realize that Bitcoin’s initial investors were profiting from this phenomenon, interest grew in the cryptocurrency. Satoshi Nakamoto, as it turns out, is a totally fictitious name and the true identity of the inventor remains unknown. This only adds to the allure of Bitcoin. Users can buy bitcoin online for a hefty price, or “mine” the currency, which is a complicated process involving Blockchains. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin exist through a blockchain, which is an increasing list of blocks that keeps records of documents secured through cryptography. All transactions of cryptocurrency are logged in the blockchain, which provides readable access to the documents of the cryptocurrency. The blockchain is controlled by miners, who use their own software to “mine” the coins. They work to update the blockchain after every transaction occurs and to also authenticate transactions. Most miners get paid for their work in Bitcoin.
Another reason Bitcoin has become so valuable is because it is not regulated by any central government or superpower. It functions through its miners and contributors. When Bitcoin was first developed by Nakamoto, it had very little monetary value. Today, you will often overhear people fantasizing about how different their lives would be had they owned just a few dollars’ worth of Bitcoin in 2010. Less than 7 years ago, Bitcoin was worth $0.06. Today it is worth over $17,000. One quality of Bitcoin is that it can be exchanged for any currency with a few swipes on your smartphone.
Students here at Yeshiva University can benefit from cryptocurrency. Students from abroad have been subject to heavy transaction fees for USD which accumulate over time. Bitcoin, on the other hand, eliminates fees and is processed instantly.
“Most store owners in Washington Heights refuse to use Bitcoin,” said Kerendian. “Part of the reason is because they don’t really know what cryptocurrency is. In addition to educating our campus, a goal of our club is to inform different businesses in Washington Heights of the many advantages of accepting Bitcoin in addition to cash.” A perk of accepting Bitcoin through Coinbase is that there is no fee per transaction. Store owners can turn their Bitcoins into dollars instantaneously, which is more efficient than accepting credit and incurring fees.
Kerendian hopes that “Non-profit organizations and fundraisers can benefit as well. Donating money with Bitcoin will bypass the fees accrued through credit cards. This way, organizations can collect more money for their causes.”
“A main goal of ours is to bring in speakers to educate our student body on Bitcoin and teach them how to take the first step in getting involved. This past month we had the opportunity to bring in Dave Friedman to speak about Bitcoin, and the event was very successful.” Dave Friedman is a principal at Yang Ventures and is an advisor to several crypto funds. He was an investment banker at Citi Group and worked at Bloomberg prior to that. “He's working on an initial coin offering (ICO) backed by heavy real estate,” said Kerendian.
Kerendian is looking to have a meeting in which members will gain hands-on experience by creating a wallet to start buying and selling cryptocurrencies. He believes that this experience will offer students a way to learn about digital currencies and will ease their adaption to the future of money.
Although the Cryptocurrency Club believes in a bright future for Bitcoin, it is important to note that crypto prices are extremely volatile and you should err on the side of caution when looking to invest. Before purchasing any form of cryptocurrency, extensive due diligence and advice are highly recommended.