The world's first Bitcoin ATM goes live on Tuesday – and it will be installed inside a downtown Vancouver coffee shop. Mitchell Demeter, co-founder of the Vancouver-based store Bitcoiniacs, is the man behind the automated teller machine's arrival.
Bitcoin was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons earlier this month, when U.S. authorities shut down the online marketplace Silk Road and alleged its users were buying and selling drugs using the digital currency.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Demeter discussed why he believes Bitcoin is necessary, how he acquired the world's first Bitcoin ATM, and his plans for other Canadian cities.
For those who still don't know, what is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency. Each country has its own currency. Canada has its currency. The United States has its currency. And this is now the currency of the Internet.
Why do people need it?
It just makes it easier for people to send assets around the world instantly, with basically no fees and no middle men.
How do the ATMs work?
In the beginning, it's going to be cash only. We will be working on integrating debit and credit cards. But basically you walk up to the machine, you select the amount of Bitcoin you'd like to purchase, it tells you how much money to deposit. And then it will either send the Bitcoins to a wallet you have on your smartphone, or it will dispense a paper wallet with the Bitcoins on them. And if you'd like to sell the Bitcoins, it's the same process, but in reverse.
How long has your store been in operation?
We've been in business since about June. Before us, the only way of getting Bitcoins was to open up an account with the main online exchanges, where you have to get verified. Then it takes time to fund your online accounts with money so you can purchase Bitcoins. What we've done is made it so people can come into our store with cash and buy in person. So it just makes it more accessible for people.
When and where are you installing the Bitcoin ATM?
These ATMs that we're bringing online will be the first in the world. We're receiving the ATM on Monday and we'll be going live on Tuesday. It's going into a Waves coffee shop on Howe Street.
We chose that location because they accept Bitcoin as payment. It's just a good potential location. They've got long hours, so it makes it more accessible for everybody.
How did you acquire the machines?
We were planning on setting up offices across Canada, then we found these ATMs, which basically do something similar. They make it more accessible. … The company that we're working with is called Robocoin. They've had these ATMs custom-built for this purpose.
How many ATMs do you plan to buy and install?
We've got one coming [on Monday], and four more coming in the beginning of December. … We're spreading those out across Canada. We don't have any locations finalized, but we'll be hitting major cities.
What do you say to people who are skeptical about Bitcoin, who question its future?
Everyone's free to make up their own mind. We don't really try to convince anybody, or sell it on anybody. But when people do their own research, they really quickly see the virtues.
This interview has been edited and condensed.