The Road to Adoption of Bitcoin ATMs

Bull markets are fertile territory for tax avoidance techniques and crypto's most audacious plans to change the world. While there is a swarm of wealthy crypto investors, developers, and entrepreneurs flocking to the island renowned for its low tax rate, crypto is simply another professional, white-collar business on the island.

Jorge Fernandez, the chief development and marketing officer for Powercoin and Bitstop, one of the biggest bitcoin ATM networks, wrote in to provide his perspective on the state of crypto. Over 1,000 Bitstop devices may be found throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico.

This year, the firm put 25 machines on the island as a test, according to Fernandez. People still connect crypto with criminality or are simply frightened, he added, as a veteran of the conventional ATM and credit card industry. “Our devices have done well so far,” he said, “but we spend more time teaching than selling.”

This is a frequent occurrence in the business. Crypto's acceptance is reliant on getting people on board with complex and esoteric technology, despite its revolutionary potential (even if packaged in the form of an ATM). After all, money has virtually always been the government's exclusive interest. Cryptography is undermining one of civilization's foundations by doing so. It takes some explanation and practice to get accustomed to.

He said, "When we initially went into the BTM industry, we made the error of thinking" it was the same as the ATM business. It is similar in some ways, but not in others. “It's the same retail consumers where ATMs and BTMs are placed, but the purchasers' mentality is different, the demography is vastly different, and it's very difficult to predict whether sites will be successful or not. It may take nine months or more for a new site to start producing, which is quite different from an ATM, where you can see whether the location is excellent in two to three months.”

Because there are so few individuals utilizing the computers, transaction volumes on Fernandez's BTM network vary a lot, he added.

“In the ATM industry, we have over 700 million debit or pre-paid cards in our customers' wallets, so we know that 80 percent of those consumers will require cash at some time throughout the week, at least $20 for tips and incidentals. On the crypto side, it's a different story. Only a tiny proportion of the public is aware of cryptocurrency, and even fewer purchase it. Because not everyone who buys has funds accessible on a regular basis to invest in crypto, the number of BTMs fluctuates from month to month.”

In addition, the company is "very capital demanding."

“Not only are BTMs twice as costly as ATMs, but selling them requires significant investment in ‘liquidity' or crypto inventory,” he said. “Operating costs are greater on BTMs than on ATMs because customer service calls are considerably more frequent, and compliance is becoming a larger expenditure as governments begin to regulate the industry more heavily. Our machines perform well in general, but I've observed that a small number of clients account for the majority of the traffic at each site. That tells me we have a few loyal consumers, but the island hasn't embraced cryptocurrency in any way.”

He went on to say, “There are ‘crypto-heads' around, and some of them gather on a daily basis to chat about nonsense, but there have been no reports of Puerto Ricans rushing out to purchase bitcoin. Our normal ATMs on the island handle nearly twice as many transactions as those in the United States, indicating that we live in a cash-heavy culture. On average, the crypto machines perform approximately as well as those on the mainland.”

“Crypto exists in the real world, and we need to be addressing this subject down at the consumer and user level,” Fernandez said, adding that education is essential for development. That is what will determine whether or not this becomes a viable payment and currency option. I see some of it in the business, but the majority of people still live in clouds (not the iCloud).”

“I have no doubt that crypto is the way of the future, but we still have a long way to go before it becomes ubiquitous,” he added. The whole sector has a problem in terms of education.

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