The Bitcoin ATM's First Owner Is a Payments-Industry Insider

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The Lamassu Bitcoin machine, a so-called Bitcoin ATM that allows consumers to deposit cash to buy bitcoins, has its first buyer: Aaron Williams, a senior product manager at WorldPay and a Bitcoin aficionado.

Williams, who bought the machine for his personal interest in the digital currency, plans to eventually install it at a nearby business. For now, it decorates his home in Atlanta.

"People have been hearing about Bitcoin 'ATMs' for months and … are skeptical because they haven't seen them on the street," says Williams. "Well this isn't crypto-zoology anymore. These things are real and I'm about to release one into the wild."

People seek the machine out because of its reputation, he says, and also because the machine offers a simpler way to obtain bitcoins. Bitcoin buyers typically have to transfer funds from a bank account, but the cash-accepting Lamassu machine could be bridge for the underbanked to get into Bitcoin.

The machine, built by brothers Zach and Josh Harvey, allows people who already have a Bitcoin wallet to scan the wallet's address or QR code, insert cash and then receive the equivalent amount of bitcoins. The Harvey brothers previously owned a guitar shop in Manchester, N.H., where they accepted bitcoins. They closed that business to develop the Lamassu machine.

While Williams plans to show off the machine at upcoming conferences, it won't be put in-store until Williams and his lawyer, Marco Santori, figure out the regulatory concerns around doing so. Santori is an expert in the legal issues surrounding emerging payments.

Williams will stock the Bitcoin ATM with his own bitcoins. Before doing so, he plans to register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Fincen issued guidance this year categorizing exchangers and administrators as money services businesses.

To develop an Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer program, Williams is working with Jay Postma, president of MSB Compliance Inc. in Atlanta. 

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