I had the pleasure of interviewing the Chief Technology Officer at Bitcoin Brothers, Thomas J. Ackermann. Bitcoin Brothers is the technology leader in Industrial Bitcoin Mining.

Allen Scott: OK so first, how did you get into Bitcoin?

Thomas Ackermann: That was actually a coincidence. I eventually decided I wanted to live in Europe again and after I got back to Germany, I was looking for some kind of startup company in an exciting new market, to put it very bluntly [laughs].

I wanted to pursue something that really makes a difference not just your regular techie-stuff. In Berlin of course, there’s a significant startup scene, so I spent a couple of months looking around and then came across the Bitcoin crowd, which is very strong here in Berlin. And then Mark, the COO, approached me and thought I would make a good addition to the team, which I found mutually interesting. So we got together and started to shape the business, tried to visualize the product, make the business plan to get the funding so we can start building the computers.

AS: Speaking of the Berlin startup scene, I’ve recently discovered that Soundcloud.com is actually from Berlin. How do you find the scene in Berlin compared to Silicon Valley, where you worked previously? 

TA: Yeah, Soundcloud is certainly the biggest startup out of Berlin that has emerged and we hope to be the number two. Berlin is not comparable directly to Silicon Valley in America - an environment where you can build something very quickly where you have access to all the venture capitalists.  So for them it’s more like a gambling situation where you put money into to it and see which one takes off. 

In Europe things work slightly different. You have the investors - not like risk and capital investors - but more institutional investors who do a lot more due diligence and that’s why it takes a lot longer to get capital here. So the scene has not developed as rapidly since a lot more preparation is required. However, startup companies that are here have a lot more substance and even though the pace is slower, more comes out of it. They’re building huge incubator centers that should be available for a bunch of companies that qualify for those programs. So it’s not competition to Silicon Valley or Tech Valley, New York, or some other carbon copies that people have tried to make. However, it’s another scene that attracts a lot of talent. Lots of people move to Berlin to be part of startup companies. 

AS: In relation to Bitcoin Brothers, could you give a brief overview of your business model and the company’s plans for the future? 

TA: Bitcoin Brothers came from an industrial background. In the Bitcoin market you need an enormous amount of computing power, so it was the Bitcoiners who were very enthusiastic about it. They realized that they need dedicated computer chips to provide that power. However, these enthusiasts struggled with this problem. But when we came in, we looked at it in a completely different way - we all come from different industrial backgrounds like the two Brothers for example - Mark and Maik - they come from a hardware engineering background. This allowed us to develop these chips - 20nm ASIC chips - as well as the complementary hardware. We productized the whole system and built these computers calling them mining clusters. It’s basically a supercomputer that consists of 256,000 of those ASICs mounted on boards in about 100 data cabinets. So each of these machines has about 3.3 PH computing power or more. And we can scale them. This solves a major problem on the Bitcoin mining market. 

Even if you could get your hands on the hardware it’s also difficult to deploy these machines as it requires a lot of power (0.45 W per GH) whereas our machines can run on a lot less. Although, the whole machine still draws over 2 MW of power.