A Sherwood Park entrepreneur is cashing in — to use an outdated term — on a surging market for a cryptocurreny called bitcoin.
The digital currency, which is not controlled or recognized by banks, has jumped in value over the past three months, creating an exciting time for Adam O’Brien, owner of Bitcoin Solutions.
His company owns nine bitcoin ATMs and he works as a consultant for customers looking to invest in the market.
“In May, bitcoin went on a crazy tear,” O’Brien said. “There was loads of money coming into the space. I think we did three times our regular volume.”
The surge started in May, when bitcoin value was close to $3,000 Cdn. By August that value had risen to $4,500.
To put that in perspective, in May 2016 bitcoin was worth around $500.
O’Brien’s company launched its first bitcoin ATM in Alberta at the Rose and Crown pub in February 2014. Currently it has eight machines throughout Alberta and one in Saskatoon. He plans to expand by adding machines in Vancouver and Winnipeg.
The currency is entirely digital. No one carries actual bitcoins around in their pockets. It’s separate from governments and central banks, which is part of the allure for some. In certain countries, bitcoin is accepted in exchange for goods and services.
Customers can put cash into ATMs and the machine exchange the money for bitcoin in their online accounts.
Some businesses in the city accept bitcoin in exchange for products.
O’Brien said he’s getting a few calls every week from business owners who want an ATM in their store. Over the last couple of years, it was more like a couple calls every four months.
“I think they see it as, it shows innovation, right,” O’Brien said. “Think about the first person to accept a visa card. They were probably seen as crazy, then seen as brilliant. That’s where bitcoin’s at right now.”