Europe is to get its first bitcoin centre this May, with the launch of La Maison du Bitcoin ('The House of Bitcoin') in Paris.
La Maison du Bitcoin is the brainchild of entrepreneurs and bitcoin enthusiasts Thomas France (co-founder) and Eric Larchevêque (CEO and co-founder), who previously founded the price comparison and shopping app Prixing.
Sited right at the heart of the French capital – 35 Rue du Caire – the 220-square-metre space will offer flexible co-working space and assistance for bitcoin companies, along with workshops, hackathons, meetups and a Lamassu bitcoin ATM.
There will even be scrypt GPU and bitcoin ASIC mining rigs in operation, albeit for demonstration purposes rather than raising funds.
Larchevêque, who has been involved in Internet startups since 1996, told CoinDesk:
"La Maison du Bitcoin is mainly dedicated to entrepreneurs with a co-working space and an incubator for bitcoin-related projects. We want to make it the place to launch and work on bitcoin startups in Paris."
Larchevêque explained that, although bitcoin still has a low profile in France, he was not deterred: “[Paris] was an obvious choice as we are based here. Many observers told us, with sometimes good reasons, that we should relocate our project elsewhere in Europe, but we are strong believers in the French ecosystem in the long term."
The project is funded by himself and co-founder France, said Larchevêque.
"We are seasoned entrepreneurs, with already a few exits ... We are in talks with investors willing to back the incubator, or some of our early projects." he added.
Raising bitcoin's profile
While France has yet to really catch on to the potential of digital currencies, recent events indicate that change is afoot.
In early April, major French retail chain Monoprix announced plans to start accepting bitcoin payments on its merchant website later this year.
Furthermore, Larchevêque indicated that Paymium, a French startup, will soon provide an e-merchant solution for bitcoin payments.
La Maison du Bitcoin aims to further raise the profile of digital currencies in the nation. As well as catering to new bitcoin businesses and enthusiasts, the aim is to educate the general public about bitcoin too.
"We'll also have an area open to the public, where we'll install the first French bitcoin ATM, and experiment selling of bitcoin-related goods or services – miners, hardware wallets, goodies, and so on."
"Things are changing quickly," he added. "The French Bitcoin community is getting bigger. It is true that there are right now only a few operating startups. This clearly demonstrates the need for a Maison du Bitcoin! France has a strong reputation for its IT and math engineers, there is no reason why the next big bitcoin company wouldn't be French."