An Interview with Australia’s Bitcoin Pioneer Jason Williams

Jason Williams has become a central figure in the Bitcoin scene in Australia.

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An Interview with Australia’s Bitcoin Pioneer Jason Williams
Jason Williams has become a central figure in the Bitcoin scene in Australia. 

Despite only being introduced to cryptocurrencies in 2010, he has since founded the Bitcoin Association of Australia and a startup company, BitPOS, as well as organizing meetings for Bitcoin professionals in Sydney through his organization BitcoinSYD. 

Jason has an exciting future planned and CoinTelegraph caught up with him to discuss his plans as Australia warms up to Bitcoin. 

CT: It seems Australia was quite late in developing Bitcoin infrastructure, with tools like the first ATM appearing just this month. How do you think public opinion is doing at the moment? Are things changing rapidly or is there skepticism? 

JW: I agree that Australia is late to developing Bitcoin infrastructure, however it’s a misnomer the first ATM has been installed just this month. In December last year I took delivery of the first Lamassu ATM in Australia. This ATM is now deployed in Melbourne. The use of an ATM as a metric of Bitcoin adoption is also a little flawed as the units are scarce and are allocated on a first come first served basis. 

Bitcoin has had quite a bit of attention in the local and national media over the last 12-18 months. A lot of that has been around the Silk Road, and more recently the Mt. Gox collapse. While these might seem like bad news stories in the short term, if you look beyond that, you're seeing bad actors exiting the market. There are several high profile companies in Australia that are completely above board and are being run by experience professionals, CoinJar, Bit Trade Australia and Digital BTC (as is BitPOS, my own startup) are all examples of professionally run services in Australia. 

With the new generation of offerings in Australia, and good news stories internationally, public opinion is changing to one of, "This is not just a fad, this is serious". As the general public learns more about the benefits of Bitcoin and the positive stories, the more Bitcoin will be accepted. 

There is of course skepticism in the market, which is healthy; the skeptics now need to realize that with professional and reputable service the market grows and legitimacy that grows with it. 

CT: You mentioned in an interview late last year that the Reserve Bank of Australia and ATO hadn't been in contact. Have there been any developments since? 

JW: There have indeed been developments since! Unfortunately I'm unable to share them publicly. 

CT: Can you tell us what makes BitPOS stand out against competition such as CoinKite in a market which is expanding so rapidly? 

JW: Payment processing in the Bitcoin world is really a "me too" type of field. Having said that, there are significant points of difference in the user experience between CoinKite and BitPOS. For example, the on ramp to using BitPOS is cheap, all it takes is a few minutes and an Internet connected device! 

The very nature of Bitcoin being borderless means any merchant services provider can, in theory, operate anywhere. The reality of the current market is merchants need to pay their own bills in their own local currency. BitPOS excels at this in the Australian market; we currently turn around our payments within 1 day. Our feedback from our merchants on this is positive, they love it! 

Competition is good however, it provides legitimacy in our burgeoning economy, and while we're not working directly together, our goals are the same, that is, to expand the Bitcoin economy to the tipping point. 

CT: How do you go about educating consumers about the advantages offered by Bitcoin despite its current volatility? 

JW: Before people understand why Bitcoin is so cool and such a great thing in the payment space, most people just want to know what Bitcoin actually is. There are a few ways I tackle this: 

1) I co-founded BitcoinSYD, the Sydney Bitcoin meet up. We've currently got a couple of hundred members, and in the almost 12 months that we've been running, we've had new faces at every single meet up. 

2) I'm a founding member of the Bitcoin Association of Australia, the official Australian affiliate of the Bitcoin Foundation. One of our missions is to promote Bitcoin. To achieve this we have an education subcommittee that is dedicated to producing educational material. 

3) I've founded Bitcoin Professionals. Bitcoin Professionals is a group that is kicking of early May aimed at the "professional" demographic. I will be educating the decision makers in organizations about what Bitcoin can and can't do, and how it may be appropriate for use within their company. 

4) I attend various conferences and internal events to talk to dedicated audiences about Bitcoin. 

Once people understand what an intangible form of money actually is, and how secure and convenient it is, you often see the penny drop. 

CT: What were some highlights for you from Bitcoin Barcamp last month? Are there any further conferences planned in future? 

JW: The Barcamp was a great success and a great credit to Sharon Lu who organized it! There are a few things that stick out in my mind: 

I introduced the board of the Bitcoin Association of Australia. We're a scattered mob of people and we had a few people fly in to attend. Max Kay gave a very popular talk on Ethereum, and Andy Mendik gave a great presentation on Bitcoin and security. Matthew Cridland also gave a very popular talk on his opinion of GST treatment in Australia (at this time there has been no guideline issued by the ATO). 

Toward the end of the event, our most famous merchant, The Old Fitzroy hotel offered beers for sale using Bitcoin! The whole event was a great success. There are a couple of Bitcoin conferences planned in Australia this year, CryptoCon in Sydney and Inside Bitcoin in Melbourne, both in July. I'm quite looking forward to both of them!


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