Bitcoin: the new online currency (cryptocurrency to be exact) everyone is talking about.
What exactly is Bitcoin? Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system and digital currency which uses cryptography to control the creation and transfer of money.
If you still haven’t read up much about Bitcoin, here’s an excellent article titled “Explain Bitcoin Like I’m Five” that helps you figure out the concept behind it.
As with other currency, there are marketplaces, which allow people to trade bitcoins. These marketplaces are called Bitcoin exchange. In Singapore, one of the largest Bitcoin marketplace is itBit, and it allows people to buy and sell Bitcoin with USD, SGD, and EUR.
According to itBit’s Business Development Manager Antony Lewis, itBit is the first Bitcoin exchange built on global equities exchange standards.
“We use NASDAQ’s open source exchange technology and we are designed for use at a retail level, as well as for institutional investors and commercial businesses. Security and privacy are top priorities that add to the strength of the platform. We have partnered with a market maker which helps minimize spreads and itBit is proactively increasing the liquidity of the overall Bitcoin market. itBit is driving the long-term viability of Bitcoin as a global currency by taking a proactive stance toward regulation and using banking-standard ID verification to ensure funding sources are legitimate businesses,” shared Antony.
Launched back on November 11th 2013, itBit is intended for use by both institutional and retail investors. You do not have to be accredited investor to use itBit, but you must comply with itBit’s banking-standard KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) processes such as ID and proof of address document submission.
Although the company is relatively new, itBit told Vulcan Post that they are “already the global market leader in SGD exchange trading by volume”. The company has recently received a US$3.25 Million investment, reflecting the confidence from global investors in the company.
How to familiarize yourself with Bitcoins
While the multi million dollar backing might be praise-worthy, are there enough demand from the mass market? Are Singaporean interested to find out what Bitcoin is and do they really understand what Bitcoin is?
Antony is confident and hopeful about the future prospects of Bitcoin. For those who are curious about Bitcoin, Antony advised that they should give the future of currency a try.
“First get a free wallet to store your Bitcoin by downloading the Blockchain app for your phone. Then buy some Bitcoin – in Singapore you can buy Bitcoin either on an exchange such as ours, or from Coin Republic, a service that helps people to buy Bitcoin. You will need to transfer money (eg by GIRO) first, then you can buy the Bitcoin, transfer them to your wallet and go and spend them. Last week I bought food and drinks at Mariko’s bar on Jiak Chuan Road, and paid by Bitcoin. It took less time than signing a credit card receipt,” Antony told Vulcan Post.
Other than Mariko’s Bar accepting Bitcoins in Singapore, there is also a growing number of merchants whom accept Bitcoins too, and here’s a handy map by Coinmap.org listing all the Bitcoin merchants in Singapore:
International companies such as WordPress, PirateBay, Reddit, OKCupid also accept Bitcoins as their payment option.
Of course, recently there were also a lot of negative media publicity generated globally because of its volatility and governments around the world are still scratching their head around this new payment system. A single policy announcement can send the price of bitcoin through the roof or crash it. A case in point: When China banned Bitcoin, it sent the price of Bitcoin from a high of over $1000 to $500 in less than 24 hours.
Does itBit see this as a threat?
itBit believe that by providing a deep, central pool of liquidity, itBit will help moderate volatility. Antony told Vulcan Post that Bitcoin enables global commerce with frictionless access to money, even to the many in the world who are unbanked. With the possibility of global transfer of funds, foreign workers could easily send money back home. This kind of remittance in itself is a $500B economy.
“If you look at the borderless nature of the Euro and what it’s done for Europe, you can see what Bitcoin could do for the whole world in terms of enabling freer flow of commerce,” says Antony.
Do you think Bitcoin is here to stay?