“I was in college, and now instead of going to college I’m doing Bitcoin,” says Louis Parker, an entrepreneur who has set up shop at the Bitcoin Center NYC, a cavernous storefront in lower Manhattan’s financial district that’s become a central gathering spot for New York City’s cryptocurrency traders, programmers, and enthusiasts. “There’s no college class on Bitcoin, except in Cyprus, and I wasn’t ready to move there,” he says.
Every Monday night, the Bitcoin community holds a meet up called Satoshi Square, named in honor of Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious creator of Bitcoin, in which traders exchange virtual currencies for U.S. dollars. Before Satoshi Square relocated to the Bitcoin Center NYC a couple weeks ago, it was held in the shopping aisles of a Whole Foods grocery store on the Lower East Side.
Why convert Bitcoins to dollars in person when it’s simple to do so on the web? For one thing, online trades require a bank account, which some Bitcoin users lack. Trading in person also reduces transaction fees and enables haggling. “There’s a lot of benefits to coming together on an exchange,” says Scott Tuddenham, who helps manage the order book during Satoshi Square. “Commerce has been conducted in city centers since the beginning of time,” he says.
The cofounder of the Bitcoin Center NYC is Nick Spanos, a tech entrepreneur and the owner of the New York City real estate brokerage firm Bapple. He says his interest in Bitcoin and other virtual currencies is partly driven by concern that over printing of money by the U.S. government could lead to runaway inflation.
“Maybe people just by learning about Bitcoin will slowdown the dollars being printed as an educational function of its existence,” says Spanos.