Meet the Seattle startup that wants to turn local shops into Bitcoin exchanges

Getting into Bitcoin can be a daunting challenge. Figuring out how to turn everyday currency into cryptocurrency takes work, and it may not be for the faint of heart.

That’s where one Seattle startup is hoping to make a difference.

CoinSafe offers merchants a HTML5 app that they can use to sell Bitcoin to their customers. After providing some basic details about their business to CoinSafe, merchants can then connect their account to an online Bitcoin wallet service like Coinbase. In order to make money on the deal, merchants are free to name their own markup on their inventory.

Once a user makes it into the store, they enter their email address and public Bitcoin wallet address into the app, and select how much of the currency they want to buy or sell at the merchant’s price. A salesperson then confirms the transaction, and the two people exchange however much money the app says they should.

Here’s a video that shows how it all works:


It’s a concept that’s similar to sites like LocalBitcoins, which help digital currency enthusiasts trade cash for bits outside cyberspace, but CoinSafe Co-Founder and CEO Michael Flaxman said that his company’s approach helps solve a number of problems that people transacting locally face right now.

“Normally if you were buying bitcoin from a stranger you’d have to wait around for an hour for the transaction to be fully settled by the bitcoin network, but most customers find that when transacting with an established business they feel comfortable leaving as soon as the transaction is broadcast (immediately),” Flaxman said in an email to GeekWire. “Doing the transaction in person eliminates a lot of the trust/sketchiness barrier of Bitcoin.”

The idea of using local stores to perform a trusted transaction is nothing new, but CoinSafe’s approach is far easier for stores to implement, compared to purchasing a large and expensive Bitcoin ATM.

The company raised a seed round led by New York-based Vaizra Investments. He wouldn’t disclose the amount of the investment, but Flaxman said that the company is not seeking additional capital at this time.

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