As Bitcoin continues gaining global traction, so goes Minnesota’s Everything Bitcoin group.
In an empty office suite nestled within a random Bloomington professional building, a few dozen enthusiasts gather around a series of 4 by 8 tables.
There aren’t enough chairs — but sitting down isn’t really part of the agenda anyways; once a quick round of introductions is made, it’s all business from there.
The group is diverse: entrepreneurs, miners, developers, libertarians, attorneys, students and traders to name a few present. Among it all are local small business owners who have started accepting the cryptocurrency, following in the footsteps of some first movers.
Birdhouse Inn at Excelsior Bay, a bed and breakfast located in Excelsior Minnesota, started accepting Bitcoin about two months back. Proprietor Dave Wahlstedt says he has processed one transaction so far using a Coinbase wallet.
“Bitcoin is an exciting challenge to the current system and I want to support it any way that I can,” he says. “Economically it’s great and that’s as equally exciting.”
“I thought Bitcoin was really weird at first, to be honest, but when you look at costs associated with payment processing fees, you have to wonder as a business owner. We have paid over $100k to the credit card companies since we started seven years ago. Of course I want to avoid that if possible.”
Spare Key is a MN nonprofit started in 1997 that has helped 2,000+ families with housing payment support during emergencies. The org has started accepting donations via Bitcoin and a recent fundraiser netted hundreds through the exchange.
“I understand the esoteric nature and the technical stuff I rely on other people for. It’s exciting to be an early adopter in Minnesota and we’re working with other potential partners in the rental, management and finance area to test the true potential,” explains executive director Erich Mische.
“I think the public sees mostly one side of the Bitcoin situation…they hear about a scam or that people use Bitcoin to buy drugs, but they are missing the point. It’s way bigger than that,” he says laughing.
Attorney Collin Bockman, sees opportunity in carving out a niche in providing legal services to Bitcoin related companies and even offers a discount to customers who pay with Bitcoin. It’s not hard to imagine building a name as the ‘crypto counsel’ and becoming known as the legal expert in the local Bitcoin community.
“There was no more than five at our first meetup last year,” says Kyle Bongers, one of the Everything Bitcoin co organizers who happens to have a finance background. “We heard that Bitcoin was a fad and the market wasn’t coming back, but here we are. Even when things move wildly there is opportunity.”
The meetup group has grown to ~175 overall on the mailing list and Bongers notes that turnouts are consistently 20+, adding “Bitcoin is permeating society and there’s a lot of local businesses that are coming through the doors now to get onboard. That’s a clear sign of change.”
Although Bitcoin has captured the most brand recognition in the cryptocurrency movement, the group also discusses various alternative (alt) coins.