Alternative Finances

First Person: Boston’s Bitcoin ATM

Early 2014 has been a tough time for Bitcoin enthusiasts. Japan-based Bitcoin processor Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy in its host nation, with almost US$500 million of bitcoins having apparently evaporated into the ether on its watch. A Canadian Bitcoin exchange reported much smaller, but still worrisome, losses of $600,000 in bitcoins earlier this month.

For all the investor interest, Bitcoin has started the year looking vulnerable and possibly unstable.

Some, like New York state’s superintendent of financial services, Benjamin Lawsky, remain cautiously optimistic about the future of digital currency.

“It may be a significant bump in the road for the development of bitcoin and virtual currencies, but I don’t think it means they’re going away or it’s any kind of death knell,” he told CNBC.

Others, such as economist and Platform Dynamics co-founder David Evans, have been more dire in their predictions, noting Bitcoin as a failure to launch.

And then there are those that remain exuberant and committed to seeing Bitcoin expand its reach more fully into the mainstream. Entrepreneurs Chris Yim and Kyle Powers are two such digital-currency enthusiasts, and they are committed to making bitcoins accessible to everyone, with a technology anyone recognizes: ATMs.

Teller and Kim co-founded Liberty Teller with the goal of bringing bitcoins to the people starting in one of Boston’s more public locations, South Station. They spoke to PYMNTS.com as they began their second week manning Liberty Teller’s Bitcoin ATM kiosk. Bitcoins have nowhere to go but mainstream, Yim says, and he wants to help that evolution by making accessing digital currency familiar.

(Jump to: 0:54) “Everyone’s familiar with using an ATM. We want to make this as easy and and convenient as every other ATM out there,” he said. “There’s only a couple in the U.S., and we want there to be many, many more.”

After just over a week of operation, Liberty Teller has helped hundreds of commuters turn their dollars and cents into bitcoins.

(Jump to 3.11) “This appeals to people across all demographics. We’ve had mothers come here and purchase bitcoins for their sons for allowance,” Yim said. “We’ve had people in college all the way up to 70 plus. So we think it cuts across all different ages and races, and we think that’s really exciting that they can see the value that something like Bitcoin can provide, and we are really excited to be a part of it.”

The Bitcoin ATM also keeps up with the rapidly fluctuating price of bitcoins, with updates to the current exchange rate uploaded to the ATM every 30 seconds. According to Kim, it is possible for the price of bitcoins to change between inputting the cash and completing the electronic exchange into bitcoins.

You can get your own bitcoins as the Liberty Teller kiosk in South Station, or you can learn more about it by listening to our full conversation Yim by clicking below.

 

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