Neil Bergquist is a co-founder and CEO of Coinme, a company that’s partnering with Coinstar and MoneyGram to form the largest network of Bitcoin kiosks in the world with 20.000 locations. Its mission is to increase global financial equity by making cryptocurrency more accessible to everyone and making the buying selling and managing of cryptocurrencies safe, easy, and efficient. In the above podcast, you can hear Neil’s insight on the Bitcoin ATM business and the importance of crypto accessibility.
The importance of accessibility
In Neil’s opinion, improving the accessibility of cryptocurrencies is a major part of the initial vision for Bitcoin outlined in its white paper where it is stated that we can have an electronic cash system that is decentralized and trusted via cryptography. In order to achieve that vision, we need to make Bitcoin accessible to everyone and not just leave it sitting in the hands of a few. So, making it accessible for different types of people and all markets is key to fulfilling that electronic cash vision.
He then explained how Coinme helped to increase the accessibility, saying that in early 2014 there was a lot of fear and mistrust in the marketplace as a result of a large number of small companies that were run by inexperienced individuals who just took off overnight when the price of Bitcoin soared. Contrary to them, Coinme worked tightly with regulators to create a trusted platform which later helped Bitcoin become seen as a more legitimate store value.
How do Coinme Kiosks work?
At the moment, Coinme is entirely focused on Bitcoin, which means that they do not support any other coins. Neil justifies that with their customer segment, where the majority of their customers are first-time purchasers, and for many of them it may be confusing to handle multiple coins when they are still not completely sure what Bitcoin is. But, having in mind that the market has become more educated over the past years, Coinme is working on multi-coin support which they plan to release later this year.
If you want to buy Bitcoin using Coinme machines first you need to accept the terms and conditions and then insert up to $2.500 in cash after which you will receive a voucher. The important thing is that it will lock the price of Bitcoin at that time, so whenever you plan to use the voucher the price will be the same as when you bought it. To use the voucher, you need to go to coinme.com or download the coinme mobile app, create an account, log in and type your voucher code. After that, the bitcoin will immediately be available on your Coinme wallet. Neil emphasizes that this simplicity of the process is especially good for first-time purchasers where they can get everything done by using Coinme rather than searching for third-party wallets.
Partnerships that help increase accesibility
Coinme teamed up with two major companies to heavily increase their reach, and Neil explained how. Over the last 30 years, Coinstar covered almost the entire U.S. market. Namely, 90% of the population has a Coinstar kiosk located within five miles. So, by using their machines, Coinme provided easy access to the majority of the people in the United States. On the other hand, MoneyGram is a company that is focused on cross-border money transmission and by partnering with them Coinme gained access to their customer base which further expanded their reach.
Neil’s experience as a management consultant for large companies really helped him in obtaining these valuable partnerships. He says that the key to approaching a potential partner is to really understand their business and present your offer in a way that really connects to who they are and what are their needs and concerns. On the other hand, you need to offer an exciting new value proposition with reduced risk. He claims that Coinme can help their potential partners to attract new and retain existing customers, drive new revenue, have something that’s culturally exciting and they can do it in a very safe and trusted way.
A regulated market?
A lot of people still have concerns about the regulation in the crypto market and are reluctant to go for it because of that. Neil thinks that it is mostly because of a lack of education where people read a bunch of false information about the crypto market and just choose to believe it. So he says that all of them in the industry have a duty to educate people and help them look beyond the headlines and understand what crypto is really about.
On the other hand, if we ultimately want Bitcoin to continue to succeed, we need to have a regulatory framework that will ensure that people will own their data and have their privacy protected while preventing money laundering, human trafficking, and terrorism. So, it’s really about balancing the two worlds where Coinme is doing a good job. Regulators can’t have access to everything but only if there is a legitimate reason. So, if you are an honorable customer you have nothing to worry about.
What future brings?
Neil shared his thoughts about the future of Crypto in the next 5 to 10 years. He thinks that cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is going to be integrated into almost everything where people are going to use it and may not even be aware. There might be a fiat representation on the front end but on the back end leveraging a stable coin on either a public or a closed chain. All in all, we’re going to see a user experience that looks more familiar.
As for Coinme, the future plans include multi-coin support, different payment types, and opening new markets. They will have several exciting announcements in the months ahead that we are looking forward to hearing.
Five quick questions
At the end of the conversation, there is an interesting segment where Neil is asked to provide short answers to five quick questions.
- What do you expect will happen with crypto in the next 12 to 24 months?
“Bitcoin at 100.000“
- What’s one cool piece of financial technology unrelated to your company that you came across recently?
“Trying to learn more about Machine learning and AI used in payment and compliance.“
- In the next five years most people will make a purchase with either Bitcoin, Apple Pay or some other similar thing. Which one and why?
“Apple Pay or Google Pay that uses crypto on the back end.”
- One piece of advice for someone considering a career in digital currency?
“Come work for Coinme, we’re hiring.”
- What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
Steve Jobbs said: “You need to say no to 100 good ideas in order to pursue one great one.”
From what we heard in this conversation with Neil Bergquist, we can say that increasing the accessibility of crypto is key to fulfilling the initial Bitcoin vision together with educating people about it while having a regulated market that will protect the customers from the illicit activity and take care of their privacy. Also, partnerships are a great way to take your business to the next level.