The Bitcoin Embassy was founded on May 12, 2014 in Poland. Our user Wojciech Pietrzak interviews Maciej Ziółkowski, one of the co-founders of the Bitcoin Embassy.
Wojciech Pietrzak: Tell us about the foundation of the Bitcoin Embassy. How did you come up with this idea?
Maciej Ziółkowski: We came up with this idea when I noticed that Poland, a large country of thirty eight million people, does not have a setting where one could say “Good morning!” and ask about the Bitcoin. There was no place to talk about the Bitcoin. Although there were some forums such as Hackerspace, Apple, Android, or Google fans zones, we were still missing a place where Bitcoin enthusiasts as well as Bitcoin amateurs could find out some more information about this currency. This is how we came up with the idea of establishing the Bitcoin Embassy, the ultimate goal of which is to promote Bitcoin, educate the community about the Bitcoin, etc. We also sell Bitcoin mining hardware, and, of course, the Bitcoins themselves. The first Bitcoin ATM is also located within our premises.
WP: Are there any startups within the Embassy?
MZ: Yes. The companies InPay, a payments broker, and We Mine 4 You, a producer of altcoins mining hardware, advertise with the Embassy.
WP: So we can say that these companies use the resources of the Embassy but this is completely separate from it or as if the Embassy was some sort of shopping centre dedicated to bitcoin-related companies?
MZ: Yes, I think that the Embassy will soon become a place that will bring together the entrepreneurs, people, who wish to promote the Bitcoin, and people, who create new businesses based on the digital currency.
WP: So what is the Embassy from the business point of view? Is it a foundation that will potentially transform into a company uniting businesses around it?
MZ: The Embassy is not a foundation. The Embassy is a company with limited liability. That being said, we operate not only for profit, but also from a desire to promote the Bitcoin. We have been using the Bitcoin for three years, almost since the its appearance on the global arena and after a while we had decided to disseminate and popularise the Bitcoin.
WP: Could you kindly speak of the brightest events at the Embassy so far.
MZ: The opening of the Embassy was undoubtedly the most important event. This took place on May 12, 2014. There were about one hundred fifty people, mostly supporters, enthusiasts, and visionaries of the Bitcoin as well as beginners in Bitcoin trading and mining, who just wanted to hear about this currency.
Another important event took place two weeks later, where we presented the first Bitcoin ATM in Poland. The ATM was produced by Lammasu.
I personally believe that presentation of the picture of Satoshi Nakamoto was also an important event. This is the first attempt to portray the Bitcoin inventor by the artist Mr. Michał Cander.
WP: Do you stay in touch with other Bitcoin Embassies?
MZ: Yes. We stay in touch with the Israeli Bitcoin Embassy. We also keep in contact with the Canadian Bitcoin Embassy, and La Maison du Bitcoin (The House of Bitcoin) in Paris.
WP: How do you cooperate with these Embassies?
MZ: We will visit each other, support each other, and cooperate on the level of substantive. For example, specialists from Israel visit us with a lecture, or experts from our Embassy goes to Israel or Canada. We exchange experiences, insights, and we help to shape the market so that it grows stronger and that the Bitcoin gains maximum popularity.
WP: Poland is one of the top European countries in terms of Bitcoin infrastructure and awareness. Why is it so?
MZ: I think that this is a consequence of the eighties, when you could meet people engaged in money changing on every corner. Therefore, the Poles have easily assimilated the existence of the Bitcoin. The natural course of events has initiated trade and use of Bitcoins. In addition, the Poles are extremely receptive to new trends and innovation. Many people speak English fluently and are good at entrepreneurship. All of this made the Bitcoin very popular in Poland.
WP: Do you personally trade or mine bitcoins?
MZ: Yes, I personally trade Bitcoins — I sell, buy, and mine them. I think that the Bitcoin should be used to its full extent.
WP: Services of which platforms do you use?
MZ: I use cex.io, ghash.io, bitcurex.pl, bitcoinet.pl, bitmarket.pl, and inpay.pl.
WP: You said that the Bitcoin should be used to its full extent. Does it mean that you also use it for normal shopping or accept it as payment?
MZ: Yes. I have bought some books, clothes, and electronic devices for Bitcoins. In addition, I have already sold my miner for Bitcoins.
WP: What are your plans for developing the Embassy?
MZ: We are planning to create other Embassies. We target some European capitals such as London and Berlin. We obviously cannot leave out Zurich although it is not a capital city (laughter).
WP: How about other directions of development, for example establishing the Litecoin Embassy?
MZ: Frankly speaking, we do not take this into consideration. We believe in the Bitcoin and we will probably leave the promotion of altcoins for someone else.
WP: Do you personally use altcoins?
MZ: It happened once or twice, but I see the real power in the Bitcoin. I guess, I’ll stay with it.
WP: If a man comes to the Bitcoin Embassy, and he has never dealt with the Bitcoin before, and he is not very technologically proficient, and he is not an ideological enemy of the currency monopolisation by the state. How would you explain him what the Bitcoin actually is?
MZ: The first thing worth mentioning is that the Bitcoin is decentralised. One could compare it to the Internet, which is decentralized as well. Nowadays everybody has more or less knowledge of the Internet. Nobody holds full control over the Bitcoin. Another thing worth mentioning is that the Bitcoin moves away from the concept of the paper money as well as from the concept of banks being the money-creating institution. The gold and the Bitcoin also have several things in common. Not only are they not controlled, but also both have a predetermined supply. The total quantity of Bitcoins will never ever exceed twenty-one million coins. Another issue is the anonymity, which is by no means complete but enough for someone who knows how to use it. Mentioning all these features should be enough to convince the person about the righteousness of the Bitcoin.
We also provide free of charge schoolings, and offer bitcoin miners for sale. We used to give away Bitcoins worth one or two Polish zlotys to our potential customers. We help people install wallets. The Embassy is a place where one can come to learn about the Bitcoin, and clarify all doubts.
WP: Thank you for your time and I wish you success in implementation of your plans and development of the Embassy.
After the interview Maciej Ziółkowski showed me how to use the Bitcoin ATM. It turned out that you could not withdraw Polish zlotys in exchange for the Bitcoins, neither could you connect a USB drive with a wallet stored on it to the ATM. However, you can buy Bitcoins if you have your wallet address QR-encoded. Maciej Ziółkowski scanned his address from the smartphone and he bought 0.00506 BTC for 10 Polish zlotys inserted into a special reader. The whole operation took less than a minute, including some time that I used to carefully examine the whole process.