CoinCards Passes 1000 Completed Orders

Ever since people began living on Bitcoin, gift cards have been a popular choice. By accepting bitcoins for gift cards from vendors like Tim Hortons and Amazon.ca, CoinCards.ca has been a good measure of the Canadian Bitcoin economy, allowing people who get paid in BTC to access all kinds of goods and services. Recent figures now show that the economy is doing well.

CoinCards began accepting orders in 2014, filling 70 orders before year’s end. They shipped another 700 in 2015, recently passing 1000 orders total for over $235,000 CAD in sales revenue. The number of different gift cards available continues to grow, with over 100 vendors currently available.

It was established by Mike Olthoff, a Bitcoin enthusiast from British Columbia. A known member of the Bitcoin Vancouver Meet Up, he has supported multiple community initiatives and is now a director of the Bitcoin Co-op. He’s also active at Decentral Vancouver, a local community space for decentralization advocates.

“I love Bitcoin and I see a huge potential in its future as a currency,” Mike said to NewsBTC Canada. “Ever since my first Bitcoin Meet Up, I’ve been on a constant drive to learn more and become more involved.”

Among the most popular Bitcoin gift cards are the ones for the PlayStation Network and Apple Store. This demonstrates that Bitcoin users tend to be tech savvy, and have income to spare on new toys. The aforementioned Amazon.ca gift card makes an even wider variety of products available, as do slightly less popular options like Best Buy.

Another one of the top 5 most popular gift cards is for Save-on-Foods, which shows that many Canadians rely on Bitcoin for basic necessities. Customers can also stock up at Costco if they really want to save money, and some go for the Walmart Standard Gift Card. Many of these are purchased by repeat customers who get paid in and live most of their lives on cryptocurrency.

Unfortunately, most of these vendors do not accept bitcoins directly. “Bitcoin adoption is a huge passion of mine, but we seem to have stalled in companies willing to adopt in 2015,” Mike said. “CoinCards.ca has been able to fill that gap for consumers and prove that people want to use Bitcoin to pay for their everyday lives.”


Subscribe to our newsletter

Canada has been a leader in the cryptocurrency space for years, being home to the world’s first Bitcoin ATM, the first Indian restaurant and franchise to accept Bitcoin, and the birthplace of major projects like Ethereum. The Canadian government has recognized the economic opportunities this presents and promised not to stifle innovation, but the mainstream media and financial institutions have been less accepting.

Although banks are still in opposition to the Bitcoin industry–as made clear by their denial of banking services–the mainstream media has been gradually coming around. Writers such as Stephen Hui and Alexandra Posadzki have been working to bring crypto-friendly stories to local newspapers, but more work needs to be done.

Enter the Notable Awards. Notable.ca is the largest online publication for young professional adults in Canada; it covers all manner of stories where business, culture and philanthropy collide, and cater to the millennial perspective. As such, they are a very social company, and organize large interactive events.

The Notable Awards are the most famous of these initiatives, designed to showcase the best and brightest Canadian millennials in various categories of achievement. The categories include law, marketing, entertainment, healthcare, technology, journalism, finance and fashion, and one award is given for each one in every region of the country. Although no prize money is given, the Awards bring significant publicity, and as such are fairly competitive.

Anne Connelly is the first millennial in Notable history to be nominated for Bitcoin-related accomplishments. She entered the industry via her work at Dignitas International, a non-profit which fights AIDS in Malawi. Although she initially viewed Bitcoin as a fundraising opportunity (they now accept BTC donations), she was soon converted to the decentralization movement.

Now she’s the Marketing Director at Decentral in Toronto, and works to bring public and institutional awareness to cryptocurrency. She was a lead organizer of CoinFest Toronto in 2015, and frequents the local Meet Ups. With the Notable Awards, she hopes to bring further publicity, and is asking for the community’s support during the voting process.

“I’m the only one in the whole competition in Bitcoin,” said Anne in an exclusive interview with NewsBTC Canada. “I think it’ll be really great publicity, especially in a crowd of young successful professionals.”

Voting for the 2015 Notable Awards ends on January 28, and anyone can take part. You may vote once per day at this link, and for the good of the Canadian Bitcoin community, we humbly request that you participate.

The Blockchain Tech (BTL) Group recently made headlines by becoming the first publicly-listed blockchain-related company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, live for trading on its VentureBoard. It is truly a step up for the technology behind Bitcoin in Canada, where the TSX is the premier national exchange, and follows their successful fundraiser of $2 million CAD.

The company was founded by brothers Guy and Hugh Halford-Thompson, who have been most active in the United Kingdom. They’re partnered with CoinTrader–who brought the world’s first Bitcoin ATM to Vancouver–but weren’t familiar to the NewsBTC Canada staff. We managed to get an interview with Guy so that we could learn more.

Interview

Andrew Wagner: “How did you and your brother get into Bitcoin and blockchain technology?”

Guy Halford-Thompson: “Hugh and I both have tech backgrounds and have always been interested in new technology.  We got interested in Bitcoin about 4 years ago, and eventually founded our first company, QuickBitcoin, which brought one of the first Bitcoin ATMs to London.

While we retained an ongoing interest in Bitcoin, we realized early on that the underlying technology–the blockchain–had incredible potential, and we started working on ideas for BTL with a focus on core blockchain technology.”

Andrew: “How has InterBit been going, and what do you predict for the future of blockchain-based remittances?”

Guy: “InterBit development is progressing well, and we are nearing completion of our first prototype. The future for remittances on the blockchain is very exciting and will give consumers more control over the way they send money, in particular to countries with a high percentage of unbanked residents.”

Andrew: “What’s it like being the first blockchain-related company on the Toronto Stock Exchange? Was it difficult to accomplish?”

Guy: “Taking a company public is never easy, but thanks to our incredible team and directors, the process was smooth. It’s very exciting to be the first blockchain company on the TSXV, and I hope that it sets a new standard for blockchain companies who follow similar paths.”

Andrew: “Do you think Canada is still a world leader in Bitcoin adoption and innovation? Will it continue to be in the future?”

Guy: “While not as developed as London and the UK, Canada is proving to be very progressive when it comes to blockchain technology, and I believe will solidify itself as a major market for it. We are seeing the same signs in Canada in this space that we were seeing in London a year ago.”

Andrew: “What are your thoughts on blockchain technology and the decentralization movement in general?”

Guy: “Our focus is on how the blockchain can transform business and industries. While the decentralization movement has been an important part of providing exposure for the technology, I don’t believe it will play a large role in the enterprise applications of the technology.”

On October 30th we published an article that was deemed controversial, which covered rumors around CAVirtex. Although numerous shareholders were disgruntled, and some were considering legal action, other community members thought it unfair to only cover one side of the story. The responsible thing to do would have been to reach out to CAVirtex for comments.

Joseph David Toth was kind enough to reach out to us, speaking on the record with the original author for a formal interview. He had strong words about the motivation behind these accusations, and was able to clear up some of the confusion around the Havelock shareholder incident.

Interview

Andrew Wagner: “OK, well first of all I’d like to apologize for the provocative headline. There’s a lot of gossip right now, but we’ve not really chatted directly. What’s your current role at CAVirtex–are you focusing on any other projects?”

Joseph David Toth: “Firstly Andrew, I’d like to thank you for reaching out to me. You are the first journalist that has done so since the Coinsetter acquisition on April 8, 2015.  My current role is an advisor; I advise the CEO (Jaron), but he has full control over operations and business planning. I am exploring some new projects in the Bitcoin space but nothing has been firmed up yet; when it does I will be going public with announcements.”

Andrew: “Why did you decide to step down as CEO? Weren’t you the founder?”

Joseph: “Yes, I stepped down to sell the company; the Bitcoin exchange business became unprofitable, especially with the added bank fees and regulatory uncertainty. We were looking for a larger acquirer that had the backing and capital to stay in operations until the next big pickup in volume.”

Joseph: “I’d also like to clarify the Havelock situation: shareholders were offered $40 per share ($10 higher than they purchased  it at the IPO). The de-listing off Havelock was in order to pro-actively comply with Canadian securities regulations by making all BTC purchasing shareholders real shareholders of the Alberta Corporation with share certificates.

A large majority of Havelock shareholders have been registered with the CAVirtex Alberta Corporation, but there does remain a small minority that failed to respond to repeated requests to register by providing their name and address; these are mostly very small shareholders that purchased 5 or fewer shares off Havelock.

Andrew: “Why were some shareholders posting otherwise? Several claim they’re unaware of any change in status. You’re saying the process is complete?”

Joseph: “The process of trying to get all Havelock shareholders registered in the Alberta Corporation and an offer of a share buyback was performed in 2014 by our law firm at the time, Norton Rose Fulbright; in April, 2015, the status of all Havelock shareholders was transferred to Coinsetter’s Legal Team. Any questions or inquiries about Havelock Shareholder status should be directed at [email protected].

Despite mention of a ‘class action lawsuit,’ there was never any claim made or charge filed. Some of these posts were by our competition (if you dig hard enough to look at screen names and cross reference userids) in an effort to discredit our name. Performing a whois on cavirtexlawsuit.com yields an anonymous registrant from Panama.”

Andrew: “So this is all part of an elaborate smear campaign by your competition? What about the claim that you used to go by another name?”

Joseph: “My full legal name that anyone can search for under the corporation is: Joseph David Toth. The Alberta corporate registry only shows Joseph Toth; my legal middle name is David. It is legal to use a middle name in public and I did so in an effort to ward off social engineering.

In the early days, I was under constant attack, with many people trying to impersonate me and discredit what I was trying to accomplish. I now go by my full legal name. As of now, I have ten people that I know of trying to impersonate me on the Internet, ranging from Facebook to BitcoinTalk.

I was the front and center pioneer in the early days, and was under constant attack both personally and from a business perspective. I live this dichotomy as an entrepreneur: on one hand I’m excited about Bitcoin, “the future of money,” and the industry I’m in, and I want to promote it and speak in public. On the other hand I’m under constant attack for doing so.”

Andrew: “Were you ever involved in something called Hedge for Profit?”

Joseph: “It was a business I started at the time when FOREX brokers gave interest-free accounts. The secret was simple: you go long GBP/JPY with one broker that pays you interest, and you go short GBP/JPY with another broker that does not charge you interest to be short.

You initiate both positions at the same price, so they balance each out from a P/L perspective. You then simply collect your interest and re-balance the accounts when the position moves far away from your starting point.

I did two seminars with a business partner in Texas that I later found out to be unscrupulous; it was he who posted the false statements on Ripoff Report when I terminated our business partnership. I stopped offering this product when the non-interest charging brokers all changed their policies and started to charge interest. I have always observed ethical business practices and do not promote any business that misleads consumers or investors.”

Andrew: “Were shareholders warned about the de-listing? Wasn’t the price over $100 at the time?”

Joseph: “Yes, they were warned and given plenty of notice, and the $100 was a brief spike. Havelock allowed trading of the shares after the IPO was fully funded; this $100 price spike was driven by user demand, nor did I or any other CAVirtex shareholder trade any shares on Havelock.

I contacted the Havelock admin team and was told that any former Havelock shareholder can still login to their account to view all price history, and the last trade date of a Havelock share was on 12/31/2013 for 0.11214763 BTC. Using CAVirtex’s average price of that day of $500.82 CAD per BTC, this places the de-list price of the Havelock shares at $56.17 CAD per share.

I am aware of the CryptoCoinsNews forum posts that report two erroneous facts: one is the de-list price, which they report as $120 when it fact it was $56.17, and two is the buyback price which they report as $30 when it fact it was $40.  I would like to point out that if there was any mal-intent to Havelock shareholders, why would CAVirtex agree to register them and buy back shares at 33% above the IPO price? A buyback such as this is unheard of in any startup company.”

Andrew: “I know you said that Havelock shareholders are legal corporate shareholders, but weren’t they supposed to become Coinsetter shares with their acquisition? When does that occur?”

Joseph: “Havelock shareholders initially purchased 10% of the equity of CAVirtex; this number then dropped due to some buybacks. Coinsetter purchased CAVirtex, and Havelock shareholders should contact [email protected] for any questions as to their status.

Andrew: “[Shareholders are] saying stuff like ‘I have an email from him that they were working on a plan, but that is like a year old and NOTHING has been done.’”

Joseph: “I’m not sure what plan you are referring to here, if it is the plan to register their shares this was done throughout 2014.  I made a top priority to have all Havelock shareholders registered and offered the buyback at higher than the IPO price. I instructed my admin staff to keep trying to contact these shareholders and increment the contact attempts by 1 in the subject line after every two business days until we reached attempt #29, spanning 3 months of contact attempts.  

Andrew: “Well, I saw two certificates with over 1000 shares.”

Joseph: “When we converted the Havelock shareholders to registered CAVirtex shareholders, we issued 100 CAV shares for each Havelock share. So, this means that 1000 CAV shares would have only equalled 10 Havelock shares, so that person would have spent $300 if he bought at the IPO price.

To conclude, I would like to thank you for contacting me. I do intend on making statements on the Internet on my own private channel (yet to be created) and identified by a video introduction of me, the same Joseph David that appeared before the Senate who was the co-founder and CEO of CAVirtex. I will link to this interview in that statement to confirm that this interview was actually performed by me.”

CAVirtex is Canada’s oldest and most well-known Bitcoin exchange, founded in 2011. For a while, they were the only exchange option available to Canadians, until QuadrigaCX rose to challenge them. Other newcomers such as the Taurus Bitcoin Exchange now offer significantly lower fees, but CAVirtex maintains the largest volume by far.

As a result, CAVirtex remains the exchange of choice for those buying or selling in large amounts. They’re also on good terms with Canadian regulators, and are one of the primary lobbyists for Bitcoin in the country. Their former CEO even presented at a Canadian Senate hearing, which culminated in them being the first government body to publish a report on the blockchain.

All has not always been well at CAVirtex, however. The former CEO goes by Joseph David in the Bitcoin community, but his legal name is Joseph Toth according to official documents. Various Internet sleuths have discovered that his listed addresses are a UPS store and a mall, and that he is an accused scam artist. Until at least 2008, for example, he operated Hedge for Profit, which claimed to make you 87% of your investment but obviously did not.

It was around the time of these allegations that Canadians began to question CAVirtex. Near the end of 2014, CAVirtex was delisted from Havelock Investments at its highest recorded share value. Since Havelock was the only effective means of buying and selling the virtual shares, this basically forced investors to become permanent shareholders. CAVirtex offered to buy the shares back at $30 apiece–a roughly 80% loss–resulting in an attempted class action lawsuit.

Eventually, Joseph stepped down as CEO, but the problems just continued. CAVirtex ran into conflict with its banking partner; at the same time, their security system was compromised by hackers, who managed to get many users’ password hashes and other authentication factors. As a result, the exchange had no choice but to shut down.

No notice was given to shareholders as to what the closure meant for them. This caused an outcry on Coin Forum, Canada’s largest online forum for cryptocurrency enthusiasts. One investor started a thread about the issue, which has gathered over 700 views and counting–quite substantial for a Canadian-only message board.

The company was thereafter purchased by Coinsetter, who provided the quick influx of capital necessary to resume operations. This did nothing to appease shareholders, however, who were left wondering what stake they have in this new corporate entity. A representative posted briefly in an effort to alleviate their concerns, and an email was sent out, but over 7 months have passed without a resolution.

The exchange is currently operating as normal for traders, but the drama rages on at Coin Forum. Numerous investors have registered accounts in an attempt to make their voices heard, and while it’s likely some form of resolution will be reached, we recommend that all CAVirtex shareholders do the same in order to help guarantee a fair return on their investment.

Hot on the heels of the Bitcoin Co-op takeover announcement, business is already underway at NewsBTC Canada. In a move that could have been predicted by many, the franchisee is now partnered with Coin Forum. This is one of many recent partnerships with NewsBTC and its franchisees.

Coin Forum is the oldest and largest website forum dedicated to the Canadian Bitcoin community, having been around since 2013. All of the major national Bitcoin companies maintain accounts, including Coin Trader, QuadrigaCX, CAVirtex, Taurus Bitcoin Exchange, Decentral, Coinkite, and many others. Given Canada’s lofty status among nations in terms of Bitcoin adoption and success, it is an impressive list.

“Coin Forum was created to make it easier for Canadians to discover and discuss Bitcoin,” said Adrian, known by the community as CoinGuy. “I had a concern these topics were getting lost in other places, and it seems Canadians have agreed. We try to keep the quality and discussions focused on those things that really have an impact on the Canadian Bitcoin market.”

The Bitcoin Co-op is one of the oldest contributors, and possesses one of the most reputable accounts. The are official partners: Coin Forum has sub-forums dedicated to the Bitcoin Co-op and its projects, and the Co-op has regularly broken the news there on its latest Bitcoin adoption wins.

NewsBTC Canada’s partnership with Coin Forum is a logical extension of that relationship. The news franchisee will provide more organization to the distribution of Bitcoin-related info in Canada, and be the perfect place for content too large for a forum post. The forums will also be a primary source of news tips and information for the outlet.

The Co-op is committed to at least one monthly roundup of forum activity, sometimes more during periods of peak usage. Insightful analytical discussions and announcements made by forum users will be the focus of coverage, as well as announcements by CoinGuy, himself. NewsBTC Canada will become the primary outlet for the Canadian Bitcoin community based around Coin Forum.

In return, NewsBTC Canada will use Coin Forum as a way to reach talent and advertisers. Articles will be promoted in the news forum, where debate and commentary will be encouraged by its administration. In this manner, both information outlets will grow and gain readership in tandem, forming a positive feedback loop that should take the Canadian Bitcoin community even further.