Interview Oskar Giese (UNCHAIN)
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Oskar Giese is a Hamburg-based entrepreneur who has managed in the past two years to organize one of Central Europe’s leading Bitcoin events; the UNCHAIN conference.

UNCHAIN organizer Oskar Giese - Entrepreneur by heart & choice
UNCHAIN organizer Oskar Giese – Entrepreneur by heart & choice

After the successful inaugural event in Hamburg which saw well-known early Bitcoiners like Erik Voorhees, Diego Gutiérrez Zaldívar, Edan Yago or Rodolfo Andragnes;  the second edition took place last year in Berlin with a line-up that included Brock Pierce, Tone Vays, Alena Vranova among others.

UNCHAIN 2020 will take place in the “Lion’s den”, Frankfurt/Main, mainland Europe’s financial centre as well as home of the European Central Bank.

“Mainhattan”, host city of UNCHAIN 2020
“Mainhattan”, host city of UNCHAIN 2020

Q1: Hi Oskar and thanks for taking the time to speak with us! Our standard opener question: When did you hear the first time about Bitcoin, what was your initial reaction and when did you decide that it was the time now to become an active part of the “Bitcoin movement”?

Oskar: I heard about Bitcoin several times early, but wasn’t interested in it seriously. In the end of 2016 my business partner Sebastian, who is also co-host of our conference now, pointed my interest on ICOs as a new tool for project funding.

Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we started researching and exploring the community as well as projects. Shortly we discovered, that most ICOs seemed to be dubious, but the Bitcoin community is great and you do find so many great, innovative, bright shining entrepreneurs in it. This caught my very interest. 

Q2: In 2018 you launched together with one of Germany’s early Bitcoin pioneers, Aaron Koenig, UNCHAIN. At the time, in the aftermath of the big “ICO bubble” of late 2017 / early 2018 the event calendar was flooded with marketing-loaded, but content-poor “Blockchain conferences”.

UNCHAIN successfully brought together many of the early Bitcoin pioneers and succeeded in reviving the “original spirit” of the early Bitcoin conferences. How did you come up with the concept of UNCHAIN, why did you think it was the right time to do it and how content were you with the outcome of the first UNCHAIN in Hamburg?

Oskar: We early discovered that there was a lack of great conference events in Germany and Europe. On the one hand you had great projects and minds given, on the other hand mostly commercial roadshow event formats, calling for fast money.

Of course, there have been a lot of lovely, easy going community-events, very familiar, very down to earth. I felt that there is so much more possible – and then we met Aaron at a conference, and he pointed my attention on the Latin American Bitcoin Conference Aaron was already involved in: Having this state-of-the-art Bitcoin celebration in mind, we started to building up a similar project for Europe… in close cooperation with LaBitConf since our very first event.

The Bitcoin karma outcome of the Hamburg event was amazing in the end. We succeeded in gathering a wide range of exciting guests and speakers, whilst we chose a lucky set-up mixing conference and festival-/celebrations-elements. The feedback was that encouraging, and the event was such a fun itself for us as well, that we couldn’t stop continuing it afterwards. 

Boating tours (& accidents...?) included for UNCHAIN visitors
Boating tours (& accidents…?) included for UNCHAIN visitors

Q3: Organizing international events on such a scale with limited means always comes with a lot of challenges. What was the most negative surprise/unforeseen challenge you had to deal with – and what on the other hand was the most unexpected positive surprise? 

Oskar: By holding up freedom of speech and acting completely independent from any subsidies, neither direct or indirect ones (what is quite unusual for enterprises in Germany nowadays), it is always hard and challenging to break even with our sophisticated event format.

A highly important driver of our event success and attention is, of course, the development of the Bitcoin price, no one can ever predict (except some whales maybe;). If we are stucking in crypto winter, like we are doing more or less since we’ve started our conference series, it’s tough to create a celebration momentum and to make the community dance (talking in pictures). The most unexpected positive surprise for me was and is so far, that we surprisingly succeeded in fulfilling this mission two times in the past.

Further: I’m always surprised that nearly any of our speakers do join from all continents finally, without having any contracts signed and / or receiving fees. This is just great, it made me almost cry sometimes. If we are lucky, and i hope so, it is going to happen again this year. It would be even more an unexpected positive surprise, regarding the actual corona restrictions for free traveling and planning reliability. 

Q4: After the 2nd UNCHAIN took place in Germany’s Bitcoin capital Berlin; you decided this year to host the third edition of UNCHAIN in “Manhattan”; Frankfurt in the heart of Europe which is known as mainland Europe’s main financial centre.

And it is the home of… the European Central Bank; for many Bitcoiners an incarnation of “evil” or maybe even the reason they got into Bitcoin in the first place. Why did you pick Frankfurt for the third edition of UNCHAIN?

Oskar: There are many reasons why we chose Frankfurt this year. First: In times of central banks are going nuclear with QE Infinity and governments all over the world are implementing surveillance infrastructure with breathtaking speed and sound, we Bitcoiner have even more to show up confident that we are there – providing smart, powerful alternatives to these frightening, erroneous trends.

In our perception it’s a strong signal, to not only announce our event now, but also to walk into the lion’s den: Frankfurt. Beyond that we luckily have access to a great infrastructure of community members and other resources right at the place.

Last but not least: Frankfurt is the hometown of some very special Bitcoin entrepreneurs, like Dominik Weil and Theo Goodman… and since we are mostly addressing a highly international conference audience, whilst Frankfurt provides a leading international airport, it would have nearly been a sacrilege not to combine these elements now!

Q5: What special highlights can the attendees of UNCHAIN this year look forward to?

Oskar: I’m amazed that we will probably hosting THE first Bitcoin conference in Europe, where the international community from all over the world will meet each other again in person, not virtual, after the first corona wave.

Please expect very special moments and discussions, especially since we have chosen a more intimate, arty location and set-up (also more music and less participants, but handpicked) than last years…

Please prepare yourself for much more unconference character this year… and having plenty inspiring, magical moments with our participants and also speakers, like Charlie Shrem, Giacomo Zucco, Diego Zaldivar and Alena Vranova; possibly in the shape of face-to-face conversations in our secret venue garden, where you will enjoy a fabulous glass of local red wine… or during our rich side event program (exploring Frankfurt’s best kept city secrets, like spots and dishes).

Q6: Where do you see Bitcoin go from here in 5 to 10 years? Are you these days more or less optimistic about the future of Bitcoin compared to five years ago and if so, why is that the case?

Oskar: Bitcoin is right on track, of course our eco-system anticipated the actual shocks early. To say it in Nassim Taleb’s words: “Those who panicked early don’t have to panic today.” Maybe not in this corona-set-up, but banks and governments going nuclear on money printing and surveillance incubating was expected by us with certainty.

In other words: Thanks banks and governments for promoting Bitcoin cumulative forceful. In my opinion general public and economy – especially in our western world – will start to appreciate and discover more and more the values Bitcoin as well as decentralization itself can and do provide (speaking clearly: non-surveillance, hard sound money, freedom of transaction etc.).

In the final consequence I’m even more optimistic today than I probably was in the past, if this is possible. I expect Bitcoin in 10 years being the core engine of the internet of money, and on top of this engine we will see several application layers in the shape of certain great products and services running and competing with each other (enabling smart contracting, fast transactions, mainstream-usability).

At this point of time the value of each Bitcoin will not be described in fiat money any more, but possibly in digital surveillance-money issued by big tech networks in cooperation with nations, or better: in cooperation with that, what is left over from today’s nations.  

BVN: Thank you Oskar for your time and we wish you a great success with UNCHAIN 2020 in beautiful Frankfurt/Main!

If you want to join Oskar at UNCHAIN 2020 in Frankfurt – here you can find all the information:

UNCHAIN CONVENTION 2020

Or follow them on Twitter for further event updates.

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