The main categories I identified are Exchanges, Wallets and Merchant Services. Exchanges are needed to get into and out of Bitcoin, they are also the gateway for Bitcoin to act like other assets, for both store of value and investment purposes. Wallets are needed to securely store your Bitcoins, and make them accessible whenever you need them for specific transactions. Finally, we have the merchant services companies, enabling merchants to easily accept Bitcoin as a form of payment.
These 3 categories are almost the pre-requisites to reach critical mass. Given the marketplace nature of Bitcoin, we need to reach that critical mass before successful applications can emerge. However, other categories are also important for the ecosystem to develop.
Even though identity seems to be counter-intuitive for the Bitcoin protocol, it will be required to get to mass adoption. The use cases that are going to be allowed with regulation are those use cases in which identity will matter. We’ve seen it before, security always lags quite some time, however, in this ecosystem, I anticipate it will emerge much earlier given the nature of the disruption.
Other interesting use cases where I anticipate big disrupting companies will emerge are remittances and gaming. For remittances, the ease of cross-border transactions, coupled with the peer-to-peer nature of the protocol and the wide adoption of mobile phones in emerging economies, will create the petri-dish to disrupt incumbents such as Western Union. In the case of gaming, the divisibility of Bitcoin as well as lower transaction costs, will expand the opportunity by making micro-transactions a non-issue.
I haven’t seen companies in the lending or insurance spaces, but I anticipate people are already thinking about these opportunities and I look forward to hearing about them!
We are in the very early days of Bitcoin, so I’m convinced the landscape will continue to evolve. I’ve already seen companies completely change their business models, and that will continue to happen as we explore the frontiers of this disruptive opportunity. I also realize that I have likely missed some great companies, so please let me know if I missed you, or if you are thinking about other ways to categorize the companies (to add new companies click on this link: http://goo.gl/bBLl7V). It would be great to hear your thoughts!