By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian entrepreneur yesterday said his online directory had become the first business in this nation to accept payment by Bitcoin, the virtual money form he believes will eventually “rule the world.”
Graham Weatherford, the principal behind Bahamas Yellow Pages, told Tribune Business: “We’re now accepting Bitcoin. We have a client in Cyprus who does VAT customised software, and wants to sell it in the Bahamas.
“He’s paid me in Bitcoins for listing in the Yellow Pages, and we’re the first Bahamian business to accept it. It’s beautiful. They transfer the Bitcoins to you, and bang, it goes in.”
Bitcoin is a digital currency, or peer-to-peer payment system, first introduced in 2009. They are created by ‘mining’, where participants check and record payments in exchange for transaction fees and new Bitcoins.
Bitcoins are sent and received using wallet software on computers, cell phones and web applications.
Mr Weatherford told Tribune Business that while his company still accepted traditional cash and credit card payment forms, he believed Bitcoins and “virtual money is the way the world will go towards”.
He added that the first Bitcoin Automated Teller Machine (ATM) had been installed in Vancouver in October/November last year, with people able to use their palm print to get physical cash, or trade in currency for virtual money.
Mr Weatherford said Bitcoins were a viable alternative to having foreign clients pay through offshore credit cards, adding that unlike cheques, Bitcoins did not have to return to the bank.
“It’s going to be big. Virtual money is going to rule. This is going to be a deep subject,” he told Tribune Business.
Mr Weatherford added that the newly-established business featured in Tribune Business earlier this week, Easybids242.com, operated using similar ‘virtual money’ principles.
Clients paid physical cash into an account, which was then converted to virtual money to allow them to bid on products and services.
“It’s the same cool concept people are buying into,” Mr Weatherford said, pointing out that as a technology-savvy nation, Bahamians were well-suited to using Bitcoins and virtual money.
“With over 200,000 Bahamians on smart phones, we’re not backwards. We’re cutting edge,” he added. “We know how to use this. It may be a bit gimmicky, but it’s [Bitcoins] cutting edge.”
However, Bitcoins and the whole ‘virtual money’ concept are not without their problems.
World media, coincidentally, was buzzing yesterday with reports that MtGox, once the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world, had disappeared from the Internet along with many millions of dollars in customer deposits.