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“Born in Japan, raised in Silicon Valley.” That’s the tagline of Bitflyer Inc., a Bitcoin exchange and blockchain developer. While there are several risks involved in using virtual currency, Chief Operating Officer and Head of U.S. Business for bitFlyer USA Joel Edgerton believes this is a very exciting time for cryptocurrency. While risks include the fluctuating price of cryptocurrency, liquidity and system failures, Edgerton says if done right, cryptocurrency can be a catalyst for wealth. He sat down with Jessica Abo to explain how Bitcoin works, why it’s so popular and what you should know before investing.
Jessica Abo: Joel, there are so many people who feel left out of the cryptocurrency conversation, and I want to invite them into that conversation today. Talk to me about why Bitcoin is all the rage right now.
Joel Edgerton: Bitcoin originally started after the financial crisis of 2008. It was basically set up as a response to the banks collapsing and the loss of trust within the financial system. It allows people to bank themselves, to have their own store of currency, just like gold, or something like that. Traditionally, whenever there’s risk in the markets, or whatever, people flee to gold as a way to protect themselves from that. Bitcoin is basically a much more efficient way of doing that. It protects people from the risks that are in the current financial systems, and which they see increasing, now that you have governments printing trillions and trillions of dollars of new money. It’s something that can protect them and their savings.
How does Bitflyer work?
Bitflyer is a traditional, centralized exchange. Basically, a customer can sign up. We have a little bit of KYC (know your customer), because we’re fully regulated, so we have to pay attention to the laws that we have to meet. Then, they can add their company onto the platform and buy Bitcoin, or other coins that we sell. It’s very simple, very easy. They can hold it, they can use it for exchange, they can take it off the platform to put it into their own wallet. It’s basically a centralized exchange for people to buy cryptocurrencies.
For someone who is new to this world and wants to get started, what is the first step they should take?
Well, the first one is to pick a company that they can trust, that’s been around for a while, that is licensed, that’s going to protect them, because you hear a lot of different things about scams. You see on YouTube, there’s different scams and stuff like that. There’s a lot of people trying to take your money. It’s very important to pick trustworthy companies that have been around, they have proper security in place, they have proper protections in place. Bitflyer is one of those companies. We’ve been around since around 2014, 2015. We’ve seen a lot and we’ve built up a very strong infrastructure to protect our clients. We’re very serious about protecting our clients and protecting their money.
What part of managing these operations is so rewarding for you?
I think the best thing is just seeing growth: growth of our customers, growth of our people, as we solve new problems. Also, getting into new things, talking to customers and finding out how are they using all different cryptocurrencies and what can we do to help them make that happen? Just seeing the growth of the company, and seeing the growth of new employees and the growth of the ecosystem that we’re in, talking to the customers, that’s really, really fun.
What is your number one piece of advice for the people out there, who are on the fence when it comes to investing in Bitcoin?
I had a conversation recently with my mom, who’s in her mid-70s. She was asking me about Bitcoin. I was totally surprised that she was asking about Bitcoin. She’s like, “Well, how do I invest in Bitcoin?”
I was like, “You sure you want to get into this?” I think at the end of the day, it’s something that is essentially investing within yourself. You’re taking your money, you control your money. It’s not something that you should just throw all your life savings into, because it’s still quite volatile. It is an early product, but I think the easiest thing for people coming into it is to pick a company that can help you, like Bitflyer USA, that can hold your hand, look out for you and protect you, and then not allow you to go into 5,000 different scam coins that are out there. I think that education, and learning about it and taking care of your own finances is important. If you want to just put it on autopilot and then go, then maybe cryptocurrencies are not the way to go for you. If you want to be involved in your finances and take control of your finances, then cryptocurrencies can be quite interesting for you.