December 26, 2017 11:09 am

Is Bitcoin changing the world of finance in Montreal?

WATCH ABOVE: From cryptocurrency startups to major bitcoin investors, Montrealers of all ages are jumping onto the bitcoin bandwagon. Howard Cohen reports on how cyrtocurrencies are creating tight-knit communities in the city.

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The world watched as the value of bitcoin boomed in December.

The volatile crypto-currency has been drawing the attention of investors and financial service firms in recent months.

Now, entrepreneurs and investors from Montreal are trying to get a piece of the growing pie, as the city becomes a hub for crypto-currency trading and innovation.

Justin Harris, a 28-year-old Montrealer and software engineer, said he increased his investment tenfold by venturing into the world of crypto-currencies.

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He regularly attends Montreal blockchain meet-ups and is an active participant in the city’s ecosystem of entrepreneurship.

“I started seeing all the people and I said, ‘Wow, bitcoin is a big thing,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: Woman accused of laundering bitcoin for ISIS got U.S. visa thanks to family ties: officials

Harris explains that entrepreneurs have started to gamify the whole world of crypto-currencies.

The latest example is CryptoKitties, a platform that allows you to buy digital cats, mate the cats and then put them on the market.

He says the highest cat sold for around US$100,000.

Jonathan Hamel, the founder of Bitcoin Academy, explained Montreal is home to the world’s first official blockchain hub.

“Canada and Quebec are leaders in the world with respect to bitcoin regulation and innovation,” he said.

He said he’s a firm believer in the underlying blockchain technology that records transactions and is not surprised by bitcoin’s boom.

“Bitcoin appreciated close to 1,500 per cent in 2017,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: Bitcoin’s roller-coaster ride could get even wilder, experts say

Jamie Klinger, a crypto-currency consultant at Honestly Marketing, said the magic in bitcoin lies in its ability to bypass banks.

“Bitcoin offers a secure transfer of information and hosts a public record of global transactions without any intermediary,” he said.

Bitcoin is just one of many crypto-currencies.

Fred Pye, the founder of Canada’s first crypto-currency fund, noted that some of the newer currencies are not widely understood.

He’s working with a team of 25 people across Montreal and Toronto to value crypto-currencies, seeking to end speculation and replace it with accurate information.

He’s recruited McGill students to “analyze the disruptive technologies to see if they’re actually worth what people think.”

Is bitcoin just another example of how technology is changing the world of finance bit by bit? Or is it creating a bubble that is about to burst?

Goldman Sachs’ announcement in December that it’s setting up a crypto-currency trading desk suggests that these questions are not going away anytime soon.

The investors who have the answers could get a lot richer.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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