Bitcoin ATMs are a necessary part of the cryptocurrency infrastructure. Until there will be a robust Bitcoin economy without the need of frequent exchanges to fiat money, their existence could hardly be in doubt. Cointelegraph spoke to two BTM operators in Slovakia: Marián Jančuška, CEO of IT company 0011 and operator of the first European BTM, and Peter Bešina, CEO of Cryptodiggers.eu. Topics include the patterns of people using BTMs, technical reliability of the machines, their future, new projects, and what is the atmosphere like in the Bitcoin community.
Cointelegraph: What was the demand like during two years of BTM operation, were there any remarkable changes?
Marián Jančuška: I have noticed some correlations to Bitcoin price. Usually, demand decreases after a steep rise in price, when people expect a return to a stable price or a correction. In other cases, a rise in price can spark panic buying as noticed at the end of 2013. On the other hand, people don’t seem to take advantage of falling prices when the demand is low. I must also note that there are customers who buy Bitcoins regardless of the price. These customers most likely use Bitcoins as a means to doing business, not as a store of value.
CT: How do you see those two types of BTMs as regards their reliability and technical problems?
MJ: The Lamassu machine had some issues during the first year of its operation, but the Lamassu team was not only responsive in resolving these issues, but was also able to deliver software upgrades which made the operation much more stable and reliable. I highly appreciate the full control the operator of a Lamassu machine has, including a possibility to run one’s own server and integrate with the machine’s software.
BitXatm’s Sumo Pro may be more suitable for the operator who prefers not to deal with the technical part of the operation, as this is covered solely by the BitXatm team. The BitXatm software is not open-source, which can make its development costly and lengthy. The BitXatm team is responsive to issues, though the machine’s reliability level seems to be a bit below the one offered by Lamassu.
CT: Do BTMs have a bright future? Is it a good business venture?
MJ: BTMs have as bright future as Bitcoin itself. If you’re considering operating a BTM, you need to assess potential demand in your area. If you want to help start a Bitcoin economy, you should make sure you can operate the BTM without profit for an extended period of time, i.e. minimize your fixed costs. As of now, I don’t have any plans to expand to other cities in Slovakia, but will gladly support any initiative like that.
Peter Bešina: You never know if you don’t try. We believe in the blockchain technology regardless if we succeed or not, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. However there are many conditions that impact the profitability of a single BTM. Rent costs, fees, the price of the BTM; as in any other business, you have to evaluate the business case on it’s merits.
CT: Any new bitcoin projects in the plan?
MJ: A few ideas, but also many other activities and priorities. I definitely don’t want the Bitcoin ATM to be my only contribution to our bright future…
PB: CryptoDiggers has a multi-currency payment gateway ready for use since last year. There is an API for public use. Also the GUI backend allowing users to setup a master account for their eshop business using our eshop payment plugins for the well-known e-shops like OpenCart, Magento, and Woocommerce. Of course our Android PoS terminal Application,which allows larger merchants to accept any of CryptoDiggers supported coins (BTC, LTC, WDC), without special privileges for casher. We are supporting EUR, USD, GBP, CAD, AUD, JPY and CNY based eshops to get the correct exchange rate and QR code in the checkout process.
In a month we will release a new merchants component, offering real value by providing one master account for all related businesses. It will store details for as many eshops as the master account will need, and details about the company (including banking information) in the case that the merchant needs to exchange coins for fiat currency. As we are also a partner for our customers as exchange mediator for EUR, having TIER3 on Kraken we are preparing this feature especially for EU based customers using SEPA transfers.
CT: How do you perceive the Bitcoin atmosphere over the last two years? Is there any stable progress or no? Do people who have heard of BTC still perceive it as some ponzi or get rich quick scheme?
MJ: People who know Bitcoin only from the mainstream media can only repeat what is published in the media. Although the topics are slowly shifting from ‘ponzi-scheme’ to ‘blockchain innovation’, The mainstream media never misses a chance for a sensational (e.g. ‘terrorist funding’) headline. Fortunately, there are people who are curious and brave enough to take the first step and try this still very new thing for themselves, learn, explore... Not many, but numbers are growing.
I think people in Slovakia are quite conservative and careful when it comes to their money. However they rarely understand the big picture, long-term risks and consequences of their investment decisions or central bank policies. One way to open people to Bitcoin is an education towards financial literacy. However, this is not the path masses will take. The Bitcoin industry needs to come up with solutions which are easy to grasp and provide immediate tangible benefits in comparison to non-blockchain alternatives. There are also many opportunities in private as well as public sector companies and organizations, but similarly as with people, it takes a bit of courage, commitment and will to take your fate into your own hands.
PB: I think many people left the community because of many affairs like MtGox and the price decline. You have to understand that the greediness of the people was a big driver and motivator at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. But the community in the last few months is again rising from the ashes like the phoenix, and I hope the driver won’t be just profit, but the faith in crypto economy based on decentralized blockchain technologies.
I really don’t know whether people are talking about Bitcoin as a ponzi scheme, except for some desperate articles in the IT websites. However, as with any kind of investment or money operations, you have to check where you put the investments.
I've heard some opinions or reactions that it is a technology for terrorists. This topic was hot recently in the EU parliament, so we will wait for the official results despite e.g. the UK government’s consideration that digital currencies don’t represent any risk with such volume. I think they know what they are talking about. The reasons and sources for terrorism lie elsewhere.
Are you interested in the theme of this article? Look at our ratings of blockchain companies/cryptocurrencies in top of Bitcoin ATM.