Watching the progress of Bitcoin over the last few months has been a funny thing: After the slew of hacks and thefts toward the end of 2013 culminating in the massive collapse of Mt. Gox, the price went into a tail spin that has continued through the summer months. The funny thing is that reported hacks have slowed to a trickle and the news has been consistently good – more high-profile merchant adoption, better services, and reports of governments not being completely hostile to this nascent currency – but the price has continued its slide.
The narrative many bitcoiners use to explain this apparent contradiction is that greater merchant adoption, where merchants immediately liquidate their BTC, coupled with the miners caught in such fierce competition that they have to immediately cash out their holdings to stay solvent has put severe downward pressure on the price of Bitcoin. The narrative also states, with good evidence, that there is huge innovation and steady adoption going on building pressure to another breakout. Despite the fact that many bitcoiners are underwater at current prices, almost all of them also remain upbeat about the future prospects of Bitcoin and see the current situation as being a blip in Bitcoin’s development.
I was in touch with Emily Liu, formerly of Mt. Gox, who demonstrates this attitude to a tee. Joining Gox in its final days and being there for the dramatic crash, she nevertheless has found her way to a new Bitcoin company working to bring Bitcoin to everyone. Her new company, Bitbank, is one of a few companies that have cropped up in recent weeks to finally fill the hole left by Gox in the Japanese Bitcoin economy – a welcome development for me, a Tokyo resident.
Emily was kind of enough to answer a few of my questions regarding her experiences.
When did you get the job with Mt. Gox and what were your responsibilities?
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I started working at Mt.Gox on February 3rd this year. I was responsible for International Business Development and PR.
What was it like working there?
Well, the withdrawal problem happened on February 7th, so overall it was kind of hectic and stressful for me since my whole time there was about the incident. It was not what I expected at all, but my colleagues were very nice people.
What was your impression of Mark Karpeles? Did he seem like a good manager/boss?
I remember when I first saw Mark, I did not realize he was the CEO; I thought he was just another engineer. Mark thinks and interacts with people in a very “cute” way, like a child =).
At what point did you get the feeling that something was wrong? What made you feel that way?
This is a funny question. The problem started on my first week of work, so I didn’t need to feel “something was wrong,” it was just right there. Monday to Thursday went well, but all of a sudden on Friday we couldn’t perform withdrawals and had to start writing press releases.
You were there at the center of one of the biggest business disasters of Bitcoin (I lost a small amount of money myself). After all that, you still have a positive feeling about Bitcoin. Many other people might have been driven off Bitcoin entirely. What made you stay?
Right after I quit Mt.Gox, I wanted to find jobs in other fields, but in the end, I realised that I can’t move-on from Bitcoin. I wanted to work in something that I believed in and something that is futuristic and artistic, so I went home and started to google “bitcoin company in japan”. It took me a while, but I finally found Bitbank. and decided to join this start-up, mainly because of the CEOs’ positive attitude towards Bitcoin.
Tell me about your new business. What are you doing? What problem does it solve and how will it benefit people?
Bitbank is a company that started because of the love our CEOs have for Bitcoin. To them, our priority is about increasing the awareness of Bitcoin in Japan; they believe very deeply in the future of Bitcoin and want to share this amazing creation with everyone, which is why we didn’t start-off with an exchange platform. Bitbank. started off with services that are attractive and more common to the public, such as a wallet service, a payment system at local restaurants, and an ATM. As of September 16th 2014, we launched Japan’s First Bitcoin Online Payment System. Our Online Payment System can really benefit Japan, especially in a city like Tokyo where everything is expensive and online shopping is popular and mainstream.
From my own perspective living in Japan, other than the Meetup groups, there doesn’t seem to be almost any awareness of Bitcoin at all. How do Japanese people respond to you when you talk with them about Bitcoin?
Most of the time when I bring up Bitcoin, they ask “what is bitcoin?”, then I explain to them. Other times, with people who know, they either laugh awkwardly and say “wow, ok. Good luck with that! But why?” or they just nod and start another subject. I try my best to put a positive spin in the conversations.
It’s often been said that Bitcoin is kind of a boy’s club. Personally, I think that Bitcoin holds potential for everyone and would really like to break that ‘boy’s club’ image. What do you think it will take to get women excited about Bitcoin?
A boy’s club? Hahaha. I didn’t realize Bitcoin is a club; it’s definitely not just for boys. Bitcoin is for everyone. But I do understand your point; there are only a handful of females that appreciate Bitcoin. I think maybe females will be more interested in the payment systems for their online shopping; not a lot of females are interested in investments. It might take a while for the females in Japan to appreciate bitcoin; they are more up to date with the trend and fashion, make-up etc, so I think if Bitcoin can be related to fashion and make-up, females would catch up.
Bitbank is a Bitcoin payment service and user wallet provider. Please visit them to find out more.
By Mark Norton: Editor @ BitcoinWarrior.net 09/22/2014