Bitcoin ATM Makers Open Pre-Orders & Fund Initial Run Of 15 Banknote-Eating Machines

Bitcoin startup Lamassu Bitcoin Ventures, the makers of a Bitcoin ATM which promises to eat your paper (fiat) money and spit Bitcoins into your digital wallet in return, have funded their initial production run of 15 units a few hours after kicking off pre-orders (via their website) — taking the bulk of payments in Bitcoin, fittingly.

Presumably that means they’ve booked $60,000-$75,000 in sales revenue for the initial production run — based on the $4,000-$5,000 per machine price-tag they talked about at the Bitcoin London conference last month. Lamassu is not, however, confirming how much revenue they’ve generated at this point.

What’s the point of a Bitcoin ATM? The aim is to lower the barrier of entry to the digital cryptocurrency — which still very much ‘reeks of geeks’ (and investors) at this still early stage in its development — by letting people swap banknotes for Bitcoin in person. Of course there are myriad ways to do fiat-to-Bitcoin currency exchanges online but the Bitcoin ATM doesn’t require the user to sign up to an online exchange service in order to get some Bitcoin. (Albeit, users of the ATM do need to have their own Bitcoin wallet to store their exchanged BTCs).

The Bitcoin ATM accepts paper currency only but there’s no minimum limit (yes, you can exchange $1 to get around 0.009 Bitcoin, at current exchange rates, if you really want). It only accepts cash, so no debit/credit card payments — a deliberate choice by its creators to keep their costs and complexity capped by not having to deal with banks.

They argue it also makes things simpler for purchasers of the ATM itself, being as they don’t have to gain bank approval to get the machine up and running. However they do warn that buyers still need to make sure they comply with any pertinent financial regulations in their own country (Bitcoin regulations can’t even charitably be called ‘a work in progress’ yet, and the Bitcoin policy confusion varies from country to country).

The startup says it has had more than 150 inquires about the machine ahead of production. Some of the countries that have put in pre-orders are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, U.S., Slovakia, Finland and Denmark, according to co-founder Zach Harvey.

While it’s funding the initial run from pre-orders and its own investment, Harvey said Lamassu may look to raise external funding in future. “Investment is something we’re considering seriously for the next step of mass adoption,” he tells TechCrunch.

Lamassu expects to ship the first 15 units to buyers next month.

Here’s the pitch Harvey gave about the ATM at the Bitcoin London conference last month: