As the anonymous digital currency gains favor with retailers such as
But they also acknowledge a sort of chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to getting consumers to adopt bitcoin and retailers to accept it. In
That means overcoming challenges, including volatile exchange rates and a lack of any central regulation of bitcoin, factors that make some question whether the currency will ever gain mainstream traction. While state governments have welcomed it, the
"We grew up with paper currency, and for us it was never backed by gold," said
Bitcoin first gained widespread notoriety as the currency of drug dealers and buyers on
"Bitcoin is a great alternative because of the ease of use, ease of storage, security of storage -- and it's also the only thing in the world you can send halfway around the world in less time than it takes to snap your fingers, and for free," said
For businesses like
Bitcoin is based on a public ledger system that individuals or companies around the world process and monitor, sometimes in exchange for small, optional transaction fees that can encourage faster processing of payments. Even without a fee, payments are processed in a matter of seconds or minutes.
You can get bitcoins either by accepting them for a good or service you're selling, or by buying them on an exchange like CoinBase.com or dozens of other websites.
Bad Decisions is a local pioneer when it comes to accepting bitcoins -- the digital currency's proponents say they only know of one other business that accepts bitcoin, CapitolMac, an Apple retailer also in
Once, a customer paid an
"It's not a ton of people, but a lot of times it's out-of-towners that are excited because nowhere in their hometown takes it," he said.
Bitsie is trying to liken the process of accepting bitcoins to the credit card transactions business owners are used to, though without the credit card fees that eat into their profit margins. Riddle, along with co-founder
Bitsie is offering the app for free, and with up to 25 free transactions per month, along with the founders' expertise in an effort to get retailers to take on the risk of accepting bitcoin. Eventually, the entrepreneurs plan to charge a flat monthly fee for transactions beyond that. They are seeking out business owners in tech-savvy neighborhoods like Harbor East and Hampden, hoping that getting it into locally owned shops will raise awareness among their Millennial and Gen-X customers. Bitsie also is organizing a bitcoin seminar for business owners and entrepreneurs at the technology incubator Betamore on
"They're going to figure it out," Riddle said of the younger consumers and bitcoin. "But they need to hear about it."
Riddle points to growing adoption as a sign that the currency's acceptance is inevitable. Overstock began taking payments in bitcoin in January, and expects to receive
Some fear bitcoin will become a target of hackers as adoption grows. Many store the codes that verify bitcoin ownership on devices that don't remain connected to the Internet, or aren't connected at all, as protection.
But without any central authority like the
Many businesses use a service known as BitPay, in which bitcoin payments are instantly exchanged for dollars, allowing them to avoid exposing themselves to potential further swings in bitcoin value, said
"Anybody who is going to take a position in bitcoin is inherently putting some trust in the bitcoin ecosystem in general," said
But there are those who find that trust easily placed. Devor said he sees local uptake as "slow but steady." He said he expects to see more local startups focused on bitcoin in the near future.
"The chicken is being formed, or the egg is being formed," he said. "I don't know which one."
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