In this interview streamed live on 16 October 2018, we have a chance to hear Martijn Wismeijer from General Bytes answering questions about Bitcoin ATMs.
Martijn states that he got into crypto somewhere in 2010, while he was designing home banking systems. When he discovered Bitcoin, he thought it was like Napster for cash and, as he says, he was hooked from day one. Eventually, he started operating Bitcoin ATMs. Before he joined General Bytes, he did the marketing for them, but as he says, that was easy since you have a great product to sell. He also points that, although he considers himself as a Bitcoin maximalist, their ATMs embrace all crypto, and it would be bad if they were to decide for their customers on what crypto to use. The company grew over 5 years and now they are 29 people working for General Bytes.
- In your opinion, what is the state of Bitcoin ATMs across the globe, where do you see the most uptake?
We see the professionalization of the market. In the past, there were just mom and pop companies, but now those early operators are expanding way beyond just a few locations. We see some operators actually have over 100 or 200 locations because it is easy to scale. Basically, you just need to run one server and connect all your ATMs there, so now we see fewer single machine operators and more larger networks.
- How are you guys coping in the bear market? Do you get more customers or fewer customers? Are the sales going down or are they increasing?
The price is not really an issue for operators since they run a cash-based business. They make money on percentage, so if Bitcoin price is high or low it doesn’t really matter to them.
Many operators are buying machines in the dip, and they keep increasing the numbers so the orders did not slow down. I think that in general business is still very good, we are not seeing a real slow down because of the dip, and the bear market, so that tells me that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, in general, will keep going strong.
- From what I’ve seen here you guys have the cheapest Bitcoin ATMs on the market for the amount of features you offer. On your machines, you have bright orange colors with a Bitcoin logo, and on your newer ATMs, you guys have this neon outer border. Maybe you can give us some of your thoughts around that design?
Actually, the first ATM was designed to be compact and easy to ship, and we didn’t give it that much thought, it was in Bitcoin yellow because we wanted it to be bright and very visible and it needed to fit all the components.
But when we designed the BATMThree, a 2-way model, it had to be larger and we added the neon vessel so that our operators can customize it to the color of the design of their location, and attract the attention of the customers. we didn’t want to make it look like an ATM because quite frankly ATMs look boring and we wanted to stand out.
Could you maybe go ahead and tell us a little bit of the descriptionbehind the software? For example what kind of software stack are you guys running? I want to hear the backend tech but then I also want to hear what you guys have in store for the front-end?
The thing is that any project you create that has a touchscreen, usually needs a keyboard and they are a bit fiddly to program. So, we selected the Android OS and basically stripped it from everything except the TCP stack and the keyboards. The rest we totally redesigned as an ATM. There is no Play Store or anything, just hardware, keyboards, and TCP stack.
Since Android is primarily based on Java, we use Java technologies for the back end and also on server and terminals. This makes it easier to develop, and find programmers that will be able to manage the entire process instead of mixing and matching different technologies. We are now able to develop new features a lot faster. Every few weeks we bring out a new software version.
For us, it is really important that we are working on decentralized technologies. If we want cryptocurrencies to succeed, we also need to make sure that the network architecture behind ATMs is also decentralized. Some manufacturers like to centralize it because they keep their fingers in the wallets of the clients, however, we do not do so. We recommend to our clients to install their own ATM software, so even if we wouldn’t exist anymore, it would be business as usual for them, and it is important. We always say decentralize everything, it is our mantra. There are some centralized features in the software like reporting the rates displayed on the screen but it switches off by default, otherwise, we would break our “decentralize everything” promise.
The software itself contains no wallets, no exchange software or anything. It’s the ATM server that will communicate to the client and their wallets. So, if you run your version of BItcoin or Ethereum wallet the software will be able to connect to it. It is the same thing with exchanges, most exchanges are supported. We do not dictate our clients on what wallet or exchange to use.
Everybody who runs their own exchange, or creates a cryptocurrency, they can just add it to our Github, the link is in the footer of the General Bytes website, and make a request. Once done, if they have any questions, they can use Github to directly contact our developers. I think this is one of the reasons we’ve been able to add so many different cryptocurrencies, exchanges, and wallets.
There’s also an option to create plugins. So, for example, if you have a connection to your bookkeeping software, you can make it automatically trigger an entry every time a transaction is posted online in your ATM, so your bookkeeper will always be in the loop. Those little things are what makes us one of the fastest-growing networks at this moment.
- You guys say that you’ve sold over 2000 machines in 54 countries, and support over 123 fiat currencies, and of course you have a support of multiple cryptocurrencies, but let’s talk a little bit about the ROI, maybe you can go and describe some of the ROI that you guys have seen now?
What we can see from the hard data is that after about six to ten months on average, we see second orders from new clients. That means that by that time they, either made enough money to purchase another machine or they can justify the purchase and grow their network.
- Let’s talk a bit more about the KYC and about some of that stuff that you support.
From the very first day, we started creating those ATMs, we built in KYC AML features. Primarily because, even though cryptocurrencies are not regulated, cash money is regulated everywhere, so there are always limits and identity checks. So, gradually you need to expand those features based on requirements of governments.
It’s the operator’s responsibility to check local laws and regulations. For example, there might be a limit on the number of anonymous cash transactions, or there might be requirements for registration. So, it’s up to the operator to check the AML or to check the identity cards. The cameras on the ATM can do a scan of the identity card and once they pass the identity check the machine gets unlocked for them. It can also be unlocked for the entire network, so if the operator has a hundred machines people only have to pass this AML KYC procedure once.
Many operators have enabled some sort of KYC AML. In most cases, it is just OTP or one-time pin sent to a phone number. In other countries, it’s required that you do an identity check before allowing anyone to use the ATM. I think it’s unfortunate, and we want some financial freedom, and I think we are over-regulated, but if we wouldn’t comply with those AML KYC regulations or requirements around the world we will be shut down and there will be no Bitcoin ATMs at all.
- I’d like you to go ahead and go into a description of the point-of-sale, and how you decided to put that in your ATM services?
“Martin wouldn’t it be cool if you could use your crypto chip implant and just load up some cash in your hands at one of our ATMs, or just swipe your hands past the ATM and get some cash?” So I thought that was an amazing idea.
- Will you be doing Lightning support any time soon?
I believe that you guys have this product called the Bitcoin ATM sign, so maybe you can go a bit into the history?
So, it is basically a voice-operated neon sign in a shape of Bitcoin logo. It is just really cool additional bonus for businesses and for the point-of-sale, but since it is hand blown glass, we do not produce them ourselves. We order them and sell them to our clients because many clients say they want to get some attention for their location.