The Top 5 Bitcoin Shops

There are increasingly less limits to what you can buy using Bitcoin, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in Berlin’s Kreuzberg area.For most of use, access to BTC shopping is easier online. Here are our top 10 current picks for spending those hard earned BTC online:

1. All4BTC

All4BTC - Buy anything online with BTC

All4BTC – Buy anything online with BTC

All4BTC allows you to buy almost anything online with Bitcoin, provided you would be able to get delivered using Fiat. Geared up best for Amazon and eBay, in which case orders are transmitted automatically, you can also buy things online from almost anywhere, by sending the link of the item, and paying All4BTC in Bitcoin.

2. BTCTrip travel with Bitcoin travel with Bitcoin

Buy flights, and soon, rent cars and book hotels using BTC. Like most flight booking services, the prices are variable – sometimes cheaper, sometimes more expensive than other services. One of the best things about BTCTrip, though, is that they will match any prices – if you can find it cheaper at another service, they will match it.

3. Gyft

Mobile gift card app, Gyft, allows you to buy gift cards from almost any store, and accepts Bitcoin. It might be slightly more convoluted than buying directly, but it does open up purchasing possibilities exponentially.

4. BitMit

Bitcoin’s answer to eBay – you can buy and sell using BTC, eBay auction style. From Burning Man Tickets (3.37 BTC) to Gold Mines (219.52 BTC), there is a wide selection of goods available. Of course, there is a way to go before it can get close to its Fiat / PayPal equivalent.

5. BitPremier

If you have a few thousand spare BTC, and you’re into super luxury items, like cars, boats and islands, take a peek at BitPremier, where you can buy Ferraris, Yachts, luxury apartments, art and more. The service will hold BTC in escrow whilst the transaction is finalized, and the item delivered. Both buyers and sellers can remain anonymous for the initial stages of the transaction. BitPremier charge a 5% service fee, which comes off the sale price (in case you had a boat lying around to sell for BTC :) )

Time to go Amnesty Style on Bitcoin?

With the US Government Spotlight on the Bitcoin, there is an opportunity to make the case for reasonable Bitcoin regulation. Regulation that will address the Government’s concerns over the currency’s use for crime, whilst allowing the many advantages of BTC to shine through. With last week’s declaration by Germany, that Bitcoin is a “Private Currency” that should be taxed and regulated, there is a strong and reasonable precedent to refer US policy makers towards.

If you are able to vote in the US, get hold of your Congressional Representative, if you are not, get US based friends to do so!

The Bitcoin Policy Primer is available to send to the policy makers, which offers a balanced view of the operation, opportunities, and concerns around Bitcoin. As it was written before Germany’s “Private Currency” announcement was made, here is an article on the announcement.

Amnesty Style

Amnesty International has successfully influenced and lobbied on many instances of human rights law in its long history. The Amnesty method leverages its considerable influence, by galvanizing 3 million members to directly influence policy maker’s votes on laws that support the enforcement of human rights. In essence, it is Democracy in action – an empowering and successful example of the fact that those of us lucky enough to live in a Democratic country do have influence through our power to vote.

By encouraging individuals to write to, call, or even visit their Congressional Representatives, in the lead up to any significant vote, Amnesty aims to both inform and shape the decisions made by Congress Members. Of course, they don’t always win, but by connecting Congressional Leaders with the beliefs of their Constituents, Amnesty has, over the last 50 years, come to stand for Democratically enforced Human Rights.

Where Does Bitcoin Come In?

Bitcoin is new, to some it is scary, and to others, difficult to understand. Combine that with the influence of traditional financial institutions, who may well feel threatened by the potential spread of the Bitcoin, and you have the potential for some pretty aggressive regulation, that could make Bitcoin based businesses in the US even more difficult to establish.

Whilst we may reasonably expect Germany’s recent decision to become a wider European stance, making Europe a great place for Bitcoin businesses, the US remains important for Bitcoin’s success. In terms of technical talent and innovation, the US is still ahead of much of the world, and as a consumer market, it is also an extremely influential player.

Because of this, it is important that US lawmakers are familiar with Bitcoin, the way that it works, and the fact that their Constituents care about decisions in connection to it. As information and recommendations come out of the DATA (Digital Asset Transfer Authority) organization, the Bitcoin Community could also pass on this information to their local policy makers.

The best thing about the Amnesty approach, is that local politicians have an obligation to meet with and hear their Constituents – an effort by the Bitcoin community to contact their local lawmakers would make it necessary for politicians to become informed about Bitcoin.

When the findings of the FBI report on Bitcoin, which was commissioned last month, are revealed, the likelihood is that there will be regulation formed based on their findings. Likewise any findings from the NYC subpoena list. The better informed, able to push back, lawmakers are, the better.

Taking the Voice of the Bitcoin Community to Congress

Amnesty derives most of it’s power from numbers, and being able to press a point, based on the opinions of multiple voters within each jurisdiction. Being able to say that there are 100 willing voters with a vested interest in a particular topic, is far more powerful than standing alone. If the Bitcoin community can do the same, by bringing together multiple voices, they may be able to have an impact on any coming regulation.

If you are a US voter, you can check your Congressman or Congresswoman here, and also get in touch with them directly by email from there. According to Amnesty International’s “Lobbying Guidelines”, to get attention from a politician, you should:

  • Identify yourself as a voter in their jurisdiction

  • Request a follow up call or meeting

  • Identify how many voters in their jurisdiction are also invested in the cause (i.e. have said that support of a cause will affect their support of a politician)

  • If you are able to have a meeting, take a number of people who can also vote in the same jurisdiction with you

In the interests of bringing together people for this, and to be able to share the numbers of others in the same area as you, we have created the form at the top of the page to keep a rough track of individuals willing to speak with their Congressional Representatives.

Of course, we aren’t expecting to collect millions of pledges all at once, or to alter the course of US regulation entirely (though it would be nice), but any effort that can be made, we believe, should be made.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for throwing your hat into the ring!

— Paddy

The Effect of Bitcoin’s Big Name Backers

For the second time in a month, Google Ventures cropped up in connection to Bitcoin yesterday, when the $1 million funding of international Open Source Bitcoin exchange, Buttercoin was announced. Google Ventures was also listed on the NYC subpoena list in conjunction with Bitcoin earlier this month.

Other big names on the Buttercoin backers list include Y Combinator, well known for funding – and incubating – the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox and Wufoo. Y Combinator are also backers of CoinBase, alongside Union Square Ventures, whose notable rap sheet includes Twitter, Twillio, Kickstarter, and Meetups.

Aston Kutcher adds a touch of glamour to Bitcoin funding, by appearing on the long list of well known Bitcoin backers with a $510,000 investment in BitPay. Kutcher was accompanied in his endeavor by PayPal founder, Peter Theil’s VC fund, Founders Fund.

Other notable names from the VC world on the NYC subpoena list include; Andreessen Horowitz, who invested in OpenCoin, the developer of open source payment protocol Ripple; Tribeca Venture Capitalists, who joined Google Ventures in yet another of its Bitcoin bets on Coinsetter, a Bitcoin trading platform, which is currently in its beta testing phase.

Bitcoin even has its very own VC fund, in the form of BitAngels, a Bitcoin focused seed fund, who have so far contributed to Blueseed, an offshore incubator, that will be based off the shore of Silicone Valley, and provide a haven for tech startups for whom being US based would be tricky. We’re eagerly awaiting more information from the fund.

Bitcoin continues to be one of the most popular investments at the party, which will hopefully continue as regulators focus more intensely on the currency. Despite the VC tendency to cluster around trends, the support of organizations like Google Ventures and Y Combinator is an important boost to Bitcoin.

Investment in any sector serves as an obvious but essential incentives to the innovators and entrepreneurs already operating in the space. It also attracts and encourages new innovators into the same space – increasing competition, which in turn will increase the solutions available to users, and improve on existing services.

Over time, these innovations and increase in competition should result in a better, easier, and more efficient technological structure around Bitcoin. Companies surrounding the currency will endeavor to become better at complying with necessary legislation, provide coherent and smooth usage of Bitcoin, and ultimately, make using Bitcoin fast, straightforward and pain free.

Investments from well known companies also offers Bitcoin an increase in legitimacy – both users and lawmakers will view their involvement, as well respected and powerful organizations, as a reason to trust Bitcoin more than might be the case if it remained solely driven by individual users. Company amongst Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz might well have been a source of comfort for the Bitcoin startups subpoenaed by NYC earlier this month.

In the future, the weight and backing of such companies will become increasingly important, as Bitcoin’s adoption spreads, and inevitable infringement on traditional means of exchange occurs.

Thanks for Reading!

— Paddy

Today On BTC: Mt.Gox Withdrawals Cease, Dwolla Seizure Totals $2.9m, BTC Reaches Guatemalian Rainforest

Mt.Gox Withdrawals Fail Altogether

Troubling reports of failed withdrawals from Mt.Gox in BTC and in Fiat emerged today. Delays and difficulty with withdrawals from the service with Fiat currency have long been prevalent, with the site warning of up to a 3 week delay on receipt of transfer, although many users have complained of even longer waits.

The company is saying that they are working on fixes for the problems, but in the meantime, the price of BTC on Mt.Gox has shot up in comparison to the price on Bitstamp (currently $119 to BitStamp’s $103). Transaction share has risen to 67% on Mt.Gox in the last 24hrs, but much of that is presumably a high amount of BTC selling on the service, due to the high price.

Fed Seizure of Dwolla Accounts total $2.9 Million

The seizure of Dwolla accounts in May, resulted in the Fed taking $2.9 million in funds, belonging to Mutum Sigillum LLC, Mt.Gox’s US subsidiary. Dwolla was a third party payments system that enabled US citizens to easily send and receive money from Mt.Gox in order to trade in BTC.

It is unclear what will happen to the funds

Bitcoin Spreads to the Guatemalan Rainforest

Bitcoin has spread to the Guatemalan rainforest – spotted by a coiner in Reddit, the Zephyr River Lodge in Lanquin, is a forward thinking hostel accepts both PayPal and Bitcoin.

Zephyr River Lodge in Lanquin, Guatemala accepts Bitcoin

Zephyr River Lodge in Lanquin, Guatemala accepts Bitcoin

The Rise and Now What of Mt.Gox?

Mt.Gox has had a tough time recently. The longstanding leader in the Bitcoin exchange space, which once boasted 80% of Bitcoin transactions, has become a target for regulators, a bust with banks, and a leading source of frustration for Bitcoiners. Withdrawals are backlogged in the extreme, causing the Mt.Gox BTC price to rise far above that of other exchanges, ($119 currently to BitStamp’s $103), and the demand for Mt.Gox withdrawals to rise.

Mt.Gox was originally created as a Magic: The Online Gathering Card exchange in 2009, but rebranded to be a BTC exchange in 2010, and sold to current owners, Tibanne Ltd., in March of 2011. The exchange quickly became the most prevalent on the online exchange space.

In 2011, the exchange was hacked by someone using illegally obtained credentials from a Mt.Gox auditor, who transferred a large number of BTC to himself, and offered them at a nominal price, causing a short lived alteration in the price.

Now What for Mt.Gox?

Now What for Mt.Gox?

2013 has seen a great deal of turbulence on the exchange though. The service was forced to cease trading in April this year, after a surge in transactions caused large delays on the exchange, and the price of BTC went from $260 to $55 over the space of a few days. The servers used by Mt.Gox have been changed and improved since then, but other issues still prevail.

Despite being compliant with – relatively loose – regulation in Japan, Mt.Gox was brought under scrutiny by the US Government in May of this year. Reportedly, Mt.Gox’s 20 something CEO, Mark Karpeles, established the US bank account for the service without declaring that it would be used for a money service. Mt.Gox’s accounts were seized, and it’s US based partner, Dwolla, ceased trading with Mt.Gox. In June, Mt.Gox ceased trading US accounts altogether for a few days.

Since then, despite being able to continue trading, a multitude of problems with getting Fiat currency in and out of Mt.Gox have cropped up. The company is attempting to verify customers paying in and out in Fiat currency, which results in very slow service. In addition to this, the company is having to wait the full time for its bank to clear Fiat transfers, after suffering significant losses from crediting accounts itself, and then having the bank reject the transfer. Withdrawals from the service are either slow , and in some cases, impossible.

Mark Karpeles tweeted with users recently, to acknowledge the difficulty that the service is having. Their bank, he said, is limiting their SWIFT transfers to 10 a day, which must be creating an enormous backlog of transactions. he confirmed that they are seeking new banking partners to work with.

It seems unlikely that other exchanges will be able to get away without similar problems in one way or another. Mt.Gox serves competing exchanges, and many other businesses in the BTC space, with valuable lessons about how to setup and manage their services, but it is also causing a great deal of frustration amidst the Bitcoin community.

Today on Bitcoin: Germany rules that Bitcoin is “Private Money” and Illustrated Bitcoin Book is launched

Illustrated Book, Idiot’s Guide to Bitcoin Released

Freelance illustrator, Gustaf van Wyk has self published the Idiot’s Guide to Bitcoin. Aimed at beginners, the book explains the fundamentals of Bitcoin, the risks behind it, and why it is changing the world. In his press release, Gustaf said “by giving it (Bitcoin) objective value on the street we can take a significant stand against the fight that Bitcoin will have to inevitably endure before it can truly change the world. The book, if nothing else, is a gesture towards that end.”

Copies are only $7.77, or BTC 0.1  – just ordered mine!

Germany recognizes Bitcoin as “Private Money”

Die Welt Newspaper reported that Bitcoin is now considered to be “private money” in Germany, making Germany the first country to take an official stance on the status of Bitcoin as money. The classification means that some commercial profits on Bitcoin related endeavours may be taxable, but that personal use of the currency would not be. Officials likened the decision to be much like that which applies to eBay sellers – occasional sellers would not be subject to tax, but a person making significant sums would be.

The decision is a good one for Bitcoin – it offers legitimacy, whilst also taking a reasonable approach to regulation of the currency. It also sets a precedent for other countries, like the US, who are currently grappling with understanding Bitcoin.

The First Crypto Friendly Bank: An Interview with Crypto Finance Founder

Following yesterday’s article about Crypto Finance’s IPO, I caught up with David, one of the founders of what hopes to be the first Bitcoin friendly bank to get more information.

Firstly, can you give me a bit more information about yourselves? Backgrounds, profiles if possible?

“Panama is a hub for International Business and Trade and Bitcoin has come up a lot in conversation over the past year or so. Our Team is mostly comprised of people with experience in the Financial Industry here in Panama and the process necessary to make it happen. We do have some people that are more on the tech side of things and have ran large Call Centers, which Crypto Financial will at the end really act as an Online and Call Center service for the global Crypto Currency world.”

How about an update on how it’s going? Have you applied for your banking license in Panama?

“Crypto Financial will be setup to deal directly with Fiat Currency, but exclusively to the Crypto Currency customer. We will not actually handle Bitcoin directly for customers, only Fiat. We are in the process for securing a Financial Services license which requires the same process as a banking license (Capital Requirements, etc.) But we will not fractional reserve lend out any of our customers funds.

This license basically allows us to act as a “Trust” Company and handle third party funds and manage those funds on behalf of our customers. The underbelly if you will, of the Company will be processed by an existing Bank that is already licensed in Panama. So our services will work on top of their Bank, but under our brand. All AML/KYC/SAR protocols will be managed by us. They will be the Wholesale and we are the Retail service in a way.”

How is approaching traditional institutions going – you mention in your BP that you’re planning on offering Visa ATM cards. Have you approached Visa yet?

“As we already work with different credit card companies, the VISA ATM card issued for any of our customers that open an account for us is done through the Bank, again with our Logo but issued on their behalf. So we don’t foresee any issues there as it is treated as a normal Fiat Bank account.”

The last article we did Crypto Finance raised some questions from the Reddit community. One of the things that came up frequently was the valuation of the IPO. Do you have any response to that?

“The valuation of the IPO has raised some concern by some in the community. However, based on the way we have put the Business together and the potential future growth of the company we felt that it was the right valuation. Only time will tell, as with other IPOs if we have made the right decision.”

Another was that the path to making Crypto Financial happen is going to be a hard one – i.e. how you’re going to get this business off the ground.Do you guys have a solid plan?

“Since our approach is directly opening and managing accounts in Fiat for our customers, we believe that we will be able to offer our service to the Bitcoin community. As long as our customers provide the required documentation we don’t see any reason why any of our customers should not be granted an account with our company. All conversion between Crypto and Fiat Currencies will occur with “our walls” so we can maintain records and comply with any current Government regulation.”

What do you expect your biggest challenge is going to be, and how do you think you’ll overcome it?

“Our biggest challenge will be any future regulation that may come into place that may cripple the Crypto Currency economy. We do believe that Bitcoin or another Crypto Currency like it will continue regardless of any regulations imposed, but it will hurt our ability to continue our services. It is a risk that all Bitcoin users are currently taking.”

You mentioned in your BP that you’ll be offering incentives to traditional banks to do business with you – have you had any takers yet, and what exactly will the incentives involve?

“We believe that the incentive that we mentioned was that we created a way for our Financial Services company to interact with Exchange Software Platforms and Merchants that use Bitcoin by actually allowing for both parties to profit. But the Business Plan has been through several revisions, so I will need to check it again.”

Finally, how is the IPO going?

“In today’s fast paced Bitcoin world if our Business Plan is not TL;DR People just skip it. They judge an IPO success if it sold out in the first 5 minutes or not. Our plan is truly different than other IPOs in the market as it deals with real world issues rather than just a website or the latest greatest ASIC hardware. I think our Business Plan is longer than all the current IPOs on the market combined. So we understand that it could be confusing to some where they don’t see a quick ROI. We are in it for the long haul as we look down the line in terms of years, not months.”

Thanks for the interview David, and once again, wishing you guys the very best of luck, and thanks for reading!

— Paddy

Today on BTC: AUS Bank Freezes BTC Accounts, Robert Bove would buy BTC, and BTC Credited for SRM Success

AUS Bank Freezes BTC Related Accounts

Directors of CoinJar announced today that their personal accounts have been frozen by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, without prior warning. It is thought that the connection to Bitcoin through their personal accounts has caused the action. It is also thought that Bitstamp has been blacklisted by the bank.

Crypto Finance, The First Crypto Currency Bank to Open in Q4

Which leads directly to the IPO of what will be the world’s first crypto bank, Crypto Finance, which is hoping to open in Q4. The Panama based service will hope to bridge the gap between traditional and crypto currencies. For more information, take a look at our article from earlier today – It’s Time for a Crypto Bank.

Silk Road Market Place’s, Dread Pirate Roberts, Credits Bitcoin

According to a Forbes article today, the creator of the Silk Road Market Place credits Bitcoin for helping its success. “We’ve won the State’s War on Drugs because of Bitcoin” he said. Government interest in the currency is likely to be even more heightened by these comments.

Banking Analyst, Richard Bove, Would Buy BTC at $50

Vice president of equity research at Rafferty Capital Markets, Richard Bove, has reportedly said that he would invest in Bitcoin, if the price was to fall to $50.

“The demand for new currencies is so compelling in a world where fiat currencies are so easily manipulated by central banks and financial systems are proving to be so fragile that these currencies keep growing” said Bove. $50 would be a big, but not impossible drop from the current price of $109…

It’s Time for a Crypto Bank: The Crypto Finance IPO

The Australian founders of CoinJar announced today that their personal accounts have been frozen by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with no warning, after claiming that their personal accounts are associated with CoinJar’s business account. CBA has reportedly also blacklisted Bitstamp, the second most active Bitcoin currency exchange.

Coupled with recent moves from the US Government, the sporadic shutdown of Bitcoin services, and suspicion from many other banks over Bitcoin transactions, users must be eagerly awaiting the launch of the world’s first crypto bank: Crypto Finance.

The World’s First Crypto Bank

Crypto Finance is planning to launch in Q4 this year, and will be based in Panama. The company will offer personal and business bank accounts for individuals converting up to 20 different Fiat currencies, and an exchange for purchasing crypto currency with Fiat currency.

Transactions will be faster, fees lower, and “100% of the funds will remain intact in the customer’s account” i.e. Crypto Finance will not over leverage themselves in the way that traditional banks have. The bank will also offer Visa Debit Cards for ATM use (although no further information is given about existing agreements with the cards provider).

The process for opening an account will be made smoother by Crypto Finances licence of the Unique Identity Technology suite, which will provide historical identity data on potential customers, such as previous addresses, anti-fraud data, and verification machine readable zone on common Identity Cards.

The bank will offer incentives to traditional banks to work with them, will offer crypto exchanges the opportunity to partner with them to take on the burden of compliance and identity confirmation work, and will offer merchants the chance to convert BTC transactions back into Fiat currency automatically.

Investment in Crypto Finance

The crypto bank is offering 20% of its shares in an IPO, at the BTC equivalent of $15 per share for the 200,000 units. Further, the bank will offer dividends on a quarterly basis to investors of “all net income derived from the exchange of Fiat currency to crypto currency and visa-versa”.

If you want more information, the Business Plan and Prospectus are both available.

Crypto Finance will certainly face many challenges – regulation, government barriers, willingness of traditional organizations to work with crypto currencies. It is not yet known if they have been granted a banking licence, though by choosing Panama as their location, the chances are greatly increased.

This is the first of what hopefully will be many evolutions to the crypto currency banking process.

We’re wishing them the best of luck!
Thanks for reading,
— Paddy

Today On Bitcoin: Trace Stolen Bitcoin, Mt.Gox fails to act on $16.5 Theft and India’s Reserve Bank Watches Bitcoin

UK Firm Launches Stolen BTC Tracing Service

Big up the Brits (great to see something new for Bitcoin coming from the UK) – UK Digital Forensics Firm, SYTECH will offer a Bitcoin tracing service for stolen Bitcoins – and they will accept payment in Bitcoin too. This is the first of what we expect to be a thriving part of the Bitcoin community.

Mt.Gox Fails to Act On $16,500 Theft

Maybe the above could be helpful to poor Dave Wright, who had $16,500 stolen from his Mt.Gox account. The account was hacked from an IP address in Holland, after Mr Wright scheduled a Fiat currency withdrawal in order to pay medical bills. Because withdrawals are limited each day, the transfer was setup to run over a number of days. Before it could be completed, the account had been hacked, and the withdrawals made to an unknown recipient.

Mt.Gox have reportedly been unable to offer any assistance – yet another point of failure for the service this week.

Missouri Warns Citizens of Virtual Currency Scams

Following the Trendon T. Shavers Ponzi Scheme hearing in Texas, the state of Missouri has issued a warning to its citizens to beware of digital currency investment schemes.

India’s Reserve Bank Watches Bitcoin

The Economic Times in India has revealed that the Reserve Bank is watching Bitcoin closely, but has not yet taken any action to regulate the currency. It is reported that the Bank will seek to understand Bitcoin better before taking any action, though it is also likely that it is waiting on findings from the US Government.

List of NYC’s Bitcoin Subpoenas Includes Google

A full list of the subpoenaed Bitcoin companies in New York has been revealed, and is said to include Google Ventures, amongst other big Venture Capital names like Founders Fund, Tribeca Venture Partners and Union Square Ventures. No further news on proceedings has yet been revealed.

 Thanks for reading!

— Paddy