Internet-entrepreneur Ryan Higgins: “Bitcoin could be a boon for the tourism industry”POSTED: 04/8/14 1:08 AM
St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Will St. Maarten become the first Bitcoin-island in the world? Internet entrepreneur Ryan Higgins would love to see this become a reality. On Friday, Higgins gave the second of a series of informal information sessions about the virtual currency Bitcoin at the Panlaan Thai restaurant in Simpson Bay. On Friday April 18, Higgins will host a third meeting at the same venue at noon.
When this newspaper asked this weekend a random cashier at a random supermarket and a random member of the government about Bitcoin the reactions are best described as blank stares: they had no idea what it is.
Higgins, who wrote under his penname Max Wright a book entitled The Bitcoin Revolution together with internet-millionaire Jarrod Dennis, therefore has his work cut out for him. Higgins spends a part of his time in St. Maarten. At other times he travels, a lot, to places like Sidney, where Natalie Ledwell, his partner in another internet venture called mindmovies.com, lives. Together with Jarrod Dennis, Higgins runs the website succescouncil.com.
The website financialcrisisreview.com describes Success Council as follows: “Success Council is a members-only site recently launched by a group of millionaires. At the forefront is one Jarrod Dennis, a 34-year-old millionaire who has recently retired to the Caribbean. He is rumored to have multiple homes in a few countries, and more gold and silver than you can imagine. His pet project, the Success Council, teaches regular people how to save their retirements, and promises that they will make a profit in the next few years, as the economy crumbles around the rest of the world.”
Dennis has already left the Caribbean again and Ryan Higgins does not present himself as a millionaire in St. Maarten. He gave his presentation on Friday very casually dressed in a Bitcoin-tee-shirt, Bermuda’s and flip flops, with his girlfriend Megan Duma, an attorney based in San Diego, by his side.
Financialcrisisreview.com gives Higgins’ Success Council a positive review. The site promises visitors who are prepared to pay $300 a year to enter its membership area protection of their assets and profits from “the greatest wealth transfer in history” – an event that is about to happen within the next 24 months according to Dennis and Higgins.
Back to Bitcoin: the virtual currency has been making waves in international media, and it has raised eyebrows at the IRS, the American tax inspectorate. Currently, the value of one Bitcoin is $450. According to a report on Wikipedia, the e-currency is about eight times as volatile as gold, meaning that it is subject to wild swings in value that could make anybody rich or bankrupt overnight.
Higgins admitted this on Friday: “It is a wild ride. You could buy for $450 today and it could crash to $250 tomorrow, or even to zero.”
However, while stepping into Bitcoin as an investment seems highly speculative at the moment – not something for the weak of heart or wallet – the system itself seems to have some upsides that could still give it a bright future.
Higgins is confident in this respect. “I am promoting Bitcoin on the island and I believe St. Maarten could create a boon for its tourism industry by positioning itself as the bitcoin-island. Bitcoin-enthusiasts around the world would love to come and spend money in paradise if bitcoins were widely accepted here.”
Wikipedia succinctly described the e-currency as follows. “Bitcoins are created by a process called mining, in which computer network participants, i.e. users who provide their computing power, verify and record payments into a public ledger in exchange for transaction fees and newly minted Bitcoins. Users send and receive Bitcoins using wallet software on a personal computer, mobile device, or a web application. Bitcoins can be obtained by mining or in exchange for products, services, or other currencies.”
Higgins called bitcoin on Friday “probably the best investment” at this moment, in spite of the obviously high volatility. As a decentralized currency that is free of the influence by traditional banking systems and credit card companies, Bitcoin seems to have advantages for businesses and consumers: transfers are done within ten minutes, they are anonymous and the middleman is cut out – saving bank transfer fees and credit card charges.
“You are free to transfer Bitcoins around the world,” Higgins said. “There is no need to identify yourself, like you would have to do at Western Union.”
To illustrate the business upside, Higgins said that, if amazon.com traded only in Bitcoins, “it would double its revenue to $2 billion.”
The internet entrepreneur added that Bitcoin also solves the problem of identity fraud (like the theft of credit card data and the subsequent plundering of people’s accounts). “This is a more efficient way to pay than any system we have,” he said.
While Higgins said that the value of Bitcoin will keep going up and that “moneywise the upside is mind-blowing,” there are plenty of stories around that call for at least some caution.
The Bitcoin concept was first mentioned in a paper in 2008, attributed to Satoshi Nakomoto – but up to now, no one has been able to establish the true identity of the creator. In 2011, the value of a Bitcoin shot up from $0.30 to $32, before settling at $2. In 2012, the price went on a wild run that peaked in 2013 at $266, before it crashed again to $50. Now it stands at $450.
Higgins is not too concerned about the price fluctuation. His confidence is based on what he calls the network-effect: “The larger the network, the more people will benefit.”
Higgins labels Bitcoin as a new payment ecosystem to rival Visa and MasterCard. “It comes with its own currency, little to no fees, available to everyone without a credit check, and it totally bypassed banks and their high fees. Unlike traditional payment networks that discriminate against the poor and underprivileged, Bitcoin treats everyone as equals with no gatekeepers precluding entry or charging high fees.”
Higgins’ enthusiasm for the new payment system is near euphoric: “Bitcoin is exploding in popularity all over the world and many believe in the near future it could replace credit cards, banks and remittance (providers) like Western Union.”
Retailers and other businesses that want to jump on the Bitcoin wagon, should visit the website bitpay.com for more information, or go to the Facebook-page Sxm Bitcoin Meetup.