Eight hours of sleep is too long to be disconnected from the ever-changing crypto landscape. Currency urgency permeates business dealings, investor interests and journalistic pursuits. We are literally involved in a world that is changing at a truly phenomenal rate. Try to keep up, will you?
The Speed of Business
If “The Social Network” taught us anything, it’s of the importance of getting there first. Technology moves fast, and bitcoin is an excellent example of this. For business owners and entrepreneurs with ideas, getting to market first is everything. Take BitAccess, a locally-run business out of my hometown of Ottawa, Canada.
The co-founders literally came up with their idea for Bitcoin ATMs (BTMs) at a pub, over drinks, with their ideas and plan scribbled on – yes, you guessed it – a napkin. “Just like in the movies,” Haseeb Awan, co-founder of BitAccess, exclaims.
The company’s model is based on speed: BTM’s are the quickest way for consumers to get into bitcoin. Arrive with cash, enter basic personal “Know Your Client” details, feed cash into machine and BAM! you’ve got bitcoin. Cash out your bitcoins within minutes, using their BTM’s. Haseeb and his team are experiencing incredible success, having only been in business for a few months. The one aspect of their business they wish they could speed up is the production of the machines: “To do it right, it takes time,” Moe, a co-founder, exclaims. “It’s a pain-point for us,” Haseeb adds. “But every time we do it, it gets more streamlined; it goes faster.”
Haseeb attributes his company’s incredible success to another factor of speed: their responsiveness to clients and prospects. The company has recently been scaling, adding a new employee to work solely on Customer Service: “[Customers] have our direct line. They need something? They call. We listen, respond, and improve. This keeps [clients] confident, knowing they can reach us.” BitAccess co-founders include Ryan Wallace, Vignesh Sundaresan, Moe Adham and Haseeb Awan. They currently employ 10 staff.
Speed is infused into almost every aspect of their business: “RedBull is free here, thanks to Invest Ottawa and Shopify,” Haseeb laughs. Invest Ottawa is Ottawa’s business incubator, where BitAccess has its headquarters. Shopify is another huge Ottawa success story, who knows better than most the importance of energy during long nights of work. BitAccess often works all throughout the night, ensuring every one of their BTM’s is up to their standards before shipping them around the world. Belgium, Australia and Slovenia are just a few countries expecting BitAccess BTMs. These countries patiently await their product, but everyone knows that you can’t bypass quality – it takes time. At the moment, BitAccess claim they operate in 10 countries on 5 continents, and aims to increase that number to 30 countries within the next 2 months. Pass another flat of RedBull over.
Another pain-point the BitAccess team faces – the same that many other bitcoin businesses also face – is that they are so focused on the highest priority items (getting to market, carving out their share, perfecting
their product) that secondary items like reputation management,
content management, public relations, government relations and human resources, often get sidelined. This is where the need for businesses who can assist with these “softer skills” come in:
“Working with a business that can take care of these things for us
would be perfect, as we just don’t have the time to do it ourselves,” Haseeb explains.
The Speed of Journalism
Not having the time to focus on these soft skills can be a nuisance.
For example, the company recently dealt with a misleading article on the source of their funding. The article explained that the company was expecting a $10M investment from a U.K.-based investment firm. A similar article appeared on CoinDesk. It has since apparently been removed. “We’ve never announced or confirmed any deal. We have received interest from investors, and will announce as soon as something is confirmed. However, we’ve bootstrapped our start-up,” explains Haseeb.
To correct the misleading journalism, BitAccess e-mailed CoinDesk once to remove the article. They wanted to clarify that they had never accepted outside investment with the cited firm. CoinDesk never replied. BitAccess did not follow up to remove the article, citing the issue as “unimportant, when we have to focus on getting our product out.”
This is just one example of what highly-technical businesses face: the lack of direct and appropriate attention to ‘softer’ sides of their business. However, it is these ‘softer’ sides that can make or break them. Public relations, branding, reputation, lobbying, being abreast of government decisions, or even proactively working alongside key decision makers are aspects that influence mass adoption and business success. When you’re a firm that is laser-focused on getting your product to market before others do, these aspects are not prioritized, but they have a major impact on sustainability.
Indeed, journalism these days tends to skip through person to person at an incredible speed. One Tweet can be retweeted to hundreds of people in seconds and suddenly, any misinformation appears to becomes truth. Journalists or bloggers in the field who work in transmitting information need to slow down and do more due diligence before exclaiming something as fact. This can be excruciating when we see something that we want to share with the world as soon as possible. Taking the time to dig deeper can be difficult when we want to be the first to break the story!
In this regard, like our bitcoin business counterparts, we must remember to balance quick information transmission with the importance of our reputation as good content deliverers. Tweeting too much incorrect information can tarnish our reputation. And for businesses, negligence of public relations can harm their reputation. Information moves with incredible speed; it’s worth it to slow down and learn what is truly important.
The Speed of Purchasing Bitcoin
The same goes for bitcoin “investors”. The bitcoin world is exciting, and we all want to be a part of it – yesterday. When someone “gets” bitcoin, they are almost unstoppable in their need to buy the cryptocurrency. For us hardcore bitcoiners, we don’t see any problem in putting everything into the currency. We believe in it more than fiat. But for those who are learning, and perhaps aren’t as hardcore as us, what happens here is twofold: 1) people fail to properly understand how bitcoin can fit into a financial plan and believe it will always go up, and 2) people fail to do any due-diligence before sending their money to a possibly poorly run business (Mt. Gox), and risk losing everything. In both cases, you’re asking an excited investor to slow down, which is difficult for them to hear. “But what if I miss the jump?” We all know that feeling.
With BTM’s in place, transactions of under $3,000 CAD can occur instantly. Without education or financial advice, excited investors who expect their “investment” to constantly rise (“it’s 18x since this time last year!”) face anxiety, regret and fear when they see the value drop. They panic, sell, and begin telling their friends to “stay away from bitcoin!”, which doesn’t help adoption.
Even after financial education, if consumers don’t inform themselves on the faces behind the sites, they could risk losing everything they “invest.” However, in a world that moves as quickly as bitcoin does, asking people to take a few more days to create a proper financial plan and vet exchanges is challenging.
Unfortunately, we can change the way we transfer value, but we can’t change human nature. Bad players do exist who use our enthusiasm for bitcoin to steal money. When we all slow down a little, sustainable businesses will appear and remain, investors will be true believers in bitcoin even when its price drops, and journalists will communicate and share properly-researched stories that reflects more reality than simple hearsay.
Perhaps it is wise to do as Goldman Sachs suggests and take a cold shower. The players who do this properly are the ones who will last. If we want to encourage adoption, we all need to slow down, build something legitimate and spend the time necessary to do so.
Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere, so let’s do this properly.
Victoria is a partner at Bitcoin Strategy Group, and a contributor to Bitcoin Magazine, CoinDesk and CoinTelegraph. Victoria helps Bitcoin businesses with community development and marketing.