Jacob Parrish works as a Graphic Designer and Web Developer at UpgradeYa but in his free time he’s geeking out hard on Bitcoin, the controversial new universal electronic currency slowly but steadily gaining popularity around the world. He’s a Bitcoin believer, buying what he can at the few local businesses that accept it and even offering 10% off to clients who pay with it. But is our traditional banking town ready for a new way to pay, and are businesses and consumers receptive to its adoption?
Jacob formed Bitcoin Charlotte, a regular meetup group and discussion forum 250 members strong, to explore and educate on just that.
Here’s what he has to say about Bitcoin’s inevitable adoption in Charlotte.
Why did you create Bitcoin Charlotte? What’s your mission and how can people get involved?
I wanted to connect with locals interested in Bitcoin and have a place for people to meet and properly learn about Bitcoin and the blockchain technology. My mission is very simply to have a place for people to meet and learn about bitcoin. If I can find more time, I would be interested in trying to get more local businesses on board with bitcoin, but I think that will happen inevitably anyways.
In simple terms like you’re explaining it to your grandmother, what is Bitcoin and how do consumers and businesses use it?
Bitcoin is a network used for transferring value from one person to another, very much like handing you cash. Only, when you are online you can hand that person cash nearly instantly to anyone in the world with little to no fees. You can use Bitcoin by downloading a bitcoin wallet on your smartphone or desktop computer. Once you have a bitcoin wallet you can send and receive bitcoins personally or for your business!
What are the risks and benefits of Bitcoin versus (1) real money, (2) bank transfers, (3) other payment services like Paypal and Dwolla?
Bitcoin is not controlled by any central service, therefore you do not have to trust anyone or any company to use it. On the contrary, “real money”, or fiat money is controlled by governments, therefore when using dollars you are essentially having trust in the government that they will not devalue the money in your pocket. The amount of bitcoins (lower-case “b” the tokens within the Bitcoin network) are truly limited in supply, there will only ever exist 21 million bitcoins.
Bitcoin is independent money, in that you completely own your own money and no one else has access to your funds. When using services like Wells Fargo, Paypal, or Dwolla, you are effectively giving them access to your funds as well. If any of these companies wanted to seize your account or spend your money, they could do so.
Your bitcoin money can not be taken from you unless you authorize it and it does not store your identity. In incidents like the Target situation where customers got their credit card information stolen could never of happened if those customers paid in bitcoin. Bitcoin pushes money, unlike credit cards where the receiver pulls the money from the account.
Why are people resistant to Bitcoin? (Or, on the other hand, why are people excited about Bitcoin?)
I think people typically are resistant to things that are new and different, especially when it is change to something so integral to our culture. I also think some people have a problem with wrapping their heads around it not being physical, therefore doesn’t feel real. People also hear mainstream news reports from reporters who either 1) do not understand bitcoin and give false information or 2) want to undermine bitcoin because it directly eliminates or competes with current standing organizations, therefore they try and scare the viewers about bitcoin.
On the other hand, we have first-timers come to the Bitcoin Charlotte meetup who are very excited about bitcoin. Many like the ideas of empowering themselves with full control of their money. They are excited about saving money on transactions and interested in the potential gains by investing in bitcoin.
Why should Charlotte businesses and consumers care about Bitcoin?
As a business bitcoin is accepted globally. There are significantly smaller transaction fees than credit cards, 1% to free depending on the service you use. You also do not have to worry about securing cash. There are no chargebacks therefore merchants can rest assured that the money sent to them can not be reversed.
As a consumer, bitcoin is a growing means of exchange for online purchases. You can buy a flight on CheapAir.com, gift cards on Gyft.com, a computer at Dell.com, or reserve a hotel room at Expedia.com. And the list goes on and on. If you buy stuff with bitcoin, merchants can start to lower their prices because their fees will be much less, which means cheaper products for consumers!
Is Bitcoin picking up steam here in Charlotte? Are we ahead of or behind other cities?
I would say we are on par with the majority of other cities in the world. We have a handful of brick and mortar shops accepting bitcoin and a pretty large group of local enthusiasts at Bitcoin Charlotte.
Anything else we should know about Bitcoin in CLT?
Get ready! Bitcoin and blockchain technology is here to stay. Inform yourself, get some bitcoin and try it out. I think people will be surprised by how easy and fascinating it is to use.
You can see all the businesses in and around Charlotte that accept Bitcoin at coinmap.org, among them: Reed’s Jewelers, Steak n Hoagie and Waterbean Coffee.