Wizz Air is one of the largest European ultra-low-cost airlines. Listed on the London Stock exchange last year, the company offers flights on over 400 routes from 22 operating bases in Central and Eastern Europe, and intends to maintain its growth this year by adding 32 new routes. The company issued 19,443,745 tickets in the past twelve months, 21.7% more than the previous twelve months.
In addition to its low-cost flights, the company produces a website and the bi-monthly print magazine, Wizz, with a potential reach of 3.2 million travellers per issue. The editorial focuses on lifestyle, culture, food and drink, and influential personalities rooted in Wizz Air destinations.
In the February to March issue, the publication featured a “coffee laboratory” and espresso bar called Bitcoin Coffee, based in Prague, the Czech Republic. Launched by Project Manager Boris Kalisky in 2014, Bitcoin Coffee is the world’s first espresso bar to only accept bitcoin.
Unlike conventional fiat money, bitcoin can be used to make secure, verifiable payments for goods and services, without the need for intermediaries, such as Visa or Mastercard, which impose transaction fees that can add up over time.
“All charges made in foreign currencies will automatically be converted to local currencies on the posting dates at the prevailing exchange rate determined by Visa/MasterCard. A fee of up to 3.525% will be imposed on the converted amount which represents our service fee and assessment fees charged by Visa/MasterCard.”
All the transactions at Bitcoin Coffee, from wages to point of sale, are processed virtually. More broadly though, the business was conceived as way to demonstrate on a micro level how an entirely decentralized society might function.
In mid 2015, bitcoin and security expert Nick Szabo introduced the concept of a bitcoin-based decentralized society. However, he emphasized that Bitcoin can only be beneficial to all parties including the consumer, merchant and the supplier if everyone in the closed cycle accept and transact using bitcoin.
“A crucial feature of store-issued scrip is that it literally circulates through a complete closed cycle: store --> supplier --> workers --> store. It doesn’t help much to sell bitcoin to isolated individuals: as a mere store of value its volatility is much greater than most existing currencies; as an investment it only makes sense as a tiny high-risk fraction of one's portfolio.”
- Nick Szabo
Kalisky has since launched a bitcoin ATM inside the cafe, enabling European travelers to purchase bitcoin before flying out of the eurozone. The ATM has also become popular with freelancers and digital content providers in the building where the cafe is located.
Bitcoin Coffee is housed alongside the Crypto-Anarchy Institute, where artists, activists and others are committed to “preserving freedoms which we have been loosing as a society,” according to the group’s Web site. Some of these freelancers have been purchasing and using bitcoins to fund their projects and pay out their suppliers.
“Bitcoin is a digital currency invented in 2008 for payments through open source software, between individual parties –without the need for a third party like a bank or country, which would normally issue a currency. Verified by complex automated encryptions, this decentralised digital currency can be used for money transfers, e-shopping and payments.”
Today, most European countries have developed some form of bitcoin infrastructure, with companies like bitcoin exchange Safello, bitcoin ATM Manufacturer General Bytes, bitcoin-based utility bills settlement platform Cashila and prominent wallet provider Xapo. These companies, and many more, provide a high level of liquidity for bitcoin traders and ways to utilize bitcoins for the general population.
Since the establishment of venture capital-backed bitcoin startups including CoinPlug and Korbit in 2014, the number of Bitcoin coffee shops like Bitcoin Coffee in South Korea has also continued to increase. The most well known bitcoin accepting coffee shop in the capital of South Korea, Seoul, is Cafe Sedona, a famous coffee shop located in Korea’s most popular mall and aquarium Coex. With the sponsorship of CoinPlug, the cafe has been accepting bitcoin, offering fiat-to-bitcoin exchange services using a CoinPlug bitcoin ATM and hosting weekend bitcoin meetups with guest speakers like Roger Ver.