Omaha-based Alpha BTC recently opened a its second bitcoin ATM and the first in Lincoln at The Mill Coffee and Tea in Lincoln’s Haymarket. The company's first machine is located in Omaha at Jones Bros Cupcakes in Aksarben Village.
“We’re currently at about $50,000 per month on the Omaha machine. We’re hoping to grow Lincoln to a comparable amount,” said Edward Weniger, co-founder of Alpha BTC.
Bitcoin values have been heavily discussed lately, but Weniger isn’t swayed by the talk.
“Because the price of bitcoin is going up, our actual bitcoin sales are going down, but our dollar value is going up,” explains Weniger. “So, last month, we did 13 bitcoins, but back in the day, we did 25 bitcoins per month.”
Weniger and his partners have plans to keep adding kiosks in other states.
“The next hurdle is going to be getting into states that we aren’t in yet,” said Weniger, “Iowa and South Dakota are our next two options. […] The goal is to have a hundred of these out there.”
Alpha BTC hopes to have its next machine up and running in three to six months. Now that it has a foothold in Nebraska, Weniger expects the expansion to gain momentum. “The hurdles to going to your first state are higher than going to your second and third state,” he said.
At the kiosks, users can buy bitcoin with cash or withdraw cash for bitcoin by scanning a QR code. According to Weniger, withdrawing cash is less than 10 percent of the traffic; the majority of people are buying bitcoin.
Alpha BTC was founded in 2013 after Weniger discovered bitcoin on Yahoo! Finance when it ran up from $80 to $200. After he witnessed a bitcoin price crash, he and his partners decided to start a bitcoin-based business that was less vulnerable to price fluctuations. “We were going to make a profit regardless of the price of bitcoin,” said Weniger.
After the initial investment to set up each kiosk, Alpha BTC makes money by charging a fee per transaction. “It’s a little capital intense; each machine is five to ten grand and then you have to stock (it) and do marketing,” Weniger said.
In order to operate the bitcoin ATMs, Alpha BTC has to purchase its own bitcoin and U.S. dollars to be made available at the kiosks.
In addition to operating bitcoin ATMs, Alpha BTC offers blockchain software development services to startups and enterprises interested in capitalizing on this new technology.
“Certainly, if someone says ‘I want to disrupt the shipping industry' or something like that, then they could come to us and say ‘Here’s my idea, here’s why blockchain is helpful’, etc.,” Weniger said. “But the more likely scenario at this point would be someone like Werner (Enterprises) would come to us and say ‘We want to create a blockchain that every shipping company in the world could connect to.’”
Alpha BTC believes that companies can benefit from using blockchain through leaner transactions and more easily interfacing with untrusted parties.
“Blockchain is inherently encrypted, you can associate data with it, you can write a smart contract into it,” explains Weniger. “It offloads what used to be a fairly complex system.”
According to Alpha BTC, another potential use case for blockchain technology is the healthcare industry.
“The holy grail is electronic medical records,” said Weniger. “You’ve got your private key. You decide which doctors you want to give access to your health records.”
Expanding on that concept even further, Weniger described a vision where an anonymous worldwide health database could exist on blockchain, allowing independent researchers to collectively work on solving health issues.
But how does Weniger feel about the huge run-up in cryptocurrency prices and does he think there is or was a bubble?
“Do I think it’s going to go down? … Very likely. Do I think it’s going to then run up even higher? … Very likely,” said Weniger.