13 February 2015

The AOL of Bitcoin Has Arrived: Coinbase Launches First True Global Bank

The internet was a vague idea for most people, before AOL arrived and gave the world a usable, daily internet access tool. The recent launch of Coinbase Exchange will change Bitcoin no less spectacularly. If you need further evidence, compare the early user growth rates of AOL with those of Coinbase. Coinbase adoption rates are significantly outpacing those that AOL made history with back in the early 1990s.

Here’s how and why.

Since Bitcoin growth rates seem to be stagnating compared to their 2013-2014 highs, most of us are accustomed now to leadership and innovation in the industry coming from the heavily venture-backed companies. From the standpoint of a VC, the space has matured over the past year from a field of slim pickings to one filled with heavyweights such as Coinbase, BitPay, Circle, BitGo, ChangeTip, BitFury, Chain, BitNet, OkCoin, Blockchain and many more. Amazing teams, amazing businesses, incredible growth trajectory and promise. If you haven’t been watching closely, you may have missed this transformation.

The recent news of Coinbase’s $75 million series C and the fruit of their labor, the Coinbase Exchange, was well publicized. However, few took note of the company’s rollout of fiat-backed accounts. On a pragmatic level, this means you can now sell your bitcoin and hold local currency with Coinbase. Individually these announcements are exciting, but in unison they represent a game changer. Bitcoin, beyond its philosophical or technological promise, has finally gained legal utility.

Let me lay this out for you in more detail.

Coinbase just used its Bitcoin foundation to become the world’s first global bank. Let that sink in. Sure, there are international banks, but operationally these banks function more as group of allied national banks who share a brand. That is not the same thing as a global bank. A customer in Greece, for example, who opens an account with Coinbase, is now doing business directly with a U.S.-based “bank.”

Thanks to Coinbase’s $75 million funding round provided by the NYSE, large U.S. banks, a multinational telecom company and a roster of finance VIPs, you can now open an account in a country such as Poland or Greece, fund your account via bitcoin or wire, and hold your money in U.S. dollars in the comparatively stable U.S.A. Your money is now completely insulated from your local currency issues, but spends the same as euros in your local bank account. This is the best of both worlds: all the functionality of your existing bank (and more), without the associated risks and fees. In addition to the banking services, Coinbase has just created the easiest, cheapest, least corrupt and most secure way to buy dollars. I imagine we’ll see an increasing number of local currencies you can hold in your account, too.

This week has seen an additional series of important announcements from Coinbase. On February 10, the company announced that it has expanded its bitcoin buy-and-sell functionality to five additional countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Norway and Croatia. This brings the total number of countries where Coinbase’s buy-and-sell features are available to 24, with its wallet functionality available in 166 others.

All Coinbase needs now is a debit card and they could complete the circle. What if Coinbase gets shut down locally? If they were smart, they’d shut down operations in that country and refund everyone their deposits in bitcoin. Let the customer unload it locally at a small discount. The result: risk-free dollars. Funded by the NYSE. And INSURED.

If you are an exchange, it is imperative that you start taking notes and start moving fast. Coinbase has created the world’s first truly global bank, with features and low fees that a legacy bank is technically incapable of offering, unless they use Bitcoin.

Congratulations are in order for Coinbase. This was no easy feat. But surely now, other financial institutions have taken note of BBVA and USAA involvement, and will be looking for their own play in the space. As soon as Coinbase turns on the marketing engine that brands it as a gateway for USD, Coinbase use will surge internationally and, by its nature, introduce those users to the world of Bitcoin. Consumers have a use case, businesses have a use case, and the best-performing venture investors are salivating. Now it’s just a race to the first 10 million users.

February 13, 2015 at 08:37PM

12 February 2015

Bitcoin Trending Issues Explored at First Satoshi Roundtable


There was no holding back on opinion, speculation or creativity at the first annual Satoshi Roundtable, an invitation-only gathering of 50 Bitcoin entrepreneurs at Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, February 6-8, 2015. According to attendees, the private, limited-attendance nature of the event created a venue for open discussion and commentary.

According to Bruce Fenton of the Bitcoin Association and Atlantic Financial, who organized the event with Anthony Di Iorio of Ethereum, many CEOs hold back on their commentary in public for fear of drawing the attention and ire of regulators, the media or competitors. To establish an atmosphere that would allow participants to freely explore current issues, problems and opportunities in Bitcoin, the event organizers elected to keep the event small and private.

The event’s website list of confirmed attendees included notable Bitcoin CEOs, entrepreneurs and early adopters such as Rodger Ver, Erik Voorhees, Charlie Lee, Vitalik Buterin and Nic Cary.

Hints are now being released of trending issues and prognostications that surfaced after two days of sessions:

  • Mining Hardware Sales Down – A tectonic shift in the economics of mining has led to a downturn in hardware sales, with one manufacturer reporting a 95 percent drop.

  • Multisig – Industry experts predict that 2015 will be the year of mass adoptions for multisig wallets among consumers and businesses. If your product does not have multisig capabilities, it is behind the curve of progress for security measures.

  • Mining Fees Gaining Prominence – Fees will become more prevalent as a critical component of the economic feasibility of mining, especially as the next halving approaches in early 2016.

  • Bitcoin ATMs – Given the high hardware costs and overhead of operation, we will probably see these first coming into play under the umbrellas of the larger Bitcoin brand names who have the ability to amortize the expense.

  • Mining End Cost Profile Shrinking – Conference attendees concluded that to be profitable, a mining enterprise now must operate with total end costs of less than nine cents per kilowatt hour. Forecast: less efficient miners fade away while the highly efficient and those with cheap power thrive.

For the most part, the conference was very informal, with many casual conversations and much information shared about the health and growth of individual entrepreneur’s businesses. Bitcoin Magazine will continue to release news and information from the conference as it becomes available.

Images via satoshiroundable.org

February 12, 2015 at 06:53PM

11 February 2015

Survey: 8% of US Retailers Plan to Accept Bitcoin in the Next Year

An online survey has found that 8% of US retailers say they are planning to accept bitcoin within the next 12 months.

The data, collected by the Boston Retail Partners, after surveying 500 retailers across the US, showed that none of the businesses were currently accepting bitcoin, whilst 5% have plans to adopt it within three years.

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In contrast, the report found that PayPal was the most widely accepted alternative payment type. The payment processor is already accepted by 13% of those surveyed, whilst 49% plan on adopting it in the next three years.

Apple Pay, arguably the biggest threat to bitcoin, is only accepted by 8% of retailers, although an additional 48% have plans to accept it within three years.

The Google Wallet is currently being used by 3% of surveyed retailers, but 28% have plans to integrate the payment method in the next three years.

The survey also found that "payment security, real-time retail and implementing a unified commerce platform", were the top focus areas for retailers.


February 11, 2015 at 03:48PM