It all started on the morning of February 27, 2014. I found myself scrambling in my house trying to find a white bed sheet. I had arranged for three media crews to meet me downtown Edmonton at 10:00 AM, to document the unveiling of Alberta’s first Bitcoin ATM and I was hellbent on having a dramatic unveiling; a ribbon cutting ceremony of sorts.
On May 6, 2014, I had an appearance on CTV Morning Live in Saskatoon, where I had the opportunity to explain Bitcoin. The rest of the day included a media tour showcasing Saskatchewan’s first Bitcoin ATM and multiple radio shows, where we discussed a recent article that was featured on CBC as well as some bitcoin- focused publications. Bitcoin Solutions was starting to pick up steam, but little did I know, this was just the beginning.
Our third Bitcoin ATM launched in Vancouver, BC in January 2015. This newest Bitcoin ATM was featured in a local publication called Georgia Straight (check out the price coverage at the bottom of the article).
At the time of the Georgia Straight feature, one bitcoin was valued at US$235.98 on CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index, far below its peak of over US$1,100 in fall 2013.
Three machines were installed in 11 months. We had expanded our reach to include Vancouver and Saskatoon. I couldn’t believe the growth! But as the saying goes, the best was yet to come…
The next few years were spent learning the market, spotting trends and trying to bank enough cash to grow the business. With hard work and perseverance, our three Bitcoin ATMs had grown to ten by the end of 2016. This was very exciting, but I wasn’t sure how we would continue to grow. I felt stuck. Banks were not interested (lol are we surprised?) in offering loans to a Bitcoin ATM company of our size. Private investors still saw the market as speculative and I didn’t have the track record to land any sort of equity investor. With bank loans and private investment off the table, I was banging my head against the wall in frustration. How was I going to continue to grow this company?
In 2017, bitcoin was in the news again. Its price was starting to increase and people were taking notice. Our ten machines started seeing significant interest and throughout Q2 and Q3 of that year, I focused on expanding our network of Bitcoin ATMs. This was achieved by scraping together every penny (technically nickel, pennies were obsolete by then) that I had and putting it into more. More bitcoin, more Bitcoin ATMs and more locations, we ended 2017 with 15 machines, one operational team member, a brand new developer (hired in December) and myself. We closed December 2017 with a whopping $4 million in sales. Jackpot! ATM growth was up 50%. And still, the best was yet to come.
In 2018 we had a renewed focus. We leased a 4,000 square foot office in Edmonton. Yes, a bit large for a team of three, but we wanted a space that was welcoming to the public, in order to encourage people to come in, learn about and feel comfortable buying and holding bitcoin. The focus of our new developer was to build ways for people to securely buy bitcoin at our website www.bitcoinsolutions.ca as well as patch the machine software when needed (which felt like daily at times). It was chaotic, it was stressful, it was unorganized and it was amazing! Bitcoin Solutions’ ATM count grew by 60% to 24 by the end of 2018.
2019 was the defining year for us. We had survived the first real Bear market for bitcoin, where prices from the top of 2017 were seen as “once upon a time” and “the good old days”. People knew what bitcoin was, but didn’t have any interest in owning it. With some early placements in 2019 we had around 30 machines located in Western Canada and had started looking at ways to expand further east. It soon became clear that it might make more sense for us to buy our way in, rather than expand organically. In Q2 of 2019 we closed our first acquisition of nine machines in Eastern Canada. We spent the remainder of the year putting emphasis on our new machines and integrating them into the existing network. Learning how to integrate an acquired network, and how to make that network work even harder by defining and redefining processes to ensure each dollar we expended would come back and compound. I refer to 2019 as a defining year, not only because we grew from 24 to 41 machines (+70%), but because we had the playbook and were ready to do it over and over and over again.
After seeing the successful acquisition and integration of our Eastern Canadian business from May 2019 (revenue +400% in 9 months) we were ready to replicate our success in 2020. This time, with new ambitions — we were going to become the first publicly-traded Bitcoin ATM company in the world. With a public listing, we would have company currency and would be able to help fund future acquisitions. This, coupled with profits generated from the growth in years prior, allowed us to execute on both organic and acquired growth at the same time. We closed two other Bitcoin ATM acquisitions, of six and four Bitcoin ATMs, respectively, in Q2 2020, alongside a host of organic placements to exit 2020 at 95 machines (+131%).
Which leads us to today, Thursday January 21, 2021. Newly branded as Bitcoin Well, in a 4,000 square foot office that is too small for our team of 40. We are proud to own and operate 102 Bitcoin ATMs across Canada. With our incredible team and operational processes in place, we will continue to break barriers and focus on exceeding our aggressive growth plans. It took exactly 2,515 days (nearly seven years) to go from 0 to 100 Bitcoin ATMs (kinda quick). Next stop, 1,000 Bitcoin ATMs, real quick.
0 to 100… Kinda quick. The Journey of a Bitcoin entrepreneur was originally published in Bitcoin Well on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.