Bitcoincity is like a pub crawl for Bitcoiners to hit up venues in Ghent, Belgium, which accept Bitcoin. Organized by Roeland Creve, Wouter Glorieux, Andreas Wauters, Mike Rosseel, Filip Roose and Robbert Coeckelbergh, all young men who believe in the power of Bitcoin and want to see it more commonly used in their home country, the event is taking place today.
Twenty merchants will be participating by offering discounts to for Bitcoin, and the hope is that other merchants will see the enthusiasm of the customers and decide to accept Bitcoin as well. BitKassa, a European equivalent to BitPay and Coinbase, is the service primarily used by merchants in Ghent to accept Bitcoin, and Wauters says that the adoption has gone smoothly for those that have jumped into it, thus far.
CCN spoke recently via Skype to Andreas Wauters, and one of the first questions the interviewer asked him was, how is the legal situation for Bitcoin there in Belgium?
Well, for the shops, it’s not really important because they accept Bitcoin and they instantly – well, in fact, they don’t even accept bitcoins themselves. BitKassa is a service that accepts bitcoins for them and instantly converts it to Euros, and then using a bank transfer, gives it to them on their bank accounts. Which, for the merchants, makes it extremely easy to accept Bitcoin. It’s a settling process of, like, one day maximum. There’s no extra costs involved and it’s easy for them because it’s just a website and they have been doing that in the Netherlands for a long time now.
The legal consensus in Belgium about Bitcoin is that there isn’t really a ruling yet. The government, I think, has a hands-off approach. They say, we’re not going to make a ruling, so far. And I think that’s a good thing.
Wauters says that getting businesses to accept Bitcoin has been hit or miss, with some excited and wanting to get started right away, and others taking some time to convince. It’s almost like selling life insurance, in that sense: first you have to convince the person how they’ll actually benefit by having it.
It’s not always been as easy as I make it sound now. Especially in the beginning, it’s very hard to talk to businesses and have a good story and know what you have to put into the spotlight. In the very beginning, we also started with just very rudimentary fliers, things we printed ourselves. We were basically a bunch of people who do this for fun, walk into the store and say, have you heard about Bitcoin?
And we got a few responses that were like, Nah, I’ve heard about Bitcoin, isn’t that illegal money that got bankrupt, didn’t Bitcoin crash, things like that. All the things you can expect from people that have only heard about Bitcoin from the normal media.
But once we got our story in the right order, and the fact that we use BitKassa is also a very big plus, because that is what BitKassa is, it reduces it to a simple process for them. So that makes it easy, like credit cards without the fees. With no need for a special terminal. But this is also a problem for some cafes, because they are working with cash only, and they just don’t want to get into this whole new digital thing, and that’s okay. We didn’t start this project with the idea that we have to convince everyone at once. I think we’ve talked to over 100, maybe over 200 merchants in Ghent, and some people like it, some people were like, okay, we need to do this right now. It’s an open system.
Ghent is the third-largest city in Belgium, but Wauters’ group aims for it to be the biggest city for Bitcoiners.
It’s a student city. It’s a very fresh and young city, so it’s very good for Bitcoin and other innovative things to start up. I know that other cities like Brussels and Antwerp, they have Bitcoin meet-ups too, but here in Ghent, it’s going faster than in the other cities and I think that’s because of the whole student thing.
Last modified: April 18, 2015 09:30 UTC