SANTA CRUZ—The Bitcoin Car, a Canadian-based, four-wheeled promotional tour for the nascent digital currency, drove into Downtown Santa Cruz early Friday afternoon and parked in front of Lulu’s at the Octagon café, the latest local merchant to invite bitcoin transactions.
“Just four years ago, it was considered magic money and people were scoffing at it, but now you can find people in just about every community who are using bitcoin,” said tour driver Robbie Davidson, the founding CEO of Kryptoz, a Canadian marketing company behind the tour.
Davidson together with his father, Bryan, has traveled about 20,000 miles on a zigzagging tour of North America. They are two-thirds of the way through a planned six-month tour that began in Edmondson, Alberta, Canada. The tour will end with a raffle winner who can choose between the car, a 2014 Kia Soul decked out with Bitcoin decals, or bitcoin currency valued at $10,000 Canadian dollars. People can sign up for the raffle at the https://www.facebook.com/KryptozCom.
Advocates of the new currency are still grappling with significant issues related to the security, technology and volatility of the currency, he said, but “it’s gaining traction,” Davidson said.
That the relatively small community of Santa Cruz County would have picked up more than a handful of Bitcoin merchants this early in the evolution of the new kind of money is impressive, he said. Only a couple of communities have fledgling Bitcoin communities such as Cleveland and New York City.
In between feeding a Cooper Street parking meter every half hour, Davidson was fielding questions from passersby at an informational booth. Later, he and his father introduced themselves at the NextSpace Santa Cruz Happy Hour across the street.
The Santa Cruz Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency Meetup, a group that launched in July, meets every third Wednesday of the month at NextSpace. It has more than 40 members.
The greater community is starting to understand that it’s not just a geeky trend, said Deborah Lindsay, a crowdfunding consultant, who cofounded the group with patent attorney Patrick Reilly, software developer Sean Gilligan, and web designer and IT administrator Michelle Dick. Lindsay said she has learned a lot about Bitcoin and the many different social groups and causes it benefits.
“The public interest is going to continue to expand because of the versatility of bitcoin,” Lindsey said. Merchants who want to avoid costly credit card fees are likely to lead the adoption.
Gilligan, who has worked on bitcoin-related technology, helped Lulu’s owner Manthri Srinath set up a merchant bitcoin system in less than an hour, he said.
“Manthri was interested in Bitcoin from the start,” Gilligan said. “It’s a lot easier than most merchants believe.”
Gilligan hopes the Bitcoin tour attracted attention to the importance of Bitcoin.
“I think Santa Cruz has a long way to go compared to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Sarah Blincoe of Aptos is the next Meetup speaker on Nov. 19, 6:30 p.m. She will be talking about “The Bit Drop,” an international project to provide a small amount of bitcoin to the more than 70,000 residents of Dominca, a Caribbean island. For more information about the Meetup, visit http://www.meetup.com/Santa-Cruz-Bitcoin-and-Crypto-currency-Meetup/