by Eliot Harkin
Switzerland’s reputation as a hub for bitcoin and blockchain innovation has been growing over the past year. Nexuslab, for example, began its virtual accelerator program in December of 2015. This week, Califorinia-based Airbitz is announcing that it is joining companies like Xapo, Shapeshift.io, Monetas and other fintech businesses who have decided to locate in Zug, Switzerland as they grow their operations in Europe. While the mobile wallet company will still be based primarily in San Diego, the new expansion is expected to energize Airbitz’s European outreach.
MK Lords, community manager at Airbitz, told BTCMANAGER that while Airbitz is available to European customers, the mobile wallet doesn’t have the same sort of presence there as it does in North America. She said that the company plans to “add features for users in the Eurozone” in the near future.
As another part of their European strategy, Airbitz has hired Lucas Betschart as a core developer. Besides his expertise in C++, Build/CI Systems and blockchain technology, Betschart brings his connection to the Swiss bitcoin community as an experienced meetup group coordinator.
Working for Airbitz will enable me to create software that has the potential to have a big impact for millions of people around the globe, giving them an alternative to their local currency. By making Bitcoin easy to use we can enable free trade and economic growth in parts of the world that need it most. So I believe by working for Airbitz I can help to build a better, freer world.
Betschart started his career as software developer at Crypto AG, writing software for military encryption devices. In early 2013, he discovered his passion for Bitcoin and financial cryptography. After becoming involved in the Open Transactions open source project, he worked for Monetas AG to bring his vision of a freer world by financial inclusion and sovereignty a step closer to reality.
In his spare time he organizes talks and events for the Bitcoin community in Switzerland and contributes to Bitcoin related open-source projects. Prior to being hired by Airbitz, he had already made contributions to the wallet’s open source code.
Betschart told BTCMANAGER that he considers the Swiss to be “very conservative when it comes to adopting new technology and they like the Swiss Franc and cash.” However, he says that with the decline in banking privacy, bitcoin is becoming more attractive. Bitcoin is also useful for remittances in a population consisting of approximately 35 percent foreigners. He points out that these factors create good opportunities for bitcoin and Airbitz.
Betschart’s experience in the Swiss Bitcoin meetup community has given him some insights into the local environment:
“Since the government is very Bitcoin/innovation-friendly, we have Bitcoin ATMs in every larger city, which helps a lot regarding the adoption among average people. Also the tech community is big in the Zurich area, which makes us one of the biggest Bitcoin meetup groups in Europe. There are many great contributors to the Bitcoin ecosystem here and we’re constantly working on educating more people about Bitcoin.”
Lords says, “Lucas is an excellent addition to the Airbitz family and has already been instrumental in suggesting improvements to our app that enhance user experience and privacy. I have no doubt with his assistance we can take Airbitz to the next level.”
Airbitz recently made news with the launch of its integration with Fold, allowing customers to purchase discounted gift cards for Starbucks and Target. The new office is located at Poststrasse 22 6300 Zug, Switzerland.