The Bitcoin headlines are ubiquitous. A recent U.S. government raid of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange signals impending regulation. The infamous Winklevoss twins were keynote speakers at the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose, which just wrapped yesterday. Bitcoin ATMs, which accept global currencies, may even spark an economic revolution.

All of which begs the question: what is a Bitcoin?

According to Bitcoin, it is a digital currency that “uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network.” Bitcoin was created in 2009 by an anonymous founder who went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. His or her true identity remains unknown, although there’s no shortage of speculation.

The currency is decentralized, not controlled by any government or company, mostly anonymous and practically free of transaction costs. With the big question shifting from whether or not Bitcoin will succeed, to just how big it can get, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are shifting their attention and resources accordingly toward the open-source project.

While the science behind Bitcoin is complex, using it is quite simple. New users install any one of a variety of “wallets” onto their computers and/or mobile phones. Each user is assigned an address, which can be shared with others to accept payments or vice versa. All payments are posted to a shared public transaction log called a block chain, which aids in the verification of each transaction. Explains Bitcoin, “Cryptography is used to make it impossible for anybody to spend funds from another user’s wallet or to corrupt the block chain.”

The sharp rise in demand for Bitcoin is fueled in part by scarcity. Satoshi Nakamoto capped the total possible number of Bitcoins at 21 million, and about half have been mined and put into circulation. Given the highly speculative nature of the Bitcoin market, prices have been volatile, ranging from $5 per Bitcoin in June 2012 to more than $250 last month. The process of acquiring Bitcoins is best illustrated in this piece from Slate’s Farhad Manjoo on the current “shadiness” of the Bitcoin market.

However, the variety and scale of merchants that accept Bitcoin continues to grow. Reddit, which was highly influential in the rise of one-to-one Bitcoin transactions, now accepts the digital currency as payment for its Reddit Gold premium service. Online dating site OkCupid now accepts BitCoin, as does a New York City bar and a Texas-based lawyer. One Forbes writer was able to live on Bitcoin in San Francisco for a full week.

Opinions are varied regarding the future of Bitcoin, but these five economists (including a couple of business school professors) are cautiously optimistic about the digital currency’s chances of survival. As one Bloomberg Businessweek writer and Bitcoin conference goer suggests, “A lot of very smart and credible people are putting a lot of time and money on the line in an effort to redefine the world’s financial infrastructure.”

Want to learn more about Bitcoin? Check out these YouTube primers:
Bitcoin – What is it?
What is Bitcoin?

HTBA is excited to introduce the 2013-2014 board! Check back soon for more information on each member.

  • Ashley Mallinson – President
  • Kate Edwards – VP Marketing & Comm. – Brand Management
  • Gregory Paige – VP Marketing & Comm. – Digital Strategy
  • Mitch St. Peter – VP Alumni
  • Alice Tang – VP Finance & Membership
  • Karen Diaz – VP Special Events
  • Guru Bhatt – VP FEMBA
  • Zak Stern – VP Business Development – Sponsorship
  • Sean Teague – VP Business Development – New Business
  • Bo Pulito – VP Business Development – LA & Startups
  • Noelia Marcos – VP Business Development – Digital Media
  • Chris Hatfield – VP Student Affairs – Career Development
  • Angela Hsiao – VP Student Affairs – Education
  • Ashutosh Dubey – VP Student Affairs – International
  • Pete Sung – VP Recruiter Relations – Career Night
  • Steve Bauer – VP Recruiter Relations – Tech Treks (Bay Area)
  • Weiwei Wen – VP Recruiter Relations – Tech Treks (Seattle)

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer ignited an Internet firestorm last week when her head of human resources sent a company memo announcing a ban on working from home (also known as telecommuting). The choices were clear: work together in the office or quit.

Technology has increased the effectiveness of telecommuting by removing many of the communication and workflow barriers that used to necessitate physically being in the office. Video-chat platforms like Skype allow teams to interact from anywhere in the world. Cloud-based productivity services, from simple tools like Google Docs to fully integrated business solutions from SAP and Oracle, now enable anytime, anywhere access to critical work resources.

A flexible work environment has become a cultural norm, particularly within the Silicon Valley tech community. In a blog post, Richard Branson opines that Mayer’s ban “…seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.” Furthermore, telecommuting advocates argue that the practice of letting people work from home, or anywhere else for that matter, is good for business. The Independent cites various sources to support the position that “cultures that embrace flexible working styles also produce happy, healthy employees that satisfy customers, innovate and produce meaningful results.” The Huffington Post predicts that, despite Mayer’s decision, workplace flexibility is here to stay, as telecommuting in the U.S. grew by 11.4 percent from 2008 to 2011.

However, Mayer is not without supporters on the issue. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who made a splash of her own last year with her manifesto “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” writes that Mayer’s first job is to save her company, not to make life easier for working moms. A key takeaway from a recent PBS Newshour segment is that Mayer’s decision is less about productivity and more about ensuring Yahoo! is positioning itself for innovation.

A former Harvard Business School senior researcher suggests that Mayer’s work-from-home ban is supported by data. Similarly, a 2012 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that telecommuting “appears to have become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours, facilitating workers’ needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek…”

Ultimately, those who choose to leave Yahoo! may not have too much trouble finding a new gig. Smaller tech companies have already begun wooing alienated telecommuters with messages like, “Hey #Yahoos: if you’re being forced to quit come work with us @intridea. We all work from home!”

Every week, we’ll pose a question to get the conversation started on Facebook: Do you support Marissa Mayer’s ban on working from home? Why or why not?

As previously discussed in the Spotlight Series, mobile is changing everything. Technology aficionados await the latest and greatest in mobile with bated breath, and report after report details how mobile is the future of the industry.

But as exemplified by this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, sometimes the biggest news isn’t always about the cutting edge; sometimes the most important innovations come as adaptations in accessibility. The annual conference is similar to CES, but focuses solely on all things mobile.

With Apple and Google absent from the event, the first day of MWC featured launches and press conferences from some of the lesser-known, but growing players in the mobile space, such as Asus, China’s ZTE, and LG. All three introduced Android phones targeted at a lower price point, highlighting the growing need for mobile accessibility in entry-level and emerging markets. We also saw budget and midrange launches from Nokia, including the newest Windows Phones, the Lumia 720 and 520, as well as the remarkably inexpensive Nokia 150. Nokia acknowledged its demographic as a younger audience who aren’t looking for top-of-the-line technology or prices.

Another trend at MWC is the emergence of the “phablet.” Samsung’s Note 8.0 is an 8” Android Jelly Bean tablet that can be used for phone calls as well, further blurring the line between mobile phones and tablets. LG’s 5.5-inch “phablet,” the Optimus G Pro and Asus’  Fonepad also proved that the markets for phones and tablets are not mutually-exclusive.

Perhaps the biggest news comes with the launch of two two mobile operating systems, Tizen, which is a joint effort from Samsung and Intel, and Mozilla’s Firefox OS, introducing new players into the already crowded mobile OS space.

In addition to new phone launches, the MWC also saw inroads in application of mobile technology, specifically in the automotive, energy, and city planning. Renault showcased its in-car app functionality, designed to rival similar offerings by BMW, Audi, and Toyota, proving that mobile technology isn’t just about trendy phones and tablets – there are so many exciting innovations to come.

Check out some of the hot new phones of this week’s Mobile World Congress here.

Every week, we’ll pose a question to get the conversation started on Facebook:

What phone are you most excited about? Would you use a non-iOS or non-Android operating system?

Many of us remember being awed by the world of Star Trek as young kids. Back then, Hollywood made us believe that the future held magical machines that could speak and understand alien languages, identify foreign objects with just a simple scan, and cook a meal on demand. While it was amazing to think that we might see that kind of technology in our lifetime, we know today that it was just a pipe dream… Or was it?

Artificial intelligence has actually become increasingly common in our everyday lives. Thanks to the Internet and its wealth of open and accessible information, we have been able to enjoy the fruits of what computer scientists call “machine learning,” which is a branch of AI that focuses on using computers to process unfathomably large volumes of data, and identify patterns therein. These computers can then use these patterns to analyze new pieces of information and make predictions or recommendations, based on prior learning. For example, machine learning allows Gmail to detect spam and stop it before it hits your inbox, it enables Facebook to create a Newsfeed tailored to your interests, and it helps Siri find you the best coffee shop in Westwood.

If these seem mundane or insignificant, consider an announcement from IBM, WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center last week — they have developed an application that will allow the Watson supercomputer to assess and recommend treatment for lung cancer patients. Of course, it is too soon of you to recommend that your friends drop out of medical school and switch to computer science, but it represents a significant change in the role that computers play in every part of our lives, from daily tasks to major medical diagnoses.

Every week, we’ll pose a question to get the conversation started on Facebook: What do you think will be the greatest application of artificial intelligence during our lifetimes?