While it hasn’t exactly been a bullish month in the cryptocurrency society, at least one company is betting on the future of crypto in Tampa.
Chicago-based CoinFlip on Thursday announced plans to open its second national office in Tampa, along with a “crypto experience center” focused on public education and cryptocurrency financial services.
The expansion will bring 40 tech jobs and a cryptocurrency ATM to an 8,000 square foot space at Sparkman Wharf starting this summer.
“Tampa has top-notch tech talent, the Water Street area is beautiful, and there’s a local government that’s embraced crypto, embraced blockchain, and embraced innovation,” said Founder and CEO Ben Weiss. “It’s a great place with a lot of excitement and energy around crypto and blockchain. We hope other companies will follow as well. We’ll make Tampa ‘Crypto Beach.’
The office will have an ATM where users can convert money into cryptocurrencies from Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin and other companies. CoinFlip has about 3,500 ATMs nationwide, including about 80 in Tampa Bay.
Weiss described the emerging tech landscape in and around Sparkman Wharf and Water Street Tampa as a “perfect marriage” for CoinFlip. CTO Rory Herriman, who will lead the office, lives in Sarasota. Several blockchain-based companies have flourished at the Tampa Embarc Collective Innovation Center, which was funded by Water Street co-developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
“We’ve been watching Tampa for a while now, and once we decided this was the place, we just wanted to move forward as quickly as possible,” Weiss said.
The announcement comes as the cryptocurrency industry is experiencing a severe downturn, with an estimated value of between $1 trillion and $2 trillion wiped out in the past six months. Bitcoin and Ethereum prices have fallen nearly 60% since early November. Luna and a related stablecoin, TerraUSD, crashed to earth, with Luna’s value dropping next to nothing in the past two weeks. In the midst of all this uncertainty, the exchange platform Coinbase has announced its intention to slow down hiring plans.
CoinFlip, which charges transaction fees in U.S. dollars, has yet to see a significant drop in business, Weiss said, although Bitcoin’s drop in value means “less money is changing hands.” The company doesn’t actually hold cryptocurrency, Weiss said, and hasn’t worked with Luna and TerraUSD.
“I’ve seen these market shifts, these real big ones, a few times now,” he said. “Bitcoin and Ethereum have held more stable than a lot of expensive tech stocks, so I think the fundamentals of Bitcoin and Ether are here to stay. are the subject of a lot of hype, are going to have problems in this type of market.
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CoinFlip’s “Experience Center” will be designed to educate users about an industry that many still don’t understand. Weiss described it as resembling an Apple Genius Bar, with employees able to answer questions and explain the market.
“What we’re trying to do with crypto is demystify it and make it tangible,” he said. “They will be able to sit and talk in front of a live human being when buying cryptocurrency, which I believe is not offered anywhere else.
“We already see an ecosystem in Tampa,” he said. “And we’re looking to build on that.”