Daniel Alexiuc is somewhat of a maverick.
Inspired by Nakamoto’s vision, and with a dogged determination to make crypto commonplace, he headed for the most common daily denominator of all: paying bills. Living Room of Satoshi (LRoS), a company he’s run for the past 3 years, allows Australians to pay most of their bills using a range of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin. This service is achieved thanks to an API from BPay, the country’s largest online payments system.
Invest in Blockchain has previously featured Living Room of Satoshi and its continued rise in the Australian market. We now sit down with the man behind the scenes, Alexiuc himself, to hear how LRoS steadily paces upward despite industry and regulatory challenges.
How approachable were people in the industry with regards to adding cryptocurrency as a payment method?
Well, I won’t water it down – in the early years, every single company and department I spoke to in the incumbent financial and regulatory systems were extremely sceptical and often hostile. BPay is an organisation jointly owned by the Big 4 Australian banks and were reluctant to be involved in any way. Banks closed down our accounts repeatedly with no reason given.
Thankfully, this year the tide seems to be turning a bit, and now that bitcoin is nearing a market cap of US$100 billion, many are beginning to take it a bit more seriously. Regulatory changes like the bill passed through [the Australian] parliament in June to correct tax issues with cryptocurrencies show that they have more legitimacy in the eyes of many.
It’s been a very hard slog, but companies like ours and other Australian bitcoin companies that have stuck it out are now able to begin offering serious competition to the inefficient and expensive existing banking and payment systems.
What are some of the most fascinating stats you’ve picked up over the years?
Apart from the usual boring bills and credit card debts that everybody needs to pay, it’s fascinating to see that people have discovered they can use our service to pay their taxes to the government – one of the last bastions of exclusivity that fiat currency claims!
We hope that by publishing this data we can encourage business owners to see that there are customers willing to use this new currency for payments of almost anything, in all sorts of government and commercial industries.
Services like yours obviously go a long way towards increasing awareness and adoption, but it will always be limited by the governance of the country you’re in. Judging from mounting governmental involvement and rising state regulations around the world, do you think there will be a time when cryptocurrency will become as real-world a currency as any other?
It has snuck up on us a little, but that time is here already. With a current total money supply of US$98 billion (at the time of writing), bitcoin has just overtaken the United Kingdom in 36th position on the list of most valuable currencies on earth.
As a currency, it already exceeds the total money supply of Portugal, the Philippines, New Zealand and 157 other countries. Services like LRoS are in almost every country on earth, and the internet generation will increasingly view cryptocurrencies as part of normal everyday life.
And in contrast to traditional fiat currencies, bitcoin has the benefit of being borderless; regulations in any one particular country have no effect on its use in other countries.
How is the Australian government’s shifting stance on crypto affecting usage in the country? How impactful is it in your business?
We’ve observed that the regulations that have been introduced over the last few years have had almost zero impact on the usage patterns of everyday people. People are going to continue to use bitcoin regardless.
However, regulations do have a real impact on businesses; for example, the ill-considered tax changes in 2014 forced most Australian bitcoin businesses to close or move offshore (including us). Thankfully, this decision was reversed this year, but regulators need to be careful that they are not unnecessarily stifling a growing industry with hasty decisions.
How do you monetize LRoS?
Our primary aim at the moment is to grow the bitcoin ecosystem in Australia. We can only be truly successful if bitcoin adoption becomes commonplace, so we developed this service primarily to make bitcoin more useful for everyday Australians.
Having said that, we do make a profit to be able to continue running sustainably. We have developed several trading bots that operate on local and international exchanges, and partner with OTC liquidity providers.
Combined with volume discounts, these are able to get better prices for your bitcoin than you typically would be able to if you sold your bitcoin on an exchange locally. That’s how we make money and are still able to offer excellent exchange rates.
What’s your vision for LRoS?
We want to be able to prove to merchants and business owners that cryptocurrencies are a valid and viable alternative payment option to traditional currencies. We aim to guide many more of them to try it out, begin accepting Bitcoin for payment and start paying their employees and suppliers with it too.