Ben Weiss is a chief operating officer of CoinFlip, an operator that has over 1100 machines in 43 different states. He was first introduced to Bitcoin when he was at school. He didn’t have a tech background but he was drawn by the asymmetric payoff of the cryptocurrency, in a way that you can invest a little money which you can afford to lose, but on the other hand, the potential profit is enormous. He realized that it’s definitely a bigger risk not to have bitcoin. After a while, he got deeper into the tech world and recognized that Bitcoin is going to change finance and banking. So, he decided to get on the crypto train early.
Why Bitcoin ATMs?
Back in the day when his current partner Daniel Polotsky was a bitcoin trader at localbitcoins.com, he got so much demand for trades that he decided to buy a couple of Bitcoin ATMs and place them at various places, like Lincoln Park or Chicago Lakeview. Ben remembers that they were actually really poor ATMs where you needed to wait for 30 minutes to put all the cash in because the validators were extremely slow. But he liked the concept very much and teamed up with Daniel and two other partners Chris and Alan to start CoinFlip. The rest is history.
Unlike the initial machines, the CoinFlip ATMs nowadays have much faster validators, an upgraded user interface where customers can go and register in two minutes and get their Bitcoin right away, and of course better graphics and a bigger screen. They constantly try to improve the user experience in an interesting way. They actually go to their ATMs every week and do the transactions themselves to check how easy or hard it is.
Even though he thinks that their machines are super easy to use, they do have 24/7 customer support, unlike any other operator. Since they handle thousands of transactions every day, they receive valuable feedback from their customers and aim to adjust the process to meet their demands and improve the overall experience.
Who uses the machines?
Talking about their customer demographics, Ben mentioned that 15 to 25 percent of the American population is unbanked or underbanked and operates only with cash. Since they can’t use coinbase or bank transfers to get their crypto, ATMs are pretty much their only option. Having that in mind, another purpose of using the machines is for remittances. The unbanked people use Bitcoin ATMs to send money to their families in Mexico or Panama for example. It’s much quicker and easier than the western union.
First-time users are also a major segment. These people usually don’t have a tech background or any knowledge of crypto so it is much easier for them to just go to the machine and put their cash in, than going through the whole registering process at the exchanges. That makes Bitcoin ATMs a key factor in mass adoption in Ben’s opinion and that was one of the main reasons why he got in the business after all. He also shared how it is really cool to see your machines in stores or gas stations and think about them like an advertising and marketing tool for the whole industry, not just CoinFlip ATMs.
What should we pay attention to in the next 6 months?
There were a lot of interesting projects going on in the background over the past few years, which only recently got the deserved attention now the Bitcoin price is on the rise again. The ones he singled out are DeFi and especially asset-backed lending. It’s so cool that you are able to put up your bitcoin as collateral and get cash in return. So, you can acquire cash by using your Bitcoin without actually selling it. Ben is really excited about the fact that it creates a whole parallel financial system around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Now that you have deposits, lending, and lines of credit, it really starts to look like a traditional financial system built around fiat money.
This is a big progress compared to the beginning when Bitcoin was considered as a store value in Ben’s opinion. He also thinks that this trend will also positively affect mass adoption because of already mentioned unbanked and underbanked people. They are left out by the legacy financial institutions and now for the first time, there’s an actual shot of creating a financial system that will be fully inclusive for everyone.
What should we pay attention to in the next decade?
Ben is sure that the next huge tech company is going to be something blockchain-based so the crypto community will continue to grow and get closer to mass adoption. He also thinks that this company will more likely be located in Asia than the United States because the US hasn’t provided enough regulatory clarity that’s necessary.
But there are steps in the right direction. The government is working on allowing banks and other institutions to custody bitcoin. There were a lot of crazy rules around custody that wouldn’t necessarily fit with bitcoin and that was keeping a lot of institutions out of the space and was holding up a lot of innovation. Now we can see a ton of huge corporations that have added bitcoin to their balance sheet. It seems like they also realized that its’ riskier not to have it.
At the end of the interview, Ben shared a final thought, saying that Bitcoin is here to stay and repeating that everyone should own an amount of Bitcoin because it is a much bigger risk not to do so. As he put it, there is a part for everyone in this financial revolution.
We can certainly agree with him and add that if you want to take part in it as a Bitcoin operator, you should listen to your customers and constantly work on improving their experience because Bitcoin ATMs are on the front line of mass adoption advertising the whole crypto community.