While it hasn’t exactly been a bull month in the cryptocurrency industry, at least one company is betting on crypto’s future in Tampa.
Chicago firm CoinFlip announced Thursday that it plans to open its second nationwide office in Tampa, as well as a “crypto experience center” geared toward public education and financial services in cryptocurrency.
The expansion will bring 40 technology job openings and a cryptocurrency ATM to an 8,000-square-foot space at Sparkman Wharf starting this summer.
“Tampa has top-tier tech talent, the Water Street area is beautiful, and there’s a local administration that has embraced crypto, that has embraced blockchain and has embraced innovation,” founder and CEO Ben Weiss said. “It’s a great place with a lot of excitement and energy around crypto and blockchain. We’re hoping other companies follow as well. We’ll make Tampa ‘Crypto Beach.’”
The office will have an ATM where users can convert cash to cryptocurrencies from bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin and other blockchains. CoinFlip has about 3,500 ATMs nationwide, including around 80 in Tampa Bay.
Weiss described the emergent technology landscape in and around Sparkman Wharf and Water Street Tampa as a “perfect marriage” for CoinFlip. Chief technology officer Rory Herriman, who will lead the office, lives in Sarasota. Several blockchain-based businesses have developed at Tampa innovation hub Embarc Collective, which was funded by Water Street co-developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
“We’ve been looking at Tampa for a while now, and once we decided this is the place, we just wanted to move ahead as quick as we can,” Weiss said.
The announcement comes as the cryptocurrency industry is experiencing a severe downturn, with an estimated $1 trillion to $2 trillion in value wiped out over the past six months. Bitcoin and ethereum prices have plummeted nearly 60 percent since early November. Luna and a related stablecoin, terraUSD, have crashed to earth, with luna’s value falling almost nothing in the past two weeks. Amid all this uncertainty, exchange platform Coinbase has said it plans to slow down hiring plans.
CoinFlip, which charges transaction fees in U.S. dollars, hasn’t seen a significant decrease in business just yet, Weiss said, although bitcoin’s falling value does mean “less money is changing hands.” The company doesn’t actually hold cryptocurrency, Weiss said, and didn’t work 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 steadier than a lot of the onerous tech stocks, so I think the fundamentals of bitcoin and ether are here to stay. The coins and the products that aren’t on solid footing, or are a lot of hype, they’re going to have issues in this sort of market.”
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CoinFlip’s “experience center” will be designed to educate users on an industry 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’ll be able to sit and talk in front of a live human being when they purchase cryptocurrency, which is something I don’t think is offered anywhere else.
”We already see an ecosystem in Tampa,” he said. “And we’re looking to build on top of it.”