Read our interview with our director and Money20/20 and Fintech Finance Bitcoin Racer, Amelie Arras as she discusses what it was like racing across Asia using only bitcoin as payment.
Interview with Adastra Director and Bitcoin Racer Amelie Arras
In our latest interview we caught up with Adastra’s Marketing Director and Bitcoin Racer Amelie Arras, to get the lowdown on how she fared in the Money20/20 and Fintech Finance Payments Race in Asia.
First of all could you explain what the Payments Race is?
The payments race is a sponsored competition leading into each Money20/20 expo, and the format to this year’s Asia race was similar to the race from Toronto to Las Vegas for the 2017 USA Money20/20. The format is that each racer is strictly limited to one payment method and it’s a race to travel from a point A to a point B… keeping a video diary and completing various challenges along the way. The winner is decided on points, as well as not cheating by using other payment methods!
In 2017 you won the US Payments Race using bitcoin – how did your experience in Asia compare?
There were four main things that were different between the US and Asia races:
- Last year it did start in Canada but after the one border crossing it was all in the US, so wherever I went had the same rules, laws and customs. In contrast, in Asia I crossed 5 countries, each with their own specific laws and regulations towards bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
- Awareness of bitcoin: between October 2017 and March 2018, wow – awareness has exploded, it seems there is now a “bitcoin expert” in every workplace! I did not get the “Bit what?!” question in Asia that I was asked numerous times in the US.
- The price of bitcoin: in the US race bitcoin was hardening against fiat currencies, in Asia the price of bitcoin was going down during the race which meant I was losing budget instead of gaining it during the race.
- The language barrier; in the US they obviously speak English, in Asia not everyone’s English is good and trying to ask someone if they accepted bitcoin did not prove to be the easiest thing in the world.
Did you get a lot of support from the community?
In the US race the community helped a lot. In Asia I found the bitcoin community strong and many generous strangers helped out massively again. The cryptocurrency and bitcoin communities are an innovative, active, passionate and supportive bunch. Thanks to quite a bit of social media networking from myself and all the racers, the community was probably even more engaged than during the US race.
What about people on the street?
The majority of the people I spoke to knew of bitcoin, some didn’t know the details but had heard of it, the perception of these people was that bitcoin was very much an asset or investment. All they pretty much knew was what had been said in the media, which is not the whole truth about bitcoin, as it has great potential to be used as a currency too. When I encountered people who had spent a bit of time getting to understand bitcoin, they’d agree that headlines in the mainstream media had to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Can you tell us a little bit about your sponsors and mentors?
I was sponsored by Coinfloor, who are the UK’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, providing a secure and accessible platform for institutional and sophisticated investors to trade and invest crypto. They announced at Money20/20 Asia in Singapore that they will launch a future exchange for digital assets that will include the first physically delivered bitcoin futures contracts next month.
Which countries were most and least successful for surviving on bitcoin?
Surprisingly I was least successful at being able to use bitcoin in Hong Kong. Although I was helped by my mentor who managed to put me in touch with one of their contacts involved in the bitcoin community there, the main problem I had in Hong Kong is that people are so busy and merchants wouldn’t speak to me twice after saying no to accepting my bitcoin.
The hardest parts of the race were the times I found myself without any options to get what I wanted with my bitcoin, for example when I was at Hong Kong airport, I was so hungry and no-one would accept my bitcoin. I attempted to approach the public and even though loads of people admitted they wished that they had bitcoin, when being prompted with the opportunity to get some bitcoin in exchange for a small service or favour, they did not want to know and walked off.
Although I met a lot of rejection of course I loved every moment with every single person I met along the way. As a food lover, I have to say my favourite part were the meals which I managed to pay for in bitcoin, notably in Bangkok: allow me to recommend the amazing restaurant Cocotte.
The most surprising thing I found was that bitcoin is outright banned in Vietnam. People caught paying with or accepting bitcoin could face legal repercussions, yet they still have a bitcoin ATM, and driving around on a scooter without a helmet doesn’t seem to be a problem!
Where now for bitcoin?
In the short term it’s hard to predict how things will play out for bitcoin as a day-to-day payment method, and obviously every country is going to take different approaches, making it a matter of careful forward planning if you want to use it for travel. Longer term, I’m convinced bitcoin is the future and in time will change a lot of things worldwide. I’m back home in the UK, a centre of traditional banking as well as great fintech innovation… and bitcoin can’t be left out of this: the journey has only just begun!
Adastra is a marketing agency that specialises in Financial Technology and Payments. It advises on and creates comprehensive marketing strategies and plans to enable companies and start-ups to tell their story, their way, and achieve their business goals.
Clients rely on Adastra’s knowledge and expertise within the financial technology and payments sectors to ensure their message reaches the right audience in an effective and compelling way through content marketing, PR, and social media.
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