Over a hundred people, including a large number of absolute beginners, turned up to an event in Hong Kong last week to promote the use of bitcoin for consumers and businesses in daily life.
Co-sponsored by Singapore-based payment processor startup CoinPip, the Hong Kong event, known as RISE:Bitcoin, featured its own mini trading desk (or 'Satoshi Square') to help newcomers set up wallets and make their first transactions with guidance from more experienced users.
Future similar events, like one in Kuala Lumpur near the end of March, will be called BOOST:Bitcoin.
There was also a "Bitcoin 101" talk for beginners. Helping bring everything together were two local bitcoin community enthusiasts, Jehan Chu and Leonhard A Weese.
Merchants such as pancake maker Mr. Bing and Coffee Alchemy were also there to accept bitcoins, offering both a Hong Kong dollar price and discounted price for people paying with bitcoin.
Bitcoin meetups, Satoshi Squares and information sessions are fairly commonplace these days – with the Silicon Valley and Los Angeles events regularly drawing a large crowd. But the BOOST:Bitcoin meetup was notable for attracting over 100 for perhaps the first time in Asia, and being a special event mainly aimed at novice users.
So what's a Singapore startup doing organizing bitcoin promotions in Hong Kong?
CoinPip co-founder and 'Chief Crypto Enthusiast' Anson Zeall says he "knows both Hong Kong and Singapore inside and out, but Hong Kong has a way bigger bitcoin market than Singapore does right now, looking at transactions on the exchanges."
"Hong Kong has a stronger foothold in understanding bitcoin because of the problems of the pegged Hong Kong dollar/USD. People have been looking for alternatives. And Hong Kong people like to take risk, it's just in their nature."
"Unfortunately that startup scene there is not as friendly as Singapore. So working in Singapore, expanding in Hong Kong is the best combination."
Template for future events
Zeall also said CoinPip now has an event template in place and the company is happy to help out if anyone elsewhere wants to host something similar.
Although his company provided the payment system for the BOOST:Bitcoin event, he said it's not necessary for participating merchants at this event or any future ones to be CoinPip clients, as the company can accept payments and convert to local currency on the spot.
"The most fulfilling part is buying and spending bitcoins and newcomers that don't have bitcoins will experience what it is like too," Zeall said.
CoinPip helps out by suggesting the most suitable types of merchants should be approached for events, what financial logistics are necessary and how the day should be run in general.
Hong Kong bitcoin innovations
The Special Administrative Region of China is shaping up to be a bitcoin hub. Its autonomous government runs a low-tax jurisdiction aimed at easing financial services and attracting startup businesses from around the world, and authorities have also signalled they will not be interfering in bitcoin business.
The 400 square-foot physical outlet has a walk-up counter where users can convert cash to bitcoins face-to-face, on condition they show photo ID and proof of address as Hong Kong residents.
Images credit: Eugenia Cheng