(Photo by Flickr user @zcopley, used under a Creative Commons license)
Bitcoin raises plenty of questions for financial regulators. Joshua Riddle, however, hopes that, for Baltimore businesses, it’s the answer.
Riddle is co-founder of Bitsie, a Baltimore startup aimed at speeding adoption in the city, which officially launched in early June.
“Our main focus really is increasing merchant and nonprofit adoption in Baltimore,” Riddle said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here.”
The cryptocurrency is accepted at a handful of brick and mortar businesses in Baltimore. The first was the Fells Point bar Bad Decisions, which started taking Bitcoin late last year currently hosts Bitcoin meetups.
“We’re primarily targeting the brick and mortar businesses,” Riddle said. “Those are the kinds of shops that are going to speed adoption in the area.”
Baltimore wouldn’t be the first city with a significant Bitcoin presence. He pointed to North Jersey, where some shops started taking the currency earlier this year.
This isn’t Riddle’s first company, nor is it his first company to take Bitcoin. His web development firm The Riddle Brothers — like Bitsie, co-founded with brother Aaron — also accepted the currency.
Bitsie offers e-commerce and checkout solutions to allow businesses to accept Bitcoin. The business owners can then use a service like BitPay to convert Bitcoins into American dollars, or if an owner feels like speculating, he or she can keep the payment in Bitcoin and ride out price fluctuations.
In addition to technical assistance, Riddle said the company also serves up Bitcoin evangelism.
“We have a class coming up in Betamore for people that may have heard of Bitcoin but don’t know how to get started,” he said. “It is a very technical innovation, so people might want to start using it but they don’t know where to look.”
That class is on July 17 at the Federal Hill incubator.
The company has also developed a product for Bitcoin monetization of digital content and is working on another service, storyhound, to allow users to buy and sell short stories with Bitcoin.
“There’s this chicken-and-egg problem,” Riddle said. “Bitsie’s trying to work to try to bridge that gap.”