We managed to get some time off his busy schedule and got some insights into how this mild mannered lawyer, Aikido expert and entrepreneur thinks:
BitcoinMalaysia: Were you using bitcoin before introducing it on BolehVPN and Geekzen?
Reuben: Nope, I started looking into Bitcoin as it started to be a popular method of paying for VPNs because of its greater anonymity and customers were requesting for it.
BitcoinMalaysia: Personally, how do you use bitcoin? Investment, payments?
Reuben: I use BitCoin both for investment and payments for BitCoin miners or even small things like food, power supply units and electrical extension outlets.
BitcoinMalaysia: What is the current acceptance of bitcoin in Malaysia?
Reuben: Pretty poor, most Bitcoin holders in Malaysia tend to hoard it but slowly we’ve been convincing them to use it for smaller payments such as for food and such whereby volatility in price isn’t such a big factor (especially in our local Kuching community).
BitcoinMalaysia: How many BolehVPN / Geekzen customers pay in bitcoin? Demographics?
Reuben: We get about 3-5 Bitcoin transactions a day in BitCoin. Due to our nature of business as being a privacy service we do not know exact demographics but from the names they register under (which may be fake), they do appear to be almost entirely foreign.
BitcoinMalaysia: What are the advantages for a local business to accept bitcoin?
Reuben: No chargeback requests, low transaction fees and it’s quite fun to beep money over through smart phones. It’s also basically free publicity with zero cost in accepting BitCoin. I think also BitCoin creates communities where you can really meet a wide variety of people, an excellent example are the weekly meetups at NDC (Nasi Dagang Kelantan Capitol), whereby people from investment bankers, IT specialists, lawyers, businessmen and students can all come together and discuss about BitCoin. Accepting BitCoin for your business means you can become a part of this community as well!
BitcoinMalaysia: In your opinion, what is the future of bitcoin in Malaysia?
Reuben: Bank Negara’s current stand is rather cautious but I do think it will take a few years before BitCoin takes off in Malaysia partly due to the hoarder’s mentality and people getting into BitCoin to ‘make money’ as opposed to seeing its long term benefits. BolehVPN was the first merchant in Malaysia to accept BitCoin but still the majority of Malaysians still prefer to pay via fiat since they worry that they’re losing out on any potential increase in BitCoin price and the hassle of getting more BitCoin. Even NDC which was the weekly hub of BitCoin activity, took a while for its members to start paying via BitCoin. IPMart (one of the country’s largest online tech merchant) is making a very positive step in accepting BitCoin and bringing it into the public awareness.
Three things need to happen for BitCoin adoption to rise in Malaysia.
a) a ready Malaysian exchange at competitive prices to trade BitCoin
b) a cluster of reputable vendors that would accept BitCoin for payments.
c) regulatory guidance from the authorities that would not be overly restrictive. [ ed: let’s hope they don’t stunt innovation ]
We are not a country like Argentina where high rates of inflation more than 30% are driving people to invest in BitCoin instead despite its volatility. Our ringgit is relatively stable and so there isn’t a huge demand for an alternative currency.
BitcoinMalaysia: Will bitcoin change the local consumer / e-commerce trends?
Reuben: In its current form, BitCoin is an excellent way to transfer money cross borders and to not require bank accounts or a third party to hold your money. However for day to day local consumer/e-commerce usage, it does not offer any significant benefits over regular fiat from a consumer perspective and in certain ways BitCoin can be more of a hassle because of its 10 minute block confirmation time. Online banking is cheaper and fast for e-commerce and cash is easily obtainable.Only merchants gain benefit from using BitCoin by avoiding payment processing fees which are usually 3% and there is no risk of charge-backs.
Also although BitCoin is seen as not requiring bank accounts, the reality is currently, you do need bank accounts to get BitCoin off cryptocurrency exchanges. Perhaps in the future when BitCoin’s price is stable, it can be a great way to store wealth securely, but not in its current form.
BitCoin’s real strength lies in international transactions which are painless and fast and cheap making systems such as telegraphic transfers and Western Union seem archaic and slow in comparison.
However, I think the real benefits of BitCoin are yet to be seen. The currency is revolutionary but the real breakthrough was the invention of the blockchain. Already in development are systems for ‘smart contracts’ whereby blockchain technology can be used to create things such as joint savings accounts, trust funds which would be managed automatically without having to rely on a trusted authority. Even whole apps or even autonomous entities can run off blockchain technology. Look up projects such as Ethereum for examples on this. [ check out Storj.io or Maidsafe too ]
BitcoinMalaysia: Reuben, thank you so much for your time. We’ll see you soon at our bitcoin meetups. Bitcoin to the moon!
Reuben: Awesome, thanks.