On an unusually warm London evening I attended my first Bitcoin meeting at the Vape Lab, site of Cointrader.net’s London Bitcoin ATM. There I met Hugh Halford-Thompson, who hosts the weekly Bitcoin meet up. 

Hugh is the Co-Founder of QuickBitcoin, which allows people in the UK to trade Bitcoin quickly and easily as well as head of UK Operations at the cointrader.net exchange. 

Cointelegraph: What were your first impressions of Bitcoin and what drew you to it? 

Hugh Halford-Thompson: When I first saw Bitcoin I completely missed the point and wrote it off as something that would never take off. Two years later (march 2013) I was introduced to it properly by my brother Guy and as I read about the technology and read Satoshi’s white paper I realized how big a breakthrough the blockchain technology is. Most people don’t realize that Bitcoin the currency is only the first application of Bitcoin the technology. 

CT: What inspired you to host the London Bitcoin Meet up at the Vape Lab on Tuesdays from 4pm-8pm? 

HH-T: I want to help people new to Bitcoin understand how great Bitcoin is and how easy it is to trade as well as discuss and debate more in depth issues surrounding the world’s first decentralized blockchain. For the more experienced we discuss uses of Bitcoin beyond just currency. 

It was clear from talking with Hugh that the large London Borough of Hackney is becoming a Bitcoin utopia.

Here at the Vape Lab, where QuickBitcoin is based, one can buy a smooth caffè latte and tasty pastry and pay in Bitcoin plus top up Bitcoin wallets with the Cointrader ATM. 

Also in the local area you can grab a beer and a bite to eat at the Pembury Tavern in Bitcoin as well as ‘The Old Shoreditch Station’ Cafè/Bar and Exhibition Venue which also accepts Bitcoin. 

Changing the topic slightly we talked about the dark side of the entrenched fiat British banks.

CT: How have you been treated by the old fashioned fiat banks where you have your company bank accounts and what does this mean for cryptocurrency businesses in general? 

HH-T: Even if one sets up a company that only organizes talks about Bitcoin that company bank account stands a high risk of being shut down. Banks are very prejudice against all of this. 

CT: Do you think there is a place for any of the other altcoins apart from Bitcoin? 

HH-T: I think they are good as testing grounds for new Bitcoin features but I do not think any of them offer serious alternatives to Bitcoin. The exception here is Bitcoin 2.0 projects such as Ethereum, Next, Mastercoin… each of which offer something different from or on top of Bitcoin. 

CT: What do you think about regulation of Bitcoin and organizations such as the Bitcoin Foundation? Do you feel there is a place for them or do you think, because of the way Bitcoin is designed as a decentralized cryptocurrency, regulation is irrelevant? 

HH-T: There is a place for regulation around the entry and exit points to Bitcoin. Within the crypto ecosystem the protocol replaces most of the regulation. Traditional laws still apply to stop fraud but tight regulation within Bitcoin will stifle innovation. Bitcoin is a platform like the internet that needs to be open so that people can build upon it. 

CT: Looking to the future what do you see as major developments in the Bitcoin space as well the future for QuickBitcoin / Cointrader UK? 

HH-T: We recently launched a brokerage where we match buyers and sellers OTC. This is to cater for the growing number of 6-7 figure requests from bankers and finance companies. I see more traditional financial firms looking at Bitcoin every week - when they get more involved it should push up the price to a more stable level. 

The other area which I can see really taking off is the remittance business. We are currently in talks with BitPesa and aim to undercut banks and Western Union for sending money from the UK to Kenya.