Bitcoin ATM provider Bitlish was the first to open a bonafide BTM in Russia, but it is its expansion plans that are likely to get the market talking.
Despite the growing presence of BTMs in Europe, usage is still limited.
Not inconsiderable fees, as well as a lack of general consumer understanding, mean that online options remain the go-to source for both novice and experienced traders to exchange crypto for fiat and vice versa.
UK-based Bitlish thus surprised when one of its branded machines opened in Russia’s second city St. Petersburg, closely followed by another. Both were a result of a decision by the company’s local partner, who gained an opportunity to open there rather than the capital Moscow.
"This year is set to see much more from Bitlish, with an eye-popping 5,000 machines planned Europe-wide in 2017 alone."
Currently, fewer than 200 machines are listed as operational on Bitcoin ATM finder CoinATMRadar. The country with the most machines is the UK, with 68.
St Petersburg opens Russia
In an interview with Cointelegraph, Bitlish’s Max Grain discussed more details about the plans and what the future has in store.
Cointelegraph (CT): What made you choose St. Petersburg as the first Russian location for a machine?
Max Gain (MG): We have several ATM partners across the world and we do not install ATMs by ourselves. It is up to our partners to decide what spot to be used. Our first partner in Russia had an opportunity to open up in this location in Saint-Petersburg, it was his sole decision.
South Russia next target
CT: Are you planning to add others in St. Petersburg and/or elsewhere?
MG: Yes, we plan to expand through our partner network across Russia and Europe. We look forward to connecting up to 300 BTMs in CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and 5,000 in Europe this year. We will also spread into the south of Russia in the coming months.
CT: Are you confident about the future legislative environment in Russia concerning Bitcoin and altcoins?
MG: We believe Russia should soon provide a legislative framework enabling business and people to trade in the legal, acceptable form, leading the cryptocurrencies out from the gray area as it used to happen in Russia. We consider the kiosk as a step forward to achieving this goal.
Europe is priority
CT: To what extent do regulatory shifts impact on ATM operations?
MG: There is a direct impact. Establishing a clear regulatory regime should boost kiosk business. This sector is quite a developed one in Russia, and we recommend our partners to fulfill the existing requirements as if cryptocurrencies were regulated as an incumbent pay system.
CT: Where are you currently planning to sell and provide services outside of Russia?
MG: We are not oriented to Russia only, and already have some partners in the United States and Latin America. But Europe is going to be our priority and we accept orders for ATMs with a very competitive price of €1,200 per unit.
CT: If so, are you looking for country representatives?
MG: Yes, as our business model in the kiosk area relies on authorized partners, we can probably have a country representative responsible for business development in the concrete region. Anyone interested can apply for that through our website. We will check out all initiatives.