Several countries have tried to become the “Bitcoin Capital of the World” during the last year, and the competition only seems to be growing. The Isle of Man made the attempt, UK banks pulled the rug out from under their feet, and Australia is certainly one of the world’s leading Bitcoin countries.
Holland, and in particular Amsterdam, might just grab the title. The team behind the Dutch startup BitStraat put their heads together with BitPay to put 100 dedicated Bitcoin payment terminals in brick and mortar stores in the city. The BitStraat project, founded by Amsterdam residents Max Barendregt and Kasper Keunen, seeks to serve as a middleman between Bitcoin merchants and BitPay, one of the largest Bitcoin payment processing companies in the world.
Amsterdam seems to be a perfect place for a project of this type, according to Barendregt:
"It only makes sense to establish Amsterdam as the global bitcoin capital. The Dutch capital has a history and a name for being technologically ambitious, as well as open minded and forward thinking, in general. A currency for the people [that is] free from centralized control would be a natural fit. We aim to enable visitors to our city to pay for all of their expenses in bitcoin, including their stay in a hostel, their trips to museums and their dinner at local restaurants.”
The project began in May of 2014 when the founders met with the Bitcoin Foundation at Bitcoin2014 in Amsterdam. The Bitcoin Foundation had opened its European base in April, and Moe Levin, BitPay’s director of European business development, was impressed by the Amsterdam initiative:
"Our community made us, so our philosophy will remain simple: we put our community first. That means supporting any local project that increases adoption, adds awareness, and ultimately drives bitcoin from speculation to mainstream."
The POS terminals that have been developed for Amsterdam Bitcoin City consist of a small tablet device with specific software installed. This is integrated into a custom-made stand, so it can be easily placed on any countertop.
Since the terminals, their installation, and BitPay's payment plan all cost nothing, the whole package is completely free for the first 100 merchants to enroll—up to a monthly revenue of €900.
After that, merchants get the noncommittal option to either pay €10 a month for the complete service, or they can purchase the terminal outright for €120.
Interest and competition
Amsterdam Bitcoin City has so far signed up 18 vendors, although not all of them have had their payment terminals installed.
Among these bitcoin-accepting locations are Hofje van Wijs, a cafe set to accommodate the first Bitcoin Embassy Amsterdam later this year, and Pakhuis de Zwijger, the event-venue that hosts the city's monthly Bitcoin Wednesday meetup.
BitStraat and BitPay hope to reach 100 participants by next spring.
In order to become the Bitcoin capital of the world, Amsterdam Bitcoin City will first need to surpass another Dutch city, however.
Arnhem Bitcoincity signed up 15 Bitcoin-accepting merchants at its launch in May of this year, and has more than doubled in size to 36 participants since then.
Arnhem Bitcoincity was itself inspired by another Dutch project, the Bitcoin Boulevard in The Hague, which consists of 10 bitcoin-accepting merchants along a single canal.
Filip Roose—cofounder of both Orillia, a Bitcoin services company, as well as cofounder of the Belgian Bitcoin Association—is a sponsor of the Bitcoin Boulevard in Ghent. He had this to say:
“Belgium is lagging behind on Bitcoin adoption, big time! By organizing a boulevard in Ghent within the next few months, we hope to catch a bit up on The Netherlands.”
The European Union might still be pondering how to treat Bitcoin, but entrepreneurs and businesses are not willing to wait. The Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Italy all seem to be fertile ground for a thriving Bitcoin ecosystem.
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