The mysterious Bitcoin has until recently looked like a bit of an oddity – an interesting concept, but one that seems inaccessible to the average consumer. It’s an image problem that Brisbane-based startup Living Room of Satoshi is aiming to try and fix, by letting Australians pay their regular household bills using Bitcoin via BPay.
What is Living Room of Satoshi?
Living Room of Satoshi is an online service that lets you pay your bills using Bitcoin. They’ve made it as simple as can be: simply plug the details of your payment, whether it’s via BPay or a bank account, into the interface on their front page, and voila! Your bill is paid.
The startup was forced to temporarily shut up shop after the ATO ruled that Bitcoin counted as a commodity, which led to a 10% GST surcharge which in turn made Living Room of Satoshi’s business unviable. However, they must’ve figured out a way to operate around the new regulations, because they’re back up and running!
In addition to the well-know Bitcoin, Living Room of Satoshi also lets customers pay bills with some lesser-known crypto-currencies and services such as Ethereum, Dash, Monero, Litecoin, Eth Classic, and PIVX.
Q&A with Living Room of Satoshi co-founder and CEO Daniel Alexiuc
Q: What was your experience with Bitcoin prior to creating Living Room of Satoshi?
I got interested in Bitcoin initially because it was a novel application of computer science to economics. For the first time, someone had found a way to use technology to create an entirely digital asset that could be passed around from person to person but could not be duplicated.
The obvious application for this breakthrough was a new international currency – something that we haven’t really seen since the ancient Romans minted coins that became the de facto currency for much of the world at the time.
The pseudonymous “Satoshi Nakamoto” released his initial whitepaper describing the system in 2009, and since then it has ballooned into a $40 billion+ global payments network.
I bought a single Bitcoin from MtGox, at the time the world’s largest and most trusted Bitcoin exchange. That went sour, as they got hacked and lost everybody’s money.
But since then, the ecosystem has matured and there are many excellent options to store this new asset class safely, as well as hundreds of exchanges worldwide to acquire or exchange it.
Q: Bitcoin can seem a bit scary and inaccessible to a lot of people; did your service come from a place of wanting to try and demystify it?
Bitcoin is scary. Especially once one starts to think about the potential impact it could have on how people exchange value with each other worldwide.
It challenges and redefines the concept of money itself. No longer does money need to be issued by a government to have value; in fact, it is issued by nobody!
A single computer algorithm running on thousands of computers worldwide controls the creation and distribution of Bitcoin. You don’t need anyone’s permission to use it; there are no login details required.
And it is un-censorable, unstoppable – no person or group can stop any transaction from happening.
I started Living Room of Satoshi because at the time, there was nothing you could really do with your Bitcoin. Paying bills is a perfect fit – it’s something almost everybody does all the time, and a great way to prove to merchants that Bitcoin is a viable alternative payment system.
The first time paying a phone bill at Living Room of Satoshi using internet money completely outside of all existing banking networks is an aha! moment for most people.
Q: Does the volatility of Bitcoin’s value present any problems in attracting potential customers?
Bitcoin is still a very volatile asset compared to fiat currencies, there is no doubt about it (although it was less volatile than GBP for a little while there), but less so compared to assets like oil and gold. But like most new assets, volatility is reducing as time passes and adoption increases.
If you are using Bitcoin right now, I believe you are probably in the late stages of the “early adopter” category. Our customers are beginning to get their invoices paid in Bitcoin, beginning to get some of their salary in Bitcoin, and are starting to use it in everyday life.
Q: Have any banks or financial institutions raised issue with the idea of being paid via Bitcoin? Or does use of the BPAY platform eliminate any issue of that nature?
Banks are cautious about adopting new technologies, and very risk averse. I actually worked in the risk department of a big bank for a while!
But that’s understandable, as Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) Chairman Greg Medcraft recently noted that “the biggest asset the banks have is the trust of their customers”.
However, that creates opportunities for innovation outside of the existing banking systems for alternative payment methods. And we’re not really that interested in convincing banks any more.
Three years ago, we had the goal of demonstrating to retailers that Bitcoin is a viable payment option. After over $6 million dollars in bills paid, we’re confident that Bitcoin is here to stay.
Q: What’s next for Living Room of Satoshi?
We get many requests to bring our service to other countries, and we’re working on that.
We’re also looking at handling some other types of payments beyond bills, and allowing cashing out of some altcoins, which are becoming increasingly popular.
Whatever we do though, simplicity and ease of use is our primary concern – we want to make things easier in what is still a complicated and difficult space.
Q: What would you say to someone who’s interested in Bitcoin?
I would urge people to try it out! Download a wallet, get hold of some Bitcoin from a friend or an exchange, and pay a bill with it.
This technology is not going away, and you can really only fully comprehend what it’s about the first time you try it out for yourself.