Bitcoin payments solutions provider snapCard is planning to give 500 merchants in the San Francisco area the ability to accept the digital currency as part of a month-long promotional event.
The company announced its '#IntegrateSF' campaign today, which will give away free tablet-based point-of sale (POS) systems to participating merchants who start accepting bitcoin payments this November.
The goal of #IntegrateSF, according to snapCard, is to turn the San Francisco Bay area into the world's digital currency hub.
SnapCard's strategy includes offering free transactions on a permanent basis to the 500 merchants that take part in the month-long effort. Merchants will also receive promotional materials and marketing support from the company to get the word out to the public on their bitcoin integration.
SnapCard operations manager Jack Jia said in a blog post that the region's longstanding association with digital currency startups makes it an ideal place for the project, adding:
"SnapCard is headquartered in San Francisco and with thousands of local 'bitcoiners' and millions of international visitors flocking into San Francisco, we feel that starting locally is the best first step for us as we embark on a campaign to increase international awareness of digital currencies."
The initiative follows snapCard's most recent $1.5m seed round of investment. Venture capitalist Tim Draper, Crypto Currency Partners, Insikt Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital and Boost VC all took part in the funding.
Community push needed
With the promotion, snapCard has issued a call to action to bitcoin enthusiasts and supporters in the region. On the social media side, snapCard is asking for supporters to use the #IntegrateSF tag to tweet about merchants in and around San Francisco that accept bitcoin.
To help spur involvement in the scheme, snapCard will offer a referral bonus worth $20 in bitcoin to those who point merchants to its platform. Any business in the San Francisco and wider Bay Area is eligible for the #IntegrateSF promotion, as are any potential references.
"Given the nature of bitcoin as a global project that we're all diligently working on, it would be great to help make this happen as a community," Jia said.
SnapCard CEO and co-founder Michael Dunworth told CoinDesk that merchants contacted by the team were interested in but cautious about bitcoin, creating both opportunities and challenges for the project.
"The response is varied, but a lot of the time merchants are intrigued. Some merchants have inertia to change (understandably), but it's our job to just give them a sample of the simplicity and cost efficiencies associated with adoption."
Dunworth added that some merchants need more access to information about bitcoin and and advice on how to both integrate and manage the technology. He expressed hope that during the month-long project as many merchants in the region as possible will consider adopting bitcoin.
Bitcoin neighborhoods flourish
#IntegrateSF seeks to accomplish what other projects are currently doing elsewhere in the world - create districts in which bitcoin is broadly accepted as a payment method.
In March, two city streets in the Hague, the Netherlands, gained a lot of publicity as the world's first 'bitcoin boulevard'. Nine restaurants and an art gallery took part in the initiative, and at the time, organizers suggested that the best way to integrate bitcoin into the broader economy is to make it more spendable.
Since then, organizations have launched similar efforts in Arnhem (also in the Netherlands), Spain and the US. In many cases, merchants as well as local bitcoin activists helped support the integrations.