What is Blockchain?
Two Australian tech start-ups are launching an over-the-counter platform for selling Bitcoin making it available to everyday consumers and providing online retailers and the newsagents offering the service more income streams.
It means Australians will be able to buy Bitcoin over the counter with cash for the first time.
The technology is being deployed to about 1200 newsagents nationally effectively making them Bitcoin bank outlets and giving many in the struggling industry a new strand to diversify their revenue.
There are currently Bitcoin exchanges in Australia which facilitate online transactions and transfer money but no over-the-counter solution for cash to buy Bitcoin.
A 4 per cent fee applies to transactions with a minimum trade at $50.
The endeavour is the brain-child of a joint venture between Sydney fintech solutions business Blueshyft and Bitcoin exchange Bitcoin.com.au, both of which have well-known backers and history in the Bitcoin trade.
Blueshyft is owned by the nephew of Rupert Murdoch and former boss of Murdoch Books, Matt Handbury, whereas Bitcoin.com.au comes under the umbrella of Global Internet Ventures (GIV).
GIV is one of internet entrepreneur Domenic Carosa’s endeavours alongside listed company Crowd Mobile and Bitcoin and tech investment group Future Capital Development Fund.
GIV also set up Buyabitcoin around two years ago which along Bit Trade are major Bitcoin exchanges in Australia.
They expect about 15 million transactions in the first year of the new venture with the average transaction size of about $150 to $200.
The system works by using an iPad at each newsagency location and an application that connects to Bitcoin and its platform.
The general manager of Bitcoin.com.au Rupert Hackett, who completed the world’s first masters in digital currencies in Cyprus, acknowledged consumers were weary of Bitcoin’s association with criminal activity.
But he said the new system would create a tangible, physical experience that would enable new users to safely buy Bitcoin.
“There is no doubt that Bitcoin is poised for huge growth,” Mr Hackett said. “Big banks and accounting firms are investing in the underlying technology, Blockchain.”
Mr Hackett said it would opens the way for cheaper remittance services, gambling and financial services.
Bitcoin originally attracted mainly tech savvy investors but the popularity of the infrastructure has widened with major banks and the Australian Stock Exchange investigating blockchain’s capacity to make banking operations including trade financing and equities trading speedier, cheaper and more efficient.
Blueshyft chief executive Kain Warwick said its retail platform was already being used by newsagencies and couriers TNT and wagering operator Ladbrokes which both diversified revenue for newsagents and provided a port for contact with consumers for online businesses.
“And it allows online businesses and digital retailers to extend their existing products and services into a local retailer without the costs of setting one up,” Mr Warwick said.
He said the platform facilitated a range of instant in-store transactions including payment, cash deposits to accounts, gift card validation, online memberships and subscriptions, identification verification, auto parcel check-in and check-out of courier companies.
Bitcoin is typically traded online. Other providers such as Australian Bitcoin agency Coin Loft enable consumers to use vouchers they purchase at newsagents to buy Bitcoin.
Between $1 billion and $2.4 billion is transferred using the Bitcoin network every 24 hours.
Owner Kingsford’s Bus Stop Newsagency Manoj Shah it was an opportunity for traditional retail newsagencies.
“Its techy and makes our business interesting, there are many people using it and we are expecting more foot traffic,” he said.
Bitcoin is currently trading at its highest price in almost two years, having increased about 25 per cent since the beginning of the year to $738.32 on Thursday morning.