In this interview, you will hear Martijn Wismeijer who works at one of the biggest Bitcoin ATM manufacturers in the world General Bytes, talking about Bitcoin ATMs and some other interesting stuff related to crypto.
Like most people, Martijn got into crypto accidentally, while he was looking for a job. He first got into mining and after he mined his first 50 coins he interestingly got rid of them because he thought that he will never get any use of them. This was a decision which he now deeply regrets. He got back into crypto when the price got up to $100 and at the time discovered the Bitcoin ATMs which he found useful. He immediately tried ordering ATMs from every company that he could find but had no luck since none of them would deliver. Not until the Bitcoin expo in 2014, when he met the founder of General Bytes, that he ordered his first 4 machines and started operating them in the Netherlands.
A couple of years later, his marketing suggestions to General Bytes are recognized and he was offered a job at the company. Since then the company experienced an exponential rise in numbers. They overcome the 1000 mark at the end of 2017, then surpassed the 3000 number nearing the end of 2019 and reached the 5000 until October 2020.
How do Bitcoin ATMs work?
Unlike regular ATMs, which are connected directly to the bank, Bitcoin ATMs are connect to different cryptocurrency networks. General Bytes supports more than 60. The user can go to the machine and select if they want to buy or sell, then choose the cryptocurrency they want to trade. They also have an option to choose if they want their Bitcoin through Lightning Network. In the end, they can select their wallet, and enter a discount coupon if they have it and they will receive their funds.
Apart from the ERC-20 token, General Bytes machines also support the less popular SLP token on Bitcoin Cash, which is much easier and you cannot make many errors with it as opposed to Ethereum. The goal for General Bytes is to keep an open mind on this subject and try not to judge the clients on what they want to do on their machines.
How do you keep the Bitcoin ATMs safe?
Stealing the money from ATMs, or even stealing the ATMs themselves is a big problem for the operators, so Martijn explained what they do to tackle this problem. Since they advise their customers to keep a lower amount of money in the machines as possible they offer them a Notification function, where the owner can set up a money limit and receive a notification whenever that limit is breached, so he can organize a collection.
As for physical security, their machines have an option to be anchored to the floor to prevent them from being carried away. They also come with an alarm for that purpose. Another great feature they took from regular ATMs is to take the money from the ATM itself and move it to a fortified stand below the machine which also has a code lock. As an additional layer of physical security, last month they introduced a cage that can cover the complete ATM and further protect it from theft.
Having in mind that General Bytes takes this problem seriously, and always tries to improve on this matter, if any of their machines get stolen or broken into, they request the video footage from the owner and deeply analyze it in order to devise new and better ways to protect it.
How do businesses make money from Bitcoin ATMs?
After he was asked about the return on investment for their customers, Martijn explained how they as a manufacturer, do not have a deep insight into their clients business. He explains that at the beginning their main customers were store owners and hotels, but nowadays the operators are the ones that buy the machines from them and place them in different locations. In such a setting the store owner gets a fixed fee from the operators and the operators make their profit out of the percentage they charge to the customers. These percentages are higher or lower depending on the competition in the area.
The reason why Martijn has no further information on this subject is that they as a company want to keep a decentralized nature of Bitcoin on machine architecture. In other words, all of the software is decentralized and is run either on the server owned by the client or on a designated cloud instance. That way all of the data is owned by the customer.
Again, since they are manufacturers, they do not need to have extensive knowledge of regulatory compliance. They only keep in touch with it through the operator’s requests. For example, some countries like Switzerland require you to sell only to a paper wallet so you could not buy cryptocurrency for someone else. Other countries have limits, Identification requirements, phone number checks, fingerprint checks, etc. The point is that the operator needs to get acquainted with the regulatory compliance in the area he operates in, and the manufacturer will provide the tools needed to comply with the regulations.
Martijn noticed that the regulations are getting stricter over the years. In Europe, there is a new AMLD5 directive that Bitcoin ATM operators need to comply with, and now every European country has its own implementation of the directive which makes the operators business much more complicated.
On the other hand, the US has a more mature market, where there are regulations (FinCEN), and proper banking and money collection tools available. That’s why the adoption there is by far the highest.
Plans for General Bytes
One of the plans for the company in the future is to branch out from Bitcoin ATMs. They started working with Bitcoin acceptance at Red Bull vending machines. They also plan to work on a prototype for blockchain-based access control. On the software side, they already launched EveryTrade.io which is a crypto accounting package that aims to help you manage your portfolio. It can import and analyze data from a large number of exchanges and display your portfolio status.
After hearing what Martijn said we can conclude that as a manufacturer you need to focus on an aggressive marketing strategy, improving the security of the machines, keeping the machine architecture decentralized, and providing the tools needed for the operators to comply with regulatory compliance. As for the operators, he advises them to choose the more secure locations and keep as little money as possible in the machines to reduce the theft loss.