For Chris Dixon the next big thing might be bitcoin

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on May 16, 2013

From The News Desk

At this month’s PandoMonthly in New York, Dixon, a partner at Andreessen-Horowitz, talked about the need for a diverse investment portfolio, and part of the thrill of working for such an influential venture capital firm is keeping tabs on what could be the next big thing. Dixon thinks it could be bitcoin.

He finds the crypto-based virtual currency fascinating, and not just because he has the bona fides of a hard core programmer. Bitcoin has the potential to be usable and feasible mainstream mode of payment -- or in his words, a “payment mechanism.” While some may view it as “a crazy Libertarian thing,” Dixon sees it as a way to revolutionize online commerce. That is, a way to transact online payments without the usual fraud and security headaches.

Online payment systems in their current iterations are plagued by numerous maladies. Identity and verification being the biggest factors for online payment companies. “You go to a payment company, half of the staff is anti-fraud," he says. "You talk to a commerce company... you have to block 40 countries in the world from buying stuff from there.”

Take Paypal for example. If you want to quickly pay your friend, you have to open account, verify your identity, add your payment info, etc. Bitcoin mitigates all these steps, and makes it easier to complete what should be unbelievably simple transactions. It's like a preloaded Starbucks card that you can buy an increasing number of things with.

This raises questions about the currency's long-term viability. This week, the Department of Homeland Security seized accounts of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox. But Dixon say the Mt Gox case is unique to that specific business, and probably doesn't indict bitcoin as a whole. And when the mainstream press speaks of bitcoin as a crazy new currency, he sees the issue as mis-framed.

People who write about it in the New York Times, for instance, don’t "know what they’re talking about,” Dixon says.

[Disclosure: In addition to being a personal investor in PandoDaily, Dixon is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, the partners of which Marc Andreessen and Jeff Jordan are also personal investors.]