Slovenia’s Bitcoin scene is the second largest in Europe based on Google search queries. According to Google Trends, the central European nation ranks fourth in Google search queries for ‘bitcoin,’ behind Estonia and nestled between several African nations. Slovenia is home to one of Bitcoin’s largest exchanges, Bitstamp.
Some say the nation of two million, located at the crossroads of European cultural and trade routes, has become known in financial technology circles thanks to its emergence as a Bitcoin powerhouse.
“Bitcoin is much better known in Slovenia compared to most other Countries,” says Peter Trcek, CEO of Bitnik, a Slovenian Bitcoin services provider. “Almost everybody has heard of it. While not all sentiments are positive, there has been fewer negative reactions, even amongst media and financial institutions, lately.”
Mr. Trcek explains being part of an integrated Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), and having a population with some knowledge of cryptocurrencies, means many fintech experts call Slovenia home. The nation – bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and the Adriatic Sea – has experienced increased popularity in ‘blockchain’ as a buzzword lately, as elsewhere around the globe.
Home to Bitcoin Powerhouse Bitstamp
Bitstamp CEO Nejc Kodrič, and his co-founder Damijan Merlak, credit Bitcoin with helping to put Slovenia on the map as a financial technology center. The majority of Bitstamp development and management is located in Slovenia, which is home to seven bitcoin ATMs altogether. Instead of staying in their home country, many Slovenians have sought greener pastures abroad in which to make an impact in financial technology.
“Then there are the two of us – two hardcore libertarian, tech enthusiasts who dove into the world of Bitcoin, as well as many others,” Mr. Kodrič told Bitcoin.com. “Our company is quite known here for having achieved this small miracle of being a financial company out of Slovenia, and to have success globally in Slovenia.” He credits other Slovenian Bitcoin companies, as well, like Bitnik, Cashila and Iconomi, with turning Slovenia into a fintech center of the distributed sort.
A little over 60% of Bitstamp clients are from Europe, and the exchange allows users to deposit money via the SEPA, thanks to Slovenia’s membership in the arrangement. Bitstamp, which this year added Ripple’s XRP trading to its platform and the option to pay with credit card for bitcoins in 57 nations, was originally founded as a European-focused alternative to the then dominant Mt. Gox.
“We see adoption from the south, Baltic, and especially Scandinavian countries,” Mr. Kodrič told Bitcoin.com. “There is a correlation with linguistic knowledge of nordic countries, who speak more English than the southern countries, where in 2013 there was next to no articles in the native languages.”
Mr. Kodrič contends Bitstamp is known in the nation because Bitcoin is known. “To operate one of largest exchanges out of Slovenia, as Slovenians is something novel to Bitcoin,” he says. “Its users all start from same starting point in tech. Whether you’re Indian or in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has the same tools available regardless of where in the world they’re located. Because the tech is so decentralized, we had same chance to succeed as anyone else.”
Bitstamp, the nineteenth most searched query worldwide related to Bitcoin according to Google, is licensed for all European Union countries. It’s registered in Luxembourg for that country’s clearer regulatory framework than Slovenia, but this is steadily changing.
Slovenia recently updated its main anti-money laundering law (AML). Cryptocurrencies are defined in the law, and all crypto exchanges and brokers are explicitly defined as financial institutions for AML purposes.
“There are not many jurisdictions at the moment where cryptocurrencies are so well-defined by the regulator,” says Mr. Trcek. “Local meetups sometimes attract interesting attendees. From employees of main tax office to representatives of the central bank of Slovenia.” Such regulations lend legitimacy to people’s perceptions of Bitcoin, the Bitnik CEO suggests.
“Pairing services like ours with banks and other financial institutions requires complex new procedures to be enforceable, not just recommended as before,” acknowledges Mr. Trcek. “We view stricter AML regulations as a good thing. Besides further legitimizing the business model it forces us to find novel solutions. Solutions that we might ‘export’ abroad once their regulation catches up.”
Are you from Slovenia? What is the Bitcoin scene there like? Let us know in the comments below.
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