Surrey's first Bitcoin ATM looks to avoid Vancouver's 'saturated' cryptocurrency market

It will take about $20,000 worth of transactions before Surrey’s first Bitcoin ATM begins turning a profit, according to its owners.

Crypto Think Tank partners Eric Liow (L) and Xin Lou (C) test out Surrey's first Bitcoin ATM with Beta Collective co-founder Jason Wong.

It will take about $20,000 worth of transactions before Surrey’s first Bitcoin ATM begins turning a profit, according to its owners.

But for now, the $1,500 machine’s No. 1 goal is to drive the digital currency’s adoption rates in the suburbs once Crypto Think Tank (CTT) launches it the week of July 27.

“The Vancouver scene is kind of saturated in terms of the ATM game,” said CTT co-founder Eric Liow.

“Then we realized, ‘Why don’t we have ATMs in other areas? Why is it all just concentrated in Vancouver?’”

There are at least six Bitcoin ATMs in Vancouver and one at Burnaby’s B.C. Institute of Technology campus, according to Coinee.net.

But there are no means for people to buy bitcoins at a machine south of the Fraser River.

Liow and his CTT partners, Nick Ngo and Xin Lou, all grew up in Surrey and have witnessed the city centre grow into an active urban core.

Liow said it made sense for CTT to partner up with a high-tech co-operative workspace provider, Beta Collective, to serve as a home for Surrey’s first Bitcoin ATM.

The workspace sits across the street from the King George SkyTrain station, just a few blocks from Surrey’s new city hall, at 13637 100 Ave.

Beta Collective co-founder Jason Wong said he expects the Bitcoin ATM will boost foot traffic at the space. Meanwhile, the company will be accepting Bitcoin from anyone interested in renting out space.

“We really want to be able to get past the novelty factor of Bitcoin,” Wong said.

“Now, let’s look at the value proposition of having Bitcoin as a means of currency or a mode of payment for business.”

Beta Collective pays merchant fees ranging from 2-3% to credit card companies.

Wong said the arrangement with CTT and merchant provider Bitpay means the company only pays a fee of 1%.

“That’s going to add up over time,” he said. “Obviously there needs to be a critical mass of actual Bitcoin users.”

But attaining that critical mass of users is one of the biggest challenges facing Bitcoin, according to Liow.

“People are reluctant to learn about the technology,” he said.

The digital currency is not governed by any central authority and users exchange bitcoins directly to each other without a middleman charging fees.

Its value is derived from its usefulness as well as its limited supply — just 21 million bitcoins will ever be “mined” by sophisticated software.

Beta Collective hosted a July 23 Bitcoin meetup, where Liow said the women enthusiasts made it clear there was need for change if the adoption rates were going to go up.

In Liow’s own experience, male Bitcoin enthusiasts outnumber females by a 10-to-one margin.

“There’s no one to look towards. The scene is mainly just nerdy guys that (are) just playing with Internet money,” he said.

“(Women attendees) wanted a female superstar in the game to act as a bridge for the female audience and the whole techie side of Bitcoin.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton