Fran Strajnar is a serial-entrepreneur. After having done the corporate circuit with some of New Zealand’s leading tech vendors as a BDM or Project Manager, he decided to work for himself and began experimenting with his own business ideas which included a bio-chemical startup as well as some dabbling in the electronic cigarettes market.
One of his latest ventures in the pipeline is BTM Ltd. – a company that focuses on brining Bitcoin ATMs to New Zealand. He is also the founder of bravenewcoin.com, a popular Bloomberg-type resource for cryptocurrencies. Additionally, Fran is the organizer of Bitcoin South, the first ever Cryptocurrency conference in New Zealand slated for November 29-30.
We got the chance to ask the prolific entrepreneur and Bitcoin enthusiast about his latest ventures in the Bitcoin space, the upcoming conference in New Zealand, and what the Australia’s proposed regulations could spell for the Bitcoin economy in the region.
Cointelegraph: Could you tell me how you became involved with cryptocurrencies?
Fran Strajnar: In early 2010, a friend of mine burst, no …slid into the room, like Kramer from Seinfeld, and said "oh my god, you gotta check out this Bitcoin thing out" - to which I said 'Whaaa...?' I largely ignored it as I was busy going nowhere with another project at the time and in mid 2013 we met back up and that Bitcoin Epiphany hit me. 'Wow it’s not just a currency'.... I've never looked back.
CT: You are quite a prolific entrepreneur and have done a lot of things for Bitcoin in the space. What are you working on now? What are you most excited about?
FS: Techemy Ltd is my big play right now. It's a data mining company. Out of this data we have produced Bravenewcoin.com. This is just the beginning. We have the best price-discovery mechanism in the world for Bitcoin through BNC and are turning this data into accounting software, portfolio managers and other useful SaaS products.
Our recent strategic acquisition of bitcoin.info is going to be slightly different but still within the price/data/resources providing space. It should be up in a couple of weeks.
CT: New Zealand’s first Bitcoin conference – Bitcoin South - is scheduled for November. Do you think this will be an important event as far as Bitcoin’s overall promotion is concerned? What are your goals for this conference?
FS: I think every meet-up and conference is good for adoption. That's why I led the charge on getting one organized in NZ. The landscape in NZ is ripe for adoption. Businesses here are ripe to integrate blockchain technology and Kiwi's have always viewed themselves as early adopters.
This Conference designed to be a 'journey around the block(chain)' - targeting business owners, entrepreneurs and developers outside of Bitcoin to come and learn about Blockchain Technology. I didn't want to put on a 'trade-show’. We very much want to bring new people into Bitcoin in NZ.
CT: You company BTM Ltd. is focused on bringing Bitcoin ATMs to New Zealand. How has progress been so far and will we be seeing many more ATMs in New Zealand soon?
FS: I ordered a few machines in January - they have just arrived (September) and are sitting in my office until I find a plan for it. This is as bad as some of the mining companies and their delays. Plans from Q1 have fallen over and I need to find new locations and update the strategy. With everything else I'm doing, I'm now simply going to partner with somebody who can drive this. But we will definitely have a couple live Lamassu machines at the conference!
CT: What do you think about the Australia Tax Office’s proposed Bitcoin regulations? What kind of impact do you think it will have on Australian Bitcoin businesses?
FS: New Zealand seems to take from Australia so I really hope they get it right as we'll probably end up with similar guidelines.
I think it’s a little backwards to state "the ATO states it may view Bitcoin as a currency if it gets big enough. At the same time it is curbing adoption and growth by the double tax implications so it feels very paradoxical" - but is putting a barrier on adoption by the negligence double tax rules. So it won't get big enough.
Maybe that's what they want? Who really knows? At first I thought they got it, and then I spoke with more Australian Bitcoin Businesses and read the guidelines in more detail and realized that they don't really know what they are doing. It's a shame. Just like in NY, if the ATO doesn't fix some key issues then it will drive a lot of business and taxes out of Australia. Melbourne in particular is a hotbed of innovation and has the potential to be a strong regional player in Bitcoin.
CT: Given your track record as a serial-entrepreneur now focusing on Bitcoin, do you think this new cryptocurrency economy holds the most promise for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
FS: I think if you are an Entrepreneur or a non-bitcoin business looking for opportunity, irrespective of what you’re working on: if you don't have a Bitcoin Strategy, you will regret it in 5 years. It's like Coles or Subway, asking "why would I need a website?" in 1994.
CT: What advice can you give to readers for starting their own business in the new Bitcoin economy?
FS: Find a Niche, scope it correctly and find the best people for the job. There's plenty of opportunity. There's tons more I would do but don't have the time for. And remove the words "I can't" from your vocabulary - there's always a way in Bitcoin.
CT: Anything else you would like to add?
FS: There's nothing to compare Bitcoin to. This is truly a new Epoch in Money and Business. I'm just glad to be part of it and at the end of the day, I trust in the collective decision making to balance all things, so I don't worry about bad regulation or misunderstandings as 2014 is really year 1 for Bitcoin.
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