Stephen Macaskill’s path into the Bitcoin world could be viewed as a bit unconventional. In 2013, while running Amagi Metals, an eCommerce precious metals company that was the first in the industry to accept bitcoin for gold. Armed with a background in monetary theory and financial markets, Macaskill set out to champion bitcoin’s utility in the world of commerce.
In 2013 and 2014 his business was reputed to have accepted more bitcoin than any other retailer in the world. It was around that then, he says, that he began “falling down the bitcoin rabbit hole.”
“I sold my business in 2015 and focused full time on crypto-related projects, one of which is The Bitcoin Store. I moved to New Zealand because of the economic and political freedoms it has, and have found it to be one of the most peaceful places in the world.”
Macaskill says that the bitcoin/blockchain community in New Zealand is small but strong. It has remained at the grassroots level for some time as the banks have been hostile to almost all cryptocurrency and mining businesses in the country. He says that this hostility has restricted adoption back and kept the Bitcoin industry smaller than in other parts of the world.
Macaskill, however, sees a change on the horizon, from his view of New Zealand’s coastal waters:
“I believe 2018 is going to be pretty big for bitcoin and blockchain in New Zealand. The Blockchain Association of New Zealand just launched toward the end of 2016, and a few digital currency exchanges are coming amid the approval process from banks and regulators.”
He notes that many businesses there have started learning about blockchain technology and researching it for different use-cases outside of the digital currency space. “I think we're going to see some big advancements here at both the enterprise/institutional level and the bitcoin/cryptocurrency level. These advancements will put New Zealand on a level playing field with the rest of the world in this space over the next six months.”
Macaskill Emerges From Down Under
Macaskill says that The Bitcoin Store while originally a fun side project to promote bitcoin to crypto enthusiasts, has flourished into a staple business that provides high-quality products and services to educate, advance, and fuel the shift towards a more decentralized world. The project started in January 2016 under the name All Things BTC. After some time bitcoin.com approached and asked Macaskill if he wanted to use the store.bitcoin.com domain name, seeing the potential for mutual benefit. Macaskill agreed, rebranded it into The Bitcoin Store:
“I have expanded the Store's product offering a great deal to provide value for both crypto newbies to veterans. I carefully pick and choose the vendors we work with so that we can offer the highest quality art, hardware wallets, nodes, apparel, books, jewelry, and other crypto merchandise.”
Continues Macaskill, “We are super excited to have recently added high-quality services, such as a wallet recovery service for people who have lost the passwords to their private keys. We’ve also expanded to products that promote decentralization beyond bitcoin.”
He says that although there is a lot of friction in the global Bitcoin community right now, he believes that everyone wants it to succeed. “We are as diverse as can be, but we are all in this together. Bitcoin's fate will reside on our ability to see this. As such, I see The Bitcoin Store as a place for all bitcoiners to come together and see what we have achieved and see what we can achieve.”
Macaskill notes that a contributing factor behind someone making a purchase at the store is the bitcoin price. “When the price goes up or down, people are out spending bitcoin far more than when the bitcoin price is stable. Our most popular products vary based on the time of the year and the bitcoin price.
He says that the most sought after products are hardware wallets, like the Trezor, and high-ticket items, like expensive art, when the price is skyrocketing, especially with the last price spike. “When the price isn't spiking, then merchandise like t-shirts and books seem to be the most popular. During holiday seasons, we sell a lot more gift items, like cufflinks.”
Regarding the future developments around the convergence of bitcoin and commerce, Macaskill believes we will see much easier ways to pay with bitcoin. He touts the advancements of Apple, Google, and WeChat as having done a fantastic job of transitioning people from antiquated money to bitcoin. “They are doing a lot of the legwork for us,” he says excitedly. “And soon we will be able to tap and pay with the bitcoins on our phone anywhere we go. In my opinion, using bitcoin is only going to get easier and easier.”
Meanwhile, Macaskill spends most of his days amid the majestic beauty of New Zealand reveling in Bitcoin’s emergence as a global phenomenon. He says that Bitcoin breaks down State drawn imaginary lines and connects people to each other on a global level better than any other technology or monetary medium we have had before. And he says that he’s continually jazzed about being able to service customers in parts of the world that we never dreamed of because they were able to pay in bitcoin, noting that without bitcoin, they would not have been able to work with us.
“Businesses don't need to be bound by geopolitical borders any more; they can provide value when the value is needed and service anyone, no matter where or who they are. It is special to witness how inclusive bitcoin can be.”