Imagine selling lemonade on the street for £5. Imagine storing that hard-earned money in a jar and doing jack shit for a week. Suddenly, the money in your jar has grown to £50. Now imagine we're not talking about a couple of pounds, but millions. That’s sort of the situation Anthony Gallippi has found himself in.
He’s the CEO of BitPay, a company that makes it easier for pizza places, indie designers, and anarcho web providers to accept Bitcoin. Instead of having to pull out a credit card or log into Paypal and deposit money there, his software leads the consumer through an easy step-by-step interface that let’s them pay in the cryptocurrency. BitPay pays the merchant in euros, dollars or pound, while your bitcoins go to them.
But the value of those bitcoins has risen about a 1000 percent over the last month. So these are happy times for Gallippi and his company. He was kind enough to talk to us right at the start of the American holiday shopping season.
You guys started two years ago, when one bitcoin wasn’t even worth one dollar. Now they’re worth $1000. You’ve also received more than two million dollars in venture capital. How much money do you have?
I’m not going to disclose that.
But where are you in the top 100 Bitcoin owners?
Ehhh. Top 100? Top 500? Maybe. Top 100. I don’t know? We are constantly trying to balance our sheets. We’re obviously long on bitcoins, but we need regular cash too. But that bitcoins have risen in value has definitely helped us, yes.
It’s a crazy business model. Not only are you guys selling a product, you’re also making a huge profit on the amount of bitcoins you receive.
We realized that when we started two years ago. Considering that bitcoins would go up in value, of course. But we offer a choice to the merchants if they want regular currency or if they want bitcoins. It’s their choice. Most choose pounds, euros, or dollars.
Good for you. So you guys also have a secondary interest in getting more merchants implementing BitPay. The more online retailers accept BitPay, the higher the trust in bitcoins, the higher the value of your pile.
Yes. We landed some big customers recently, like the firm Takeaway.com, a gateway for ordering take-away food at more than 5000 restaurants. They’re a market leader in the Netherlands. But what was way more influential for the value of Bitcoin was the Senate hearing in the United States. I was an expert witness there.
Everybody thought they were going to put the hammer down on Bitcoin, but the opposite happened.
They were surprisingly mild about it, and very positive about its potential. It instantly got it out of the tech corner and definitely into the mainstream.
Tony explaining to American senators why bitcoins are boss.
In the last few days there has been more attention to the little brothers and sisters of Bitcoin: Litecoin, Feathercoin, and Namecoin, for example. Are you going to invest in those now?
No. I don’t see the use. They’re technologically inferior; their liquidity is too small; not enough businesses have adopted them. I just don’t see it happening.
Even though they are at around $30 now.
I just don’t believe in them. We’re going to stick with Bitcoin.
What is your next step then?
We’re opening up a European headquarters in Amsterdam.
Oh? Why not London or Berlin?
They have perfect public transportation, a highly educated population with an affinity for technology, and they have an extremely modern and well developed digital banking infrastructure. Everybody pays online with a system called iDeal, which basically is a cooperation system between the banks of the Netherlands. You don’t find a combination of those factors in many other countries.
The idea of bitcoins is that they are not in the hands of banks or other large private institutions. Some might say, like myself right now, that your company goes against that ideology by centralizing wealth.
I don’t believe there will be some sort of income disparity when it comes to Bitcoin. I actually think we can open up huge opportunities by making bitcoins available in emerging markets. They often don’t have any form of a modern banking infrastructure. Bitcoins cut through all those problems at a minimal cost. I think it would bring them opportunity, not the opposite.