As Bitcoin startups surge, Paris opens its first Bitcoin center

May 15, 2014
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La Maison du Bitcoin opened its doors yesterday, right in the middle of the Sentier district of Paris – 35 rue du Caire. The space was created and will be run by Thomas France and Eric Larchevêque, two seasoned entrepreneurs and bitcoin advocates. They founded the price comparison and shopping app Prixing together in 2011.

La Maison du Bitcoin will welcome entrepreneurs wishing to build projects related to Bitcoin and its protocol in its 220m2 co-working space. There they’ll have access to workshops, meetups, hackathons and specific accountancy and legal advisory. Anyone can also come to La Maison du Bitcoin to simply learn more about cryptocurrencies and their underlying protocol, and to buy BTC, particularly via a bitcoin ATM that was set up in the Maison’s lobby. I was one of the first happy testers during yesterday’s launch! Verdict: it works and it’s also a great evangelization tool: it definitely is the simplest way to have access to bitcoin – no verification required, no banking information to give away, just BTC for cash.

Eric Larchevêque’s speech pinpointed quite clearly what this is all about:

La Maison du Bitcoin’s goal is to develop the Bitcoin ecosystem by supporting local Bitcoin startups.

“We’ll welcome Bitcoin startups and provide resources, such as financial and legal counsel – very often, building a Bitcoin project is similar to building a bank in your garage, so you may need some help to answer quite a few questions. We’ll also provide technical resources and will help you find designers, developers so that you can accelerate your startup’s development.”

La Maison du Bitcoin makes it easy to have access to bitcoin.

“We also want to facilitate the access to bitcoin: you can come to La Maison du Bitcoin simply to buy bitcoins, we’ll be acting as a physical exchange platform.”

La Maison du Bitcoin aims at making France a major Bitcoin ecosystem.

“We want to create a first small Bitcoin ecosystem around La Maison du Bitcoin, for example by encouraging shops in the neighborhood to accept bitcoins thanks to solutions such as Paymium. We’re going to test a lot of things and help the French Bitcoin ecosystem grow, and hopefully in one or two years, we’ll have helped create a French Bitcoin giant. We have very talented engineers in France, there’s no reason why the US and the UK should be the only ones taking over Bitcoin.”

As examples of what French engineers can do in the Bitcoin sphere, a few Bitcoin startups were showcasing their products at the Maison’s launch:

  • Paymium developped bitcoin-central.net, a European bitcoin exchange,
  • Electrum is an easy-to-use bitcoin wallet,
  • Brawker created an easy way to pay for anything on the Internet with bitcoins, even with merchants who don’t accept bitcoins at the moment,
  • Betarigs developped an online platform to rent and lease cryptocurrency mining rigs,
  • MasterXchange is the first Mastercoin/bitcoin exchange, they’re planning to add other cryptocurrencies to their exchange soon,
  • Btchip offers a hardware wallet: very basically, it’s a chip on which you can securely store your bitcoins and altcoins,
  • Chronocoin: buy your bitcoin with your debit card, and store them on a Chronocard.

BnA55LgCQAAIpkm (1)Having a dedicated space in France for Bitcoin is essential as the public and the government are still very suspicious of cryptocurrencies. This launch definitely is a first step towards more understanding and more curiosity around cryptocurrencies, which will in the long term deeply change quite a few things in how we process our transactions, how much we’re willing to pay for these to be processed, and more globally how we transfer value from one person to another and how we view the role of trusted third parties. If you’re a sceptic, here and here are two reads I would highly recommend.

Besides this launch, a few steps were made in France and Europe to support Bitcoin adoption: the French Senate held a hearing about Bitcoin last January, InnoCherche organized a think tank last April during which Stanislas Marion, bitcoin trader and financial writer for BitcoinWeekly, highlighted a few points about Bitcoin and its European ecosystem, and Bitcoin France is very actively discussing with the French government so that smart regulations are implemented around Bitcoin. Almost simultaneously, Poland also opened its own Bitcoin embassy in Warsaw.

La Maison du Bitcoin’s co-working space will be ready to welcome entrepreneurs next Monday. There are around 20 spots available. To apply, you just need to reach out to Eric and Thomas via their website. The deal is simple, it’s 250 euros per month. The first bitcoin hackathon will take place soon: June 14th to June 16th, so keep an eye out for the opening of applications.