Bitcoin scene in Berlin unites developers, start-uppers and crypto dreamers. More and more people are coming to launch projects there. Levin Keller, founder of Bitcoinage.de and a member of newly created Bitcoin Center Berlin, is one of them. He is also a member of German Bitcoin lobby group.
CEX.IO talked to Levin to figure out a legal perspective of Bitcoin, the way the Bitcoin community can develop in Germany and, of course, reasons that made Levin come to Berlin.
What is your story of getting into Bitcoin?
I learned about Bitcoin in 2011, but there was not much happening. Since 2013, I have been more involved in the community. While living in Munich back then, I organized a local Stammtisch, which is a meet-up group. Munich Bitcoin group is one of the largest ones in Germany. I started attending conferences and reading everything and anything I could get my hands on that might have some connection with Bitcoin. I like the overall atmosphere of the conferences while sharing ideas and talking to people, spreading awareness on crypto-currencies.
Education, lobbying and public policy are matters of my intense interest now.
What kind of Bitcoin services do you use?
I use Bitcoin as much as I can, mostly because I`m an enthusiast. I mined a little bit in 2011 when it was possible with my personal GPU. When somebody pays me I usually get Bitcoins directly. I don`t buy stuff, I don`t need and use all the services that make sense such as Bitpay.
How does the Bitcoin community operate in Germany?
We have a lot of meet-ups, where people can discuss their ideas. We also have usual social meet-up like Stamtisch where people just hang out and talk about Bitcoin. Finally, we have Bitcoin exchange Berlin where people can buy and sell Bitcoin for cash. So there are a lot of events where people can show up. I would say there are 30-40 people who are regulars. The community itself might be bigger.
You are also a member of Bitcoin Center Berlin. How do you see its future?
This place has a great potential to become a hub for Bitcoin at least in Germany if not in Europe. There are still many things to do: I would like to have a shopfront on the ground floor, so we can promote Bitcoin for people who come around.
And the most important we need to get off the ground and find a sustainable model like running the desk and getting the cash flow. Or, hopefully, we will have an investor.
Berlin is a great city for startups, because it`s liberal and not so expensive. Everybody has time to work on ideas and to be not forced to have a full-time job. That`s the reason I came here to work for Bitcoin.
Tell us more about Bitcoinage.de. Do you run a blog yourself or do you have a bunch of people involved in it?
I`m running a blog myself. I would like to guide people who want to get into Bitcoin policy-making so I write guidelines and work on Bitcoin transactions. For those who want to make tax reports there are some instructions in German. My aim is to support people who want to use Bitcoin and not to fall in a trap.
How do different social actors interact when it comes to Bitcoin?
The problem is that there is a gap between a Bitcoin community, activists and politicians. I`m working to get all the parties involved.
Many people focus on lobbying Bitcoin at Europe, policy-making or anti-money laundering, but we do not deal with people who should be interested in Bitcoin, like hacker community from Studclub in Germany (or any other group of IT-people). We work with organizations such as banks or regulators, who fight against Bitcoin. I believe we need to interact more with those who love the idea of no boundary world. Not much happens in this field.
So what are the benefits and goals of Bitcoin, in your opinion?
In our world there are central controlling mechanisms that are mainly used to hold off unreliable people from the system. We have tools to prevent people, for example terrorists, from using bank accounts in full extend. From the other hand, people may be unreasonably excluded from the system, and here is a good opportunity for Bitcoin. My banking account was closed, for instance, because I traded Bitcoins. And if you don`t have a bank account, you can`t even rent an apartment. So this is what a bank can do without any reason in Germany or any other European country. The EU is working on this issue, but it`s not there yet while you can have a Bitcoin account right away. So Bitcoin is all about inclusion and freedom of transaction.
We need to think about future as well. Bitcoin is on the top right now, but it might be replaced. It`s tricky to focus only on it. The whole idea is not about Bitcoin itself, but about decentralized blockchain. And regarding the crime issue, it`s necessary to prevent people from committing a crime, but not just prevent from paying.
As a mathematician, I am interesting in cryptography, but now I am involved in the struggle with regulators concerning the issues of taxation and etc. We will sort this out in the end — I’m totally sure.