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Bitcoin ATMs Are Spreading Across the World

Bitcoin ATMs Are Spreading Across the World
Image credit: Reuters

Sometimes the future can sneak up on you. Like when you find out that a startup incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, whose employees live in New Hampshire and whose products are made in Portugal, is selling digital-currency ATMs to Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

These are only two of the countries that have purchased Bitcoin ATMs from manufacturer Lamassu, which announced Monday that it had sold 120 of the machines to customers all over the world. A map Lamassu created to mark the occasion, showing the far-flung sales locations of its Bitcoin ATMs, not coincidentally illustrates the global appeal of Bitcoin.

Zach Harvey, Lamassu's chief executive, said as much in a press release. "We will be shipping to 25 different countries, ranging from Canada to Kyrgyzstan, and we've translated our user interface into more than a dozen languages, including Russian, Chinese and Friulian," Harvey said.

Lamassu has delivered about a dozen ATMs so far, with plans to ship the others in spring 2014.

Related: India's No. 1 Bitcoin Exchange: Shutdown 'In No Way' Reflects Bitcoin's True Potential

In October 2013, another company, Robocoin, made headlines for its Bitcoin ATM, said to be the first in the world that was available to the public, when one of its machines was installed in a coffee house in Vancouver. Within its first month in operation, the ATM had processed more than CAD$1 million in transactions.

Robocoin's machine, which costs $20,000, or four to five times as much as Lamassu's (the company offers price discounts for bulk orders), allows users both to buy bitcoins with paper bills and to withdraw cash by selling bitcoins. Lamassu's table-top ATM, which is much more compact than Robocoin's kiosk, cannot provide cash in exchange for bitcoins, only the other way around.

Although Bitcoin ATMs are still in their infancy, they already represent a contentious space, in which each company is jealous of its claim to fame. After Business Insider Australia reported Monday that a company called 21st Century Bitcoin Exchange was setting up the first Bitcoin ATM in Australia, Lamassu corrected the news site on Twitter, saying it had already installed one of its own ATMs in Melbourne, with "about 15 more on their way."

Robocoin's chief executive, for his part, took a shot at buy-only machines such as Lamassu's when his company's ATM debuted this past August. "Seriously, how bush league is an 'ATM' if it can't do the equivalent of deposits and withdrawals?" Robocoin CEO Jordan Kelley said.

Lamassu will be presenting its Bitcoin ATM for trial use at the CES Startup Debut event in Las Vegas on January 5, prior to the Consumer Electronics Show that will kick off two days later. After one of Lamassu's machines was installed in Bratislava, Slovakia, a local man named Juraj Bedn?r created a YouTube video demonstrating how easy it is to use.

"It's always exciting for a young startup to have sales ramp up," Harvey said in the release. "But what's really thrilling for us is to know that these will be out in the wild, providing millions of people with effortless access to Bitcoin every single day."

Related: Actually...Bitcoin's Recognition Is Pretty Darn High

Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.

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