With more castles per square mile than any country, there’s an old world flavor about the Czech Republic. The country’s bohemian charms, however, belie the inexorable charge of its progress. The Czech Republic boasts an education system that ranks 15th in the world, internet speeds that rank 8th in world, and the most Wi-Fi subscribers in the European Union. It is perhaps inevitable that, with such a highly-educated and connected populace, the nation has been bitten hard by the Bitcoin bug. Today, the Czech Republic generates the 4th-highest volume of Bitcoin-related web searches, tied with the United States according to Google Trends.
Search volume for Bitcoin in January 2015 by region
Brief History of Bitcoin in the Czech Republic
Home to the first Bitcoin mining pool, cryptocurrency started strong in the Czech Republic and continues walking on a righteous path. The Czech Republic’s government has been generally silent about regulating Bitcoin businesses, which inspires joy in the hearts of many. That said, the Czech trek through the virtual currency landscape has not been without its scrapes and shivers. In November of 2013, a Czech Bitcoin exchange called Bitcash.cz was hacked, leading to 4,000 user wallets being emptied and around $100,000 stolen. The exchange is now up and running, but confidence in it waned as the funds were never recovered. In more recent and outlandish news, the Czech Republic was threatened by terrorists who demanded one million Euros worth of Bitcoin or they would spread the deadly Ebola virus in public areas throughout the country. While the ransom was never paid nor was the threat followed through, this resulted in phenomenal coverage for Bitcoin in the region. Through the good and the odd, we’ve seen Bitcoin evolve beyond the notion of it being a mysterious cutting-edge technology. It is now seen as a viable alternative to fiat currency by many, which has led to the proliferation of newly-funded companies that add further value to the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Bitcoin Startups in the Czech Republic
Among the budding Bitcoin companies is SatoshiLabs, famous for its Slush Pool miners and Trezor, a Bitcoin hardware wallet. Trezor rose to prominence after numerous companies lost their users’ Bitcoins. Shortly thereafter, options for secure and user-friendly cold storage blossomed. Once you have your Bitcoin stored safely on your Trezor, you can head down to Paralelní Polis, the world’s first Bitcoin-only cafe equipped with a Bitcoin ATM for those fiat currency holders, and an upper floor where you will find a hacker space called the Institute of Cryptoanarchy. Taking a closer look at the Bitcoin ATM and Paralelní Polis cafe, we discovered that it is developed by General Bytes, the Czech Republic’s very own Bitcoin ATM manufacturer. Powering the payment processing for these Bitcoin ATMs is another rising star: Bitcoinpay.com, a Bitcoin payment processing company leading the charge in getting Czech’s businesses to accept Bitcoin. With only 9 Bitcoin ATM’s in the entire country, getting Bitcoin is not easy. That is why the WBTCB forged partnerships that allow people to buy Bitcoin in every post office and lottery terminal at any one of over 8,000 locations nationwide. These are but a few of the most notable commercial contributions to the Bitcoin ecosystem that the Czech Republic has created. It could be inferred that a large portion of the people who are searching for information about Bitcoin in this community have seen these businesses and want to learn more about the cryptocurrency that fuels them.
Czech Bitcoin Community
Entrepreneurs are recognizing that the populace yearns for information about Bitcoin and have created many opportunities for knowledge acquisition. Czech Bitcoin exchange WBTCB has established a physical presence in Prague that aims to be the city’s central hub for Bitcoin information. People in the area can stop by their client center, which is located near a large shopping centre, to ask general questions or acquire Bitcoin. Local people have also started to organize casual conferences for those who are interested in learning about the cryptocurrency. Large Bitcoin Meetups in Prague foster dialogue and shape new ideas around the currency. A coworking space called Node5 frequently gives out free lectures about Bitcoin to the community, and has a number of mentors available to Bitcoin entrepreneurs. Any business ideas that emerge from these gatherings can be put to the test at StarCube, a startup accelerator whose notable investments include bitcoinpay.com. These are but a few of the many startups and cultural organizations in the region that are innovating around the blockchain.
Bitcoin is clearly booming in the Czech Republic in 2015. Not only are locals actively searching for Bitcoin knowledge, the region now has Bitcoin mining pools, a Bitcoin exchange, and its own medley of unique security problems. Entrepreneurs and tourists alike are sure to relish the Czech Republic’s blossoming Bitcoin community as it emerges into the forefront of global conversations.