Gregor Knafelc is the owner of GreCom, a Business Development and Communications Company based in Slovenia, which has began focusing on developing Bitcoin startups in the region due to increasing demand.
Cointelegraph got the chance to reach out to Gregor to get his thoughts on opportunities for Bitcoin in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region, how to move from technology to business thinking (which Gregor believes is “the next step”) and the prospects of Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, to become a cryptocurrency hub.
Cointelegraph: You mentioned in your bio that you discovered Bitcoin back in 2012. Could you tell us a little more on how this happened?
Gregor Knafelc: My friend opened a company and moved to Cyprus and he needed to open a personal bank account there but he changed his mind, due to political and economic situation there and instead of this he started to use BTC and converted large part of his savings into BTC.
After that I started learning about BTC. Today I strongly believe that BTC is one of the 3 major disruptive innovations that happened in recent past along side with affordable high speed mobile communications and 3D printing. All three are more democratic than the US constitution.
CT: Your company, GreCom, which helps companies penetrate into Central/Eastern European markets, recently started advising BTC companies as well. Are you seeing a lot of demand for your services from BTC startups right now?
GK: There is a demand on the market; we are getting requests every week from different international BTC companies and investors who are looking to penetrate CEE market. Not many people know that Central, Eastern Europe with Balkans has a population of over 200 million people. If we add Russia we are well over 300 million people. The market is huge as well as the opportunities.
CT: You have recently invested in ComCoin, a Slovenia-based BTC ATM operator. What was the reasoning for this investment? What are the prospects for this company?
GK:Yes we created a ComCoin brand which is part of our GreCom Company operations and its focus is offering services in the BTC ecosystem. Currently ComCoin is involved in business development for ATM operators. We help our Swedish partner bt.cx to develop and penetrate their platform and infrastructure in the region. We also work with several other leading BTC companies to penetrate in the CEE region with their services and products.
CT: One of the biggest BTC exchanges, BitStamp, is based in Slovenia. How Bitcoin-friendly would you say Slovenia is compared to other countries in CEE and in Europe as a whole?
GK: Slovenia is small state, with population of just 2 million. As such we have to be innovative and focused on foreign markets. Slovenia has a tradition of being early adopter of new technologies. For instance Slovenia had one of the first web pages presenting our country on the web already in 1994 by Science Institute Jožef Štefan (IJS).
Mobile penetration in Slovenia in the 90's was one of the highest in the world. When USA was still using wire phones, we already were using mobile phones and applications. The most advanced Transactional National Payment System for all payments between business entities in the country was introduced in 1996 as the first such system in the world, for example. To no surprise also BitStamp must have and did happen in Slovenia. BitStamp in the BTC ecosystem is in my opinion as important as Google is for the internet.
But there is some work to do. As a country we should adopt the right legal framework which will speed up the process of growing BTC start-ups and attract investors to Slovenia. While at the moment we are comparable with other countries in EU, I hope that Slovenia, as a dynamic and technologically advanced country and society, will progress faster.
CT: The Bitcoin Central & Eastern European Conference is scheduled to be held in Ljubljana in September. How important is this event for Bitcoin in the region and what do you hope to achieve at this conference
GK: Slovenia has a strategic position in Central Eastern Europe, it is very close (2 to 4 hours drive) to European business important cities like Vienna, Milano, Munich, Zagreb, and Venice. Furthermore, Slovenia has a good reputation within the technical and business communities of Bitcoin.
These are reasons why we believe Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia is a perfect match for the BitCoin Central Eastern European Conference where new ideas and case studies of successful projects from all over the world will be demonstrated. Of course it’s a start for us, but I believe we can create a BTC hub in Slovenia for neighboring countries and developed conference as a yearly event with regional impact.
CT: As an experienced entrepreneur and BDS adviser, what do you think Bitcoin needs to become a mainstream form of payment?
GK: In my opinion there are three things which have to happen. First is legal framework, which will give customers, end users and businesses more trust. Second is the move from technology to business thinking at least at those companies that already have products or services in BTC system. The third is that all companies in BTC, especially leading companies, must integrate social responsibility into their business models. They work on and invest in building awareness of BTC among the general population.