DOWNTOWN — Steve Beauregard is a leader of the ever-growing online payment phenomenon known as bitcoin.
His GoCoin company is seeking to make digital currency mainstream. We sit down with him and pick his brain on the burgeoning trend and how his company will play a part in it.
Erik: What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
Steve: It goes all the way back to my paper route when I was a preteen, and I delivered the Washington Post. I would go around door to door and I also had to do collections and those were really my early entrepreneur roots. Then in college in my sophomore year I started a DJ business, so by my senior year I was not only playing on the basketball team, but I was also running all of the Greek parties and DJing those, I also had the main bar in town at my college town.
Erik: What is bitcoin?
Steve: Think of it as digital money that you can send around the Internet as simple as you can send an e-mail. So for example, you and I go out to dinner and lets say the bill comes to $100 and I’m going to send you $50. So rather than later getting back to you with cash I can connect my bitcoin wallet up to your bitcoin wallet from phone to phone and then send you that money over the Internet.
Erik: Awesome. So tell me about GoCoin.
Steve: So, GoCoin, what were doing is providing the ability for merchants to accept bitcoin as a payment method, right alongside Visa or MasterCard and other traditional ways of paying. So think about a check-out cart online, you fill your cart up with what you want to buy, and you get to check out. How do you want to pay? Visa, MasterCard, or bitcoin? So what GoCoin does is, once you hit bitcoin, we go out and get a current spot rate for that coin at that point and we present the customer with a bitcoin total what they owe and then the invoice for them to pay.
Erik: Got it, very cool.
Steve: So for the shop what we do is, for that $100 transaction we charge them $1 and we would give them $99.
Erik: And is that 1 percent your charge?
Erik: That’s a lot cheaper than a credit card. And then what made you chose to work out of Santa Monica? What do you like about here?
Steve: When I first moved out to California in the 1990s I drove all the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara looking along the coast trying to pick where I wanted to live and at that time I chose Santa Monica. I lived right on the beach just north of the pier and just completely fell in love with Santa Monica. I love Santa Monica because it has a lot of culture. The mix of people kind of reminds me of where I grew up in Washington DC where you kind of get a huge blend of cultures from all around the world.
Erik: So what do you think of the current Silicon Beach tech scene? You have obviously been here a while and seen a lot of change.
Steve: Well, I like to think I have been a large part of making that happen. I’ve been helping start ups in the community here for about 20 years through my company. We develop software, use to do that on a part cash, part equity basis where we would give companies, startups, a very cheap but very good high quality software service and so I really love what has developed here and the eco-system of companies helping companies. I love places like ROC where they have all these meet-ups and all these companies that get to feel like they are part of a big company even though they are just running their own small operation
Erik: With that being said, what type of advice do you have for people trying to start their own company or thinking about it?
Steve: I think the number one thing they can do is move into a place like ROC or co-working space or Co-loft, get in there among other entrepreneurs, like minded people, because starting in your garage is not the way to do it anymore. The services you get by moving into a community and just being able to hang around the coffee machine having another conversation with another entrepreneur that’s struggling with the same things you’re struggling with. You can lift each other up, not to mention the crossover of opportunity. Oh you’re working in this business, I’m working on this problem, it just makes you more aware of what is going on and what’s happening.
Erik: How would you say GoCoin is changing the world?
Steve: Well the number one way we are changing the world is providing an onramp to unbanked people of the world. Think about the person in Nigeria that doesn’t have the ability to buy something online because no one would ever accept a credit card from them. You don’t need a bank to use bitcoin. You can download it for free off the Internet, you can go purchase coins from a number of different places. And then you have bitcoin in your wallet and you are free to spend it. So companies like GoCoin are giving the ability to spend that money online and shop in places where they have never been able to. So if you think about it 2/3 of the world can’t shop online right now because they don’t have a credit card and meanwhile all of these online presences have a worldwide store and so you’ve got a big problem here and we are helping to solve that.
Erik: What’s one thing you would like to tell the people of Santa Monica? What is a message you would like to send out there, is there something you want to announce?
Steve: I would say support your local Boys & Girls Club because those kids are really our future and being able to give them a safe place off of the streets where they can then go and grow and develop in positive ways is really important for our community.