The Cryptonomist interviewed the Italian leader in Bitcoin ATMs, Chainblock, represented by CEO and co-founder Federico Pecoraro, to discuss the development of the sector in 2020 and what to expect in the coming year.
Can you give us some numbers on the most spent crypto by Italians?
Italians like to buy mainly Bitcoin. Altcoins like Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash are bought to a small extent. Those who approach the world of virtual currencies for the first time are mainly attracted by Bitcoin’s decade-long history and its characteristics. In our experience, bitcoin’s dominance is largely confirmed by the preferences of Italian users.
Why do you think crypto ATMs are becoming increasingly popular?
In my opinion, ATMs meet the need for simplicity, security and immediacy, the basic requirements for the forthcoming mass adoption of virtual currencies. Let’s not forget that today, with the exception of in-person exchanges, the ATM is the only way to buy cryptocurrencies with cash. We are digitizing currency!
Is Bitcoin a payment method in your opinion?
There is a controversial scenario here: on the one hand, Bitcoin can be identified as a store of value, i.e. the gold of tomorrow. On the other hand, it is the first real global currency which, thanks to its technology, enables very low transaction costs.
In my opinion, it cannot yet be considered a real payment method, as the market does not allow it and therefore does not officially recognize it …. the baker next door does not allow me to buy bread with crypto … but then again, we must remember that, until yesterday, I was not allowed even with credit cards!
Chainblock’s mission is also that of educating people to a more “digital” use of money, if we have moved from cash to the use of credit cards, we have laid the foundations for considering moving from credit cards to crypto … we are working towards this!
What could be improved in the crypto world to achieve greater adoption?
Paradoxically, and indeed in contrast to the very ethos of blockchain, one of the main problems is establishing trust: just as users trust banks today, they will have to learn to trust crypto companies tomorrow. The financial world is changing fast and this will increasingly lead to the necessity to ‘be digital’ also in the use of money. The crypto world should make itself more visible and less extremist, to make it more accessible to everyone and not be a ‘world for the few’.
Why did you decide to be based in Italy, considering that the regulations on crypto are not very clear?
We were aware from the very start that having our registered office in Italy could have exposed us to greater risks: namely financial, regulatory and competitive risks, which are naturally the result of an ecosystem that is still immature, where unclear regulations, which appear hesitant and are certainly still being defined, do not allow a crypto company to fully express the potential that blockchain technology could provide to its users.
However, this choice was made precisely to support our desire to establish ourselves in the Italian market and in the eyes of the institutions. We are aware that it is an uphill road, but we work daily to be acknowledged by the “system” and we do not intend to shy away from confrontation.
Why did you decide to add Bitcoin Cash to your ATMs? Have you received a positive response to this introduction?
The introduction of Bitcoin Cash was intended to expand the choice of crypto assets available on our services. Moreover, the possibility to buy DAI, which is perhaps less newsworthy, should not be underestimated, because it is an option that, in fact, “digitizes” the fiat currency of our users.
What are your goals for 2021? Will you be adding more cryptocurrencies?
Chainblock’s goals for 2021 are certainly to expand our network of ATMs in the territory, to make the service more accessible and affordable for everyone. Anyone should be able to easily go to an ATM and buy bitcoin if they want to.
There should be no need for complex IT operations, registrations, risks of cyber attacks when approaching the world of cryptocurrencies. And there is no need to invest large amounts of capital. We want to propagate this culture, offering this possibility and focusing on the challenging area of cash.
And we want to do this in full compliance with the regulations. Furthermore, we will focus on the expansion of the online platform, Chainblock Buy, for the purchase and sale of virtual currencies via bank transfer and credit card. Here too, in a simple, fast and secure way.
As far as wider objectives are concerned, in general we believe we have matured enough over the last few years to be ready to finally realize a number of collaborations that have been proposed to us for some time by various financial institutions and large Italian fintech companies, in order to further consolidate the market for services related to virtual currencies. We have waited silently and worked hard under the radar, but 2021 will undoubtedly offer us the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the mainstream.