Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Bitcoin grows where broadband flows in Santa Cruz

By Steve Blum
Tellus Venture Associates

No Internet access, no Bitcoin. If a merchant wants to take payment in Bitcoins at the cash register – or anywhere else – both he and his customer have to be connected. Danny Thorpe, owner of the Quail and Thistle tea room in Capitola, was one of the first bricks and mortar merchants in the area to accept Bitcoins. He spoke to the Santa Cruz Bitcoin and Crypto-currency Meetup last Wednesday about the benefits and pitfalls – a video of his presentation is below.

His tea room offers free WiFi access, primarily to facilitate Bitcoin transfers. He begins the transaction by using an app to contact his payment processor, in this case Coinbase. He gets a Bitcoin-to-dollar exchange rate that’s good for 15 minutes, and then shows a QR code to the customer. The wallet app on the customer’s phone scans the QR code, which tells him how much the tab is and Thorpe’s address. Hit send and the payment is confirmed, usually within 15 seconds, although it can take longer.

Thorpe said that he talked to business owners in Bonny Doon, in northern Santa Cruz County, about getting set up for Bitcoin. He found out that the lack of mobile data coverage coupled with an unwillingness to open up WiFi access meant that they couldn’t do it.

The amount of data involved is small, on the order of 400 bytes each way according to Thorpe – strictly speaking, it doesn’t even require broadband level speeds. A 30 year old dial up modem would serve just as well. But zero access means zero bytes.

Thorpe was surprised at the response. Although it’s not much in relation to his overall business, he’s getting more Bitcoin-driven customers and publicity than he expected.

The Bitcoin Meetup started in Santa Cruz this summer. It meets at NextSpace, usually on the third Wednesday of the month, at 6:30 p.m.


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