Six Ways Any Business Can Benefit From Bitcoin
NOTE: I am happy to make a professional introduction to any business or team mentioned below that you feel could be a good fit for your business. Some of these links may be affiliate links.
Why Should I Use Bitcoin in My Business?
Increasingly, business owners are curious about whether or not "digital currencies" are something they need to be concerned with. If so, which of the popular cryptocurrencies should they accept? The short answer is that Bitcoin is the only horse in the race when it comes to a viable, decentralized alternative to fiat money. And every business owner should be considering how Bitcoin can benefit his or her business.
Bitcoin is both digital and scarce. This makes it unique. It is a return to commodity money (like gold) as opposed to our current debt-based money. But instead of a return to the much-ballyhooed Gold Standard, Bitcoin is commodity money for the Internet age. In a world that operates across the Internet, it makes sense to use a form of payment that is native to the Internet.
But for many of us who (knew others who) digitally duplicated music, movies, etc., the term "digital" is the opposite of "scarce." And yet, because of its verifiable monetary policy enforced by a decentralized protocol, Bitcoin credibly brings scarcity to the digital realm. This is in comparison to central banks whose fiat currencies are neither digitally native (and are therefore a Rube Goldberg machine of payment processors, etc.) nor verifiable nor scarce!
This article shares the six ways any business can benefit from Bitcoin:
- Earn it
- Buy it
- Mine it
- Lend it
- Give it
- Sell it
This article will also introduce you to some of the best companies to partner with in each of these areas. Each recommended partner is a "Bitcoin-only" business. This means the leadership has committed to focusing on Bitcoin without being distracted by "crypto payments," "crypto assets," "crypto wallets, or "crypto" anything else. While there are more than six ways businesses can use Bitcoin, some are edge cases or for particular types of businesses.
No matter what your business is, you will likely be able to incorporate each (or most) of these into your business. This free Bitcoin-for-Business Quick Start Guide includes all six of these methods, as well as other potential partners, and some key Bitcoin-related terms. This guide was created to help you as you are thinking through your own Bitcoin strategy.
Method 1: Earn It
Earn it? Well, yes! We often say "accept payment" (including in this article), but Bitcoin begins to shift how we think about value. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoin, so anyone who offers Bitcoin as a payment method is vying for a scarce commodity.
In a future world that operates on a Bitcoin Standard, the money will be credibly scarce. A free and open market will incentivize businesses to offer excellent products or services. Accepting bitcoin as payment sooner rather than later gives your business the opportunity to create a bulletproof treasury built on Bitcoin that will set you up for long-term success.
Point-of-Sale for Accepting Bitcoin Payments
Your current payment platform may already give you the option of accepting payments in Bitcoin, but more than likely you will need some additional infrastructure in order to process payments.
If you have one of the many payment platforms that does not yet make bitcoin payments possible, Ibex Pay is a great place to start. Ibex is a point-of-sale service that provides final settlement at the speed of the Internet using the Bitcoin Lightning Network. It also offers a checkout process that is convenient for customers. Ibex encourages you to take self-custody of your bitcoin (more on self-custody below).
But you may not be interested in holding Bitcoin on your balance sheet. You may just want to offer it to customers as an additional payment option and an additional revenue source for your business. If so, Ibex provides a service where they immediately transfer the bitcoin payment into USD (or other currency of choice) so you never have be concerned with the bitcoin/fiat exchange rates.
With the ability to accept bitcoin payment, you must now be prepared to encourage customers to pay with this superior (but novel) payment technology...
Bitcoin Rewards to Incentivize Bitcoin Payments
The payments industry has created a complex web of relationships that make financial transactions more costly than they need to be. In stark contrast, Bitcoin transactions offer a method of payment that is nearly free using the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
A cheaper payment option gives business owners the ability to boost profits (especially in industries that have tight margins). While many customers may prefer fiat financial transactions for years to come, the upward volatility of Bitcoin makes it an attractive treasury asset for a profitable business.
Here are the top three benefits of accepting bitcoin payments via the Lightning Network:
- Immediate and final settlement
- No fraudulent transactions or chargeback fees!
- No credit card transaction fees or processing fees
These benefits help the business more directly than the customer, which is where the next partner - Oshi - comes in.
Oshi incentivizes bitcoin payments. They do this by enabling both online businesses and brick-and-mortar stores to provide bitcoin rewards to customers. If customers pay with bitcoin on the Oshi app, they can select either a discount or a "cashback" reward in bitcoin. Oshi also makes it possible for businesses to offer bitcoin rewards on any purchase, including those made with debit or credit cards.
If you are looking for a way to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, Oshi is the way. Oshi can also provide your customers with their first bitcoin, which they may use for future payments. You can hear stories from business owners who use Oshi in this playlist on my YouTube channel.
Storing Bitcoin for Your Business's Balance Sheet
When "crypto" exchanges like FTX blow up, the problem is NOT Bitcoin. The problem is significantly caused by centralized control - an all too common story in financial markets as a whole. This is why Bitcoiners tend to value self-custody.
When you do not take self-custody of the private keys that give you control of your bitcoin, you do not actually own them. You have entrusted them to someone else, and you effectively have a bitcoin IOU. The importance of bitcoin self-custody has led to the popular phrase among Bitcoiners, "Not your keys, not your coins."
Bitcoin self-custody is a new level of responsibility that many people are not used to. But it is a level of responsibility that gives you a greater sense of security when you need it most. Unchained helps businesses take the right steps to properly secure their bitcoin by using multiple signing devices (AKA hardware wallets).
While Unchained offers a number of solutions relevant to businesses (a few more are mentioned later), but their custodial service is what they are most well-known for. Gone are the days when you worry that your COO (or summer intern) will run off with the private keys for your business's bitcoin! Unchained helps you secure your bitcoin so that there is no single point of failure.
In a 2-of-3 (or 3-of-5) solution, multiple signing devices/hardware wallets are set up so that no single person can move the bitcoin. The complexity of your security may vary depending on the complexity of your organization. Trey Sellers shares a bit more about this in my interview with him.
Maybe you have done all you can to promote Bitcoin as an option for your customers. If bitcoin is still not your customers' preferred payment method, the next strategy may be a better direction for your business... at least until Bitcoin does become a preferred medium of exchange.
Method 2: Buy It
Buying Bitcoin is relatively straightforward. And yet, many hard-working, well-meaning people thought they were buying bitcoin only to find out (too late!) that they had purchased a bitcoin IOU. At times, when people have purchased bitcoin on a cryptocurrency exchange, they were purchasing an asset that the exchange didn't even have! This is a terrifying possibility. And this is again why we say, "Not your keys, not your coins."
If you are buying bitcoin for your business, I recommend companies that encourage customers to take self-custody. In the United States, the ones I recommend are Swan Bitcoin, River Financial, and Unchained (there are some great options in other countries that you can find in the Bitcoin-for-Business Quick Start Guide).
All of these companies provide great customer experience, and where you choose to buy your bitcoin may depend on what additional services are valuable to you.
This article highlights all three companies for different reasons. As you read on, you will discover that Swan offers the "Bitcoin Benefit Plan" that allows you to pay your employees a bonus in bitcoin, River provides a mining solution as a way for a business to diversify its revenue streams, and Unchained offers a lending solution.
In the future, each company may offer all these services or focus more on making their unique offerings even more distinct from each other. For now, I would recommend thinking through which strategies or services seem most appropriate for your business. I encourage you to explore a potential partnership with whichever company seems like it offers the most relevant combination of services for your business.
Method 3: Mine It
Bitcoin mining is an ultra-competitive industry. While anyone can purchase a specialized computer (an ASIC or "application-specific integrated circuit") capable of mining bitcoin, it is hard to run a profitable mining operation at scale.
Bitcoin mining has many benefits beyond the primary purposes of securing the Bitcoin network and rewarding miners with new bitcoin. One example is the company that was helping people warm greenhouses and businesses with the heat that was a byproduct of the miners. If you are interested in using miners for their secondary benefits (e.g., space heaters), it is an interesting topic to explore.
Hosted Bitcoin Mining
If you're simply interested in the direct financial gain that bitcoin mining can bring, hosted miners may be the best option for you. Hosted mining is a convenient option for those who are focused on their own businesses. It is for people who don't want to worry about the technicalities of mining but like the idea of an additional revenue stream.
Hosted mining allows you to partner with an organization that already operates a mining business at scale. Depending on the operation, you will either be able to purchase new miners or buy ones that are already mining bitcoin.
One of the companies that offers hosted mining was mentioned above - River Financial. River offers a hassle-free experience with a straightforward setup process. River takes care of the hosting, servicing, and maintenance for you. Then, they deposit the bitcoin into your account every day. They also offer you the ability to monitor your miners' productivity from either their web portal or iOS app.
Another option is Sazmining, which focuses on using renewable energy to mine bitcoin. They offer ASIC rigs at cost and make money by taking a percentage of future revenue. In an interview I hosted with Kent Haliburton, President and COO at Sazmining, he mentioned they take this approach to align their incentives with their customers' success.
One final option is Mining Syndicate. One of their unique selling points is that they also offer fractional shares of a bitcoin miner. You can purchase as little as 1% of an ASIC miner! All you need to do is provide a wallet address so you can receive bitcoin payouts. This may be a good strategy for you if the idea of purchasing one or more bitcoin miners seems like too great a commitment at the moment.
Method 4: Lend It
Improperly leveraging bitcoin for fiat money has resulted in many people losing access to their bitcoin forever. This is because they gave up control of their assets to another party, losing custody entirely.
If you want a safer way to lend your bitcoin, go with Unchained. At Unchained, you retain access to one of your keys in a multi-sig setup. Another key is held by Unchained, and a third party keeps the final key. This allows you to lend with confidence because you are able to verify that your bitcoin is not being lent out to some other business or entity.
While my personal bias is to move away as much as possible from debt, there are times when it is necessary or makes financial sense. And bitcoin is pristine collateral for lending. Unchained recognizes this, and they make it safe and easy for you to lend with confidence.
Method 5: Give It
Sure, you're not a charity. You don't just hand out bitcoin... unless it incentivizes loyalty among your employees and customers or attracts new candidates to fill open positions in your business!
Swan Bitcoin developed the Bitcoin Benefit Plan with this precise use case in mind. Whether it's an end-of-year bonus or you want to provide a monthly bitcoin bonus to every employee, the Bitcoin Benefit Plan is a great option for you. If you want to hear from a business owner using the Bitcoin Benefit Plan right now, check out my interview with former MLB pitcher C.J. Wilson. C.J. shares how he uses the Bitcoin Benefit Plan at his auto dealership. You can also get a better feel for Swan Business by listening to my interview with the head of Swan Business, Dante Cook.
Recently, Nasdaq-listed business intelligence company MicroStrategy, led by CEO Michael Saylor, has begun working on an enterprise solution so businesses can incentivize both employees and customers with bitcoin rewards using the Lightning Network. Use cases include providing rewards for customer signups or loyalty milestones and punctual meeting attendance or engagement for employees.
A couple of other companies to consider when it comes to giving or receiving payment in bitcoin are Zaprite and Strike. Zaprite helps you convert your time into bitcoin with invoicing, project management, and expense tracking tools. Zaprite allows you to accept bitcoin that settles on the Bitcoin network or to accept bitcoin on the Lightning Network. As with other invoicing services, you can also accept debit/credit card payments. As a bonus, all you need to have to sign up with Zaprite is an email address.
Strike is a simple tool for purchasing and sending bitcoin. Its "pay me in bitcoin" feature is a resource to be aware of. If some of your employees want to receive some or all of their paycheck in bitcoin, you may want to refer them to this tool.
Method 6: Sell It
Finally, you can sell bitcoin. Of course, you likely don't want to worry about the regulatory issues of becoming an exchange. But what if you could sell bitcoin without all the stress? Enter Azteco.
Azteco provides "fast, simple, and safe consumer bitcoin." The customer pays you, and you print a QR code for your customer. They then use this QR code to redeem their bitcoin. I have done this myself, and it is exceedingly simple. The customer experience is seamless, providing the buyer with an effortless and private experience.
All the business has to do is maintain a balance in their Azteco account in local currency. You never hold the bitcoin (only a fiat balance), so there is no taxable event on your part. Your business earns a commission with every sale, and your customer has easy access to bitcoin. An Azteco terminal in your store is a conversation starter and - potentially - a double source of revenue: Both when you sell the bitcoin and again when you accept it as payment!
It may be a handful of years before bitcoin becomes a preferred medium of exchange for the general population. But thousands of businesses are already accepting bitcoin. Many, many more will accept bitcoin in the future. The volatility of Bitcoin can feel brutal at times, but over the long term, its upward trajectory can be a boon for your business if your business is consistently profitable. Lower your time preference, protect yourself against the inevitable risk of debasing fiat currency, and stay ahead of the game so it is you - not your competitors - who has the leg up on the future of digital payments.
If you would like a shorter, downloadable version of this article, you can download the Bitcoin-for-Business Quick Start Guide here.