Anthony Di Iorio collected his first Bitcoin back in the summer of 2012, when one Bitcoin was just worth $11.
Now, at the time of this writing, the value of a Bitcoin is hovering around $937. However, Di Iorio has no plans to liquidate his stock of Bitcoins – he has faith in the currency and wants to see it go mainstream.
A staunch believer in Bitcoin’s potential, he’s the executive director of the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada, a national non-profit organization seeking to inform and educate others about Bitcoin. Headquartered in downtown Toronto, the alliance holds weekly meetings at a coworking space called Bitcoin Decentral. Meetings are posted on Meetup.com, with its 520 members referred to as the “T.O. Satoshi Apostles.”
“I believe in the system. Bitcoin can change the way financial transactions are done,” Di Iorio says. “It really is an amazing system – it allows you to transfer value anywhere in the world, instantly, without needing to pay the high fees that banks charge, or that PayPal charges.”
For example, he points to the fact that theoretically, the world’s banks could print out an infinite amount of cash, leading to inflation. However, there’s a limited supply of Bitcoin, with a total of roughly 12,250,000 mined so far. And while each Bitcoin is divisible into fractions, they can be only divided to up to eight decimal places, making 0.00000001 of a Bitcoin the smallest amount handled in a transaction.
“It allows you to be in control of your own money, without anybody else being able to access your money,” Di Iorio adds.
That kind of control over one’s own money is what first attracted Luke Chao, owner of the Morpheus Clinic for Hypnosis, to alternative currencies like Bitcoin. The Toronto-based hypnotherapy clinic first began to offer Bitcoin as a payment method two and a half years ago.
“Part of what’s driving Bitcoin acceptance among small businesses is – I’m going to call it a hatred – of the credit card processing industry. Credit card processors – mine takes at least 1.8 per cent, and for Amex it’s as high as three per cent, and that’s a significant cut of my profits,” he says, noting credit cards are also subject to chargebacks and require contracts, and that PayPal can freeze businesses’ accounts.
“With Bitcoin, that will never happen. Funds don’t get frozen. Once the money is in your hands, it’s yours.”
And if businesses are nervous about Bitcoin’s volatility, they don’t need to hold onto their bitcoins – they can always convert it back to Canadian dollars, he notes.
Although none of Chao’s customers have ever used Bitcoin to pay for the clinic’s services, it does appear as though Bitcoin is gaining traction among businesses and customers alike.
Last week, ClearlyContacts.ca, an e-commerce site based in Vancouver, announced it would be taking Bitcoins as a method of payment. The company made the decision to accept Bitcoin because its customers wanted the option, says Braden Hoeppner, ClearlyContacts.ca’s vice-president of web sales.
“It sort of stemmed from how we make a lot of decisions with respect to listening to consumers, what consumers might be asking for, looking for new innovative digital trends,” he says. “So as an online company, the ability to participate in new technology and explore that and lead in those areas is really how we look at it … and hopefully attract a new set of customers.”
ClearlyContacts.ca isn’t the only business joining the wave of others accepting the currency. Right now, there are a number of businesses in Toronto that are accepting bitcoins, advertising the fact on their sites. Among them are Coworking Space Toronto, which rents out office space for freelancers, Vapetropolis, a business that sells vapourizers to residents of Canada and the U.S., and Ark Army Surplus, a sports guns store that also sells military clothing and gear.
While that’s still just a handful of businesses, Canada is a relatively Bitcoin-friendly country, with consumers showing a fair amount of interest in acquiring the currency, Di Iorio says. Vancouver was the first Canadian city to get a Bitcoin ATM, and the Bitcoin Alliance brought another one to its coworking space in Toronto last week. It’s already served “hundreds of people,” Di Iorio says. adding his organization plans on adding five more to cities in Ontario.
But beyond the B2C space, Di Iorio hopes alternative currencies will become accepted enough that they’ll be used in other ways. He and his team are down in Miami, Fl. right now for the fundraising launch of a new Bitcoin alternative, Ethereum, a “second-generation” currency geared towards the financial services industry.
Someday soon, contracts, hedging, and other financial services could all be drawn up with Ethereum and similar alternative currencies, Di Iorio says.
That’s the kind of future that appeals to Chao, who describes himself as somewhat of a libertarian.
“I feel like we’re living in the future, just a cyberpunk future of cryptocurrencies and technology,” he says. “And it’s just very exciting to me.”