it's all about the bitcoin baby
It's All About the Bitcoins
“This is kind of a premiere for Charlie,” New York Times reporter Nathaniel Popper joked last night. “This is the first time I’ve seen you out of the house.”
Mr. Popper and former BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem were sitting on the stage at the School of Visual Arts theatre. Mr. Shrem was arrested in January on charges of money laundering associated with his bitcoin exchange company, BitInstant. He’s currently under house arrest, but was allowed to attend last night’s panel on the documentary The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, in which he’s a prominent character.
Filmmakers Nicholas Mross and Daniel Mross joined Mr. Shrem and Mr. Popper onstage, following a screening the documentary.
The documentary follows bitcoin magnates like Mr. Shrem, Jered Kenna of Tradehill, Gonzague Gay-Bouchery of Mt. Gox and Mike Caldwell of Casascius Coins.
Betabeat noticed back in August that professional Wall Street traders were taking an interest in Bitcoin. Even though the Bitcoin market is valued lower than in the past, and volatility (read: easy opportunities to flip coins and make fast money) has also flattened out, it seems pro bankers are still trading in BTC.
Dwolla has sent over a statement responding to the $2 million lawsuit filed yesterday by the Bitcoin exchange TradeHill. Dwolla says it has not been formally served notice of the lawsuit yet.
The Bitcoin economy may be in some real trouble. After the announcement last week that e-payments service Paxum would no longer support Bitcoin clients, at least one major Bitcoin exchange has shut down. Chile-based TradeHill had been using Paxum, a PayPal competitor, for a large percentage of money transfers. The loss of Paxum, coupled with recent problems banking with Citibank that caused TradeHill to fall behind on processing transactions and other troubles, left the founders feeling like they had no choice but to suspend trading and return client deposits.
Brooklyn-based BitInstant, a startup that provides temporary credit in order to make Bitcoin transactions faster, has raised an undisclosed sum of seed funding from an angel investor. “We sold 15 percent of our company to Roger Ver, CEO of MemoryDealers, which is probably the largest used computer parts site on the West Coast,” co-founder Charlie Shrem told Betabeat by Gchat.* “He bought in for an undisclosed sum and is now our director of marketing and Asian operations, as he’s based in Tokyo.”
The original plan was to have three or four investors, but Mr. Ver offered in full and wanted to be on the team, Mr. Shrem said. “An offer I could not refuse!”
Josh Strike of Bitcoin gambling house StrikeSapphire Casino and Mark Miele of thebitcointrader.com just launched a merry marketing push that the entrepreneurs hope will be considered “a Christmas present to the whole Bitcoin community.” Aw, you guys! Bitcoins for Christmas encourages Bitcoin users to put some digital currency in the digital stockings of their families and friends, sending lucky recipients an electronic candygram with instructions on how to pick up their BTC.
The Bitcoin markets have been sleepy over the past week or two, and Bitcoin traders are starting to whine. What happened to the drama of hacks, the excitement of skyrocketing prices? The biggest news out of the weekend’s Bitcoin World Conference and Expo was that the organizers teased future conferences in Thailand and Amsterdam. “As fun as it was, seems there were no great world-shattering announcements that would affect the world of bitcoin in the near future,” one Bitcoiner who was present told Betabeat. “Other than more conventions as announced by Bruce.” On the Bitcoin Forum at bitcointalk.org, user tacotime wrote: “Well, someone buy or sell a bajillion BTC and do something, it’s boring as hell right now out there.”
But the Bitcoin markets may soon pick up again as a Bitcoin start-up launching later today, in partnership with one of the better-known exchanges, is likely to encourage a new crop of casual traders and the Bitcoin-curious.
It seems like more and more investors are jumping in on the sport of Bitcoin speculation; with so much potential volatility, there’s plenty of money to be made buying and selling BTC. Even professional foreign currency traders think so! We’ve been impressed by the sophistication of the Bitcoin economy so far, but at the same time there’s a clear contingent of Bitcoin-naysayers who think the idea that a chunk of code goes for $13 or so means we’re looking at a big fat Bitcoin bubble and would love to short the market. So it seems like only a matter of time before the 8-bit traders start innovating more complex digital financial instruments.
Ruxum, a Bitcoin exchange launched last week by a former Citigroup vice president, is considering brokering short sales and other derivative transactions. But not just yet, founder Chad Pankewitz told Betabeat in an email.
This Is Not Investment Advice
Ladies and gentleman, we have a third new Bitcoin exchange. “Bitcoin exchanges popping up like daisies!” says the Bitcoin Money blog. About a month after Mt. Gox was hacked and Tradehill.com hit the web, a former Citigroup vice president now based in Canada and China is launching Ruxum Exchange in invite-only beta. The site emphasizes usability and its “Wall Street-level security,” according to TechCrunch, and accepts USD, EUR, GBP and JPY with more currencies to come. The site’s security is rigorously audited by a third party, according to Ruxum, and it has back-up databases in two separate physical locations and has developed procedures to deal with breaches. Otherwise its security measures are pretty standard: encrypted passwords and data connection, requiring strong passwords, and so on. “These are people who don’t fuck around,” observed one Reddit user.
Okay. The fact is, I spent upwards of $30 on a round of whiskey and pickle juice shots Saturday. That money is gone forever. I decided to do something similar today: Buy Bitcoin! After a month of fascination, I think it’s time to see BTC from the other side, Planet Money-style. So I set about trying to figure out how to buy a Bitcoin. I quickly discovered that person-to-person cash transactions are a vastly superior method because it still takes days to shuffle money if there is a bank involved. Dwolla, the PayPal competitor that takes Bitcoin, takes a few days to a week to verify your bank account and transfer the money; TradeHill.com, the newer Bitcoin exchange, takes one to three business days for a bank transfer and charges $10 a transaction to deposit funds from a U.S. bank. And if you place an order for BTC on an exchange, you have to wait for a seller to come along and accept it. Bitcoin is still rather volatile so by the time an order gets filled, drastic things could happen to the price or the currency–no good.