For many Irish buyers of Bitcoin their first purchase would have been made through Irish Bitcoin broker Eircoin. The ever reliable broker led the market for many years and was a key source of Bitcoin for many of those new to Bitcoin in the early years.
Eircoin was set up by Dave Fleming in 2013 when a Bitcoin was just €5. Started when he was on the dole with just a €500 float, it grew as interest in Bitcoin deepened in the general population.
However it was never easy, an unclear regulatory environment and banking system that was not always keen to engage with Bitcoin made things very difficult. The difficulties in accessing OTC banking has now led to the decision to close the service.
We caught up with Dave to get his thoughts about Bitcoin today and the Irish Bitcoin scene in general.
1. When do you think Irish buyers really started to get interested in Bitcoin ?
Crypto seems from my perspective to move in waves and its heavily linked to propaganda and the mass media effect I think. This causes a feedback loop with the price and then further growth. So it has some hallmarks of the gambling industry (which has run rampant since betting on your phone etc came along – see paddy power etc.) but this was not an expected effect.
I saw a lot of people get very interested during 2013 and then it died off after the Mt Gox hack until really about last October when small rises in price started the ball rolling again.
2. Do you think that the future of Bitcoin will be compromised by its current price?
Not really, Im starting to think Bitcoin has an effect like the ultimate ponzi. So individuals might loose interest in it but it can never go away so waves of interest will always be waxing or waning.
I saw Nick Szabo tweet that money is like the ponzi that never ends and in a way thats correct. What is money except a ponzi that is kept afloat by people believing in it (and these days thats quite a stretch with QE infinity etc) so why couldn’t Bitcoin or similar be something like it .
It probably can (because mainly it cant go away). So the price might be compromised shot term (it already is) but it wont be compromised as in – the tech is still there, buy it if you wish.
3. If you were to give the Irish Government advice to support Entrepreneurs in this area what would you say ?
Im not sure what advice I could give the government in this country as I believe they are stalwarts to real change and happy with the status quo – which any decent crypto is designed to circumvent.
I mean the banking system is basically an arm of the government, otherwise the public would chose public banking as an option which has never been allowed in this country.
They even stand on the necks of the Credit Unions constantly with over regulation as they are afraid of their power base growing. Thats not to mention the massive public investment the government has in all the Irish banks.
So what advice could I offer in this scenario? Nothing they would take on board.
4. Do you think that ICO’s need to be regulated ?
Yes and no, they cant be really but guidance – like consumer guidance – would not go astray. Its free reign capitalism and its ugly – conmen, over promising etc.
How can you protect everyone against this when the money they are investing in it is itself cannot be regulated?
Advise them would be the best course of action but beyond that unless the ICO is based in Ireland, its beyond their jurisdiction and control so any attempt at regulation would expose their lack of control.
5. Do you think that the Irish Crypto Currency scene is as mature as similar European countries?
No not at all, and for a good reason. It was always hemmed in. Ireland is a tax haven, they could have jumped on this technology. But they choose to play the same game they always do – dont rock the boat.
Its not for lack of grass roots effort, I was going to crypto meetups here in June 2013 it was class, loads of ideas, loads of great open source work being done.
Soon enough it was business as usual, Circle came to one of the meetups, they were basing themselves in Ireland (for what reasons you can probably guess) – we all got T-Shirts,they got handshakes with power. Same as it ever was.
Talent was never tapped for new ideas.
Now Switzerland is a booming capital for crypto, so is the Netherlands. Ireland is like it always was, a laundry mat for international capital. Thats all we got out of it. Local talent was never able to grow.
6. If you were to start Eircoin again would you do anything differently at the start?
Possibly but there was little else I could have done I think. I always wanted crypto to be as easy to get as possible so I concentrated on that.
Within 4 months of starting I was getting letters from the Central Bank – quite serious s**t. I knew they couldn’t do anything to me, I had no money so as someone with an anarchist bent I mailed them back and politely told them to f**k off.
I think a lot of people in my position would have stopped right there or if they had the money, spent it trying to appease them with lawyers etc. None of this would have worked. Its obvious now so I walked a good line I think.
7. Do you plan to stay in this industry or work on new projects?
I am currently working on a new project but Ill be back at crypto in a few months. Its too tempting and it fits in well with my lifestyle. I like being kind of anonymous on the end of a keyboard and even better if I can make my living at it.
I am an honest person, thats the only thing I ever sold and I think that is a hard thing to regulate away. So Im going to be concentrating on more decentralized options inside of crypto.
Im thinking of teaching anyone to do this so when the next gen decentralized exchanges are ready to fly (they mostly are).
It wont just be me pushing this stuff, there will be lots of heads. Because if anything this just proves the issue with centralization – its too easy to attack. So the answer is to decentralize further.
Anyone reading this blog who bought through Eircoin in the early days will surely wish Dave the best of luck with any new ventures.
Keep an eye out for the next phase.