Bitcoin is back at CES, with 9 crypto-currency related companies pitching at the Startup Debut showcase last night. Bitpay, the big Atlanta-based payment gateway, was there, as a prelude to anchoring a growing Bitcoin pavilion on the show floor – I’ll be checking that out. BitAngels made a return appearance as well.
The most interesting of the newcomers was ChangeTip. It’s a San Francisco start-up that just raised $4.2 million in seed funding, or so spokeswoman Victoria van Eyk said. And I believe her because she bought me a cup of coffee.
Well, actually, she sent me a tweet with $1.50 worth of Bitcoin attached. Which will get you coffee at a Tim Horton’s in her hometown of Ottawa. It’s a killer concept on two levels. First, it’s an incredibly easy way to transfer money – her ChangeTip account is linked to her Twitter account, so all she has to do is put an amount and @ChangeTip into the tweet, and the equivalent value in Bitcoin ends up in my ChangeTip wallet.
The second cool thing is that I don’t – or at least didn’t – have a ChangeTip wallet. That changed as soon as I clicked on the link that was automatically generated in a second tweet. That’s all it took. The crypto-money that’s in my account now is mine to use as I please: I can tweet it to someone else, or spend it like any other Bitcoin transaction, or just watch its value go up and down as the Bitcoin to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates. In just the first hour, my available coffee money fluctuated between $1.49 and $1.51. Or $1.76 to $1.78 Canadian – I might just go for the big coffee.