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Virtual Currency Making Gains Across NY


A Capital Region Coffee Shop owner left his business to pursue a full-time career in digital currency.

Launched in 2009, Bitcoin predates both Apple Pay and Google Wallet. It's an internet-based, decentralized digital currency.  Paul Paterakis' Clinton Square coffee shop was home to the first Bitcoin ATM in New York - which is still there in the space now occupied by The French Press Cafe & Creperie.    "We got known for Bitcoin more than our coffee."

Paterakis feels Bitcoin is on par with where the Internet was in 1995 - a lot of people used it, many more knew it existed, but it had yet to reach its full potential and ultimate impact of controlling everything from banks to radio stations to nuclear power plants.

Dave Ripley is Co-Founder and CEO of Glidera, a digital currency venture headquartered in Chicago.    "The way Bitcoin works is that you effectively obtain a Bitcoin wallet, which is used to both store your Bitcoins and transfer Bitcoin to other individuals or companies or entities.  After you get a wallet, the next thing you need to do is obtain some Bitcoins."

There are many ways to do that. Exchanges and services have been established where consumers can buy and redeem Bitcoin. Paterakis says the ATM system is the safest avenue for the consumer to take.  "Exchanges are for folks trying to profit on the market, which I never recommend, any type of short term investing.  Wheras the ATM is there if you just want to buy Bitcoin and use it with merchants around the area or if you wanna save maybe for the long-term investment."

Bitcoin is priced low right now. Paterakis sees this as a good time to buy. But there are pitfalls.  Bitstamp,  a Bitcoin exchange based in the United Kingdom, was recently hacked - 19,000 of its Bitcoins were stolen.  "Which is valued at a little over 5 million dollars missing out of something called a 'hot wallet' - basically, when you put your Bitcoins into an exchange, it's kinda like putting money into a bank that's not regulated, so nobody's looking it over, so you're putting trust basically into strangers online, which is a 'no-no.'"

Trading on the exchange was halted the other day after the hack was discovered, but the company insists that the majority of funds placed in its care are “completely safe and will be honoured in full.”  Paterakis mused  "I'm looking forward to seeing how Bitstamp resolves the issue. They're very reputable. They just had 10 million dollars invested into their company by Pantera Capital."

Paterakis doesn't miss the coffee shop - he's looking forward to diving deeper into the virtual currency. "I'm investing in PYC the company that's installing the [Bitcoin] ATMs in the area. They've just installed in Vermont, in Burlington, also in New Hampshire, down in the City and we're gonna have two more in the Capital Region in Schenectady and Saratoga."

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
A Bitcoin ATM

Paterakis is also educating consumers, law enforcement officers and merchants on safety and security issues involving Bitcoin, and teaching them how to get the most "bang for the buck" out of the new technology.

Dave Ripley says several merchants now accept Bitcoin, including  "Dell.com, Expedia, CheapAir, Tiger Direct... There are starting to be some 'bricks and mortar' businesses that accept Bitcoins as well."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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