With each career move, Kevin McInturff has strayed farther from the mainstream payments business to work on products that are increasingly experimental and niche.
Six and a half years ago, he moved from the 4,000-employee processor Global Payments to PrimeRevenue, a provider of supply chain finance with under 40 employees. At BitPay, which handles transactions in the fickle digital currency Bitcoin, McInturff is one of just three full-time employees.
"It's really exciting to shape a marketplace," he says. McInturff describes PrimeRevenue, which launched in 2004, as a market disruptor on the bleeding edge; BitPay "was a chance to do that again with something even earlier in its infancy," he says.
The digital currency Bitcoin may still be young, but it is growing up fast. Just last month, FinCEN issued guidance for companies like BitPay, signaling that regulators have taken notice. And this week marks the infamous "Bitcoin bubble," which saw the currency's value rocket past $100 per bitcoin.
"Bitcoin is gaining a lot of traction in the market right now and offers the opportunity to change the way business is done and transactions are done over the Internet in particular," McInturff says.
At the beginning of March, BitPay began supporting Bitcoin transactions for merchants using Amazon fulfillment service to ship items (shoppers cannot spend bitcoins directly on Amazon.com). On March 25, BitPay announced a reduction of its processing fees, and by the end of the month it reported handling $5.2 million in bitcoin transactions.
At BitPay, McInturff will handle plugins, client libraries and application programming interfaces. He will also manage its global integration partner program.
"The attractive thing about BitPay is its gaining global spread by partnering with local integration partners around the world," says McInturff. "They're making sure they understand their customers, asking partners which shopping carts and plugins to facilitate bitcoin adoption in their markets."
Finland, for example, has wide adoption of bitcoins since the Central Bank of Finland announced the legal use of the tender, says Tony Gallippi, CEO of BitPay. In Finland BitPay works with a funeral service, dentist office and veggie-burger restaurant chain, he says.
BitPay processes payments from 98 countries, with 90% of payments coming from e-commerce and 10% from brick-and-mortar retail, says Gallippi. International merchants make up 40% of BitPay's business, Gallippi says.
McInturff says he is confident Bitcoin will take off, since popular payment methods like credit cards are still cumbersome to use online.
For e-commerce, "Bitcoin is a much more promising option," he says. "In Bitcoin the nature of the transaction is a push transaction instead of someone pulling that money from your account; it gives more control to the user."
PayPal's success demonstrates an appetite among consumers for a different way to handle electronic payments, but it has some limitations. When WordPress announced it would accept bitcoins, it said part of the reason was, "PayPal alone blocks access from over 60 countries, and many credit card companies have similar restrictions."
McInturff says the industry will likely see more people like him, whose career takes them from traditional companies to more unconventional ones.
But many people are skittish about new technologies. McInturff uses Twitter as an example, saying that many people thought the idea was silly because they wouldn't be able to say all they wanted to say in 140 characters. Today, Twitter says it has more than 200 million active users.
"There's a long trail of technology that did not look all that important when first introduced, that are ubiquitous now," McInturff says. "Bitcoin is going to be like that."