The Man Behind Bitcoin's 'Satoshi Square' Seeks His Next Adventure
To say Josh Rossi is outgoing would be an incredible understatement. The 32-year-old Bitcoin entrepreneur knows no one who isn't a friendor a potential business partner.
Rossi is best known for starting the first Satoshi Square, a gathering of Bitcoin enthusiasts who trade the virtual currency for cash in New York City's Union Square.
Rossi started the in-person exchange in May 2013, just two months after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fincen) issued guidance on virtual currencies, placing Bitcoin exchanges under the same rules governing money-transfer businesses.
In the hysteria that followed the regulatory guidance, many felt that these small local exchanges could stay out of trouble, in a "too small to fail" mindset, while preserving the digital currency's decentralized ethos. While many in the Bitcoin community now see regulation as a way to legitimize the currency and push it mainstream, Satoshi Square remains a symbol of a more anarchist mentality. Quickly the concept branched out, with Satoshi Squares popping up all over the world.
Rossi's next big idea for Bitcoin is to use the currency as part of a public works project that creates prize-linked savings accounts for no-lose lotteries. Consumers would pay some amount of Bitcoin into a pot. A winner would be chosen at the end of the lottery and they'd get half the pot, while the rest of the participants would keep their share of the remainder in a kind of savings account.
Rossi is also speaking with entrepreneurs in Latin and South America about a way to revitalize run-down neighborhoods with location-specific cryptocurrencies.
He moved to Panama in September 2013 to start developing and programming for Coinapult, a Bitcoin consumer services provider. Rossi worked predominantly on the company's Locks feature, which allows users to pin the value of their bitcoin balance to a stable asset, such as U.S. dollars, gold or silver.
Previously, Rossi worked for the World Trade Financial Group, a global trading network and tools provider, which is where he first heard about Bitcoin.
"I typically try to make decisions based on what is more of an adventure," said Rossi about leaving his cushy New York job to work at a startup. "Panama was pretty adventurous, and I never looked back. And it worked out well."
Locks was launched July 29. The following month, Rossi left the company.
Rossi is now vice president of business development at Bitfinex, an advanced trading platform for Bitcoin (he still lives in Panama with several Coinapult employees). Based out of the British Virgin Islands with an office in Hong Kong and employees all over the world, Bitfinex is one of the few Bitcoin exchanges that offer margin trading, borrowing money from a broker to purchase stock.
Bitfinex "is one of the best exchanges but haven't done the best job of communicating that they're out there," Rossi said. "They are old pros in finance and want to keep a low profile; they don't want to be out in the public."
The exchange hired Rossi to be its promoter. Bitfinex is a registered money service operator in Hong Kong and is banked by Cathay Bank.
Rossi said one the best perks about moving to Bitfinex is that it will allow him to work on many different projects within the company, plus move forward with some of his own entrepreneurial ideas. Rossi will be doing some project management, programming, researching, public relations and marketing.
"I'm finally able to be the high-level jack of all trades," he said.
One of the first things Rossi has done since signing on with Bitfinex is participate in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to address Bitcoin users' concerns that margin trading was at fault for last week's "flash crash," when Bitcoin dropped from over $500 to just above $300 per coin on BTC-E, an exchange based in Bulgaria.
Rossi also discussed the regulatory environment during the AMA. While Bitcoin may still be an unsettled issue in the minds of many regulators, "we emulate, to the best of our abilities, the [know your customer and anti-money laundering structure] that applies to similar business and have set our trading policy to try and mirror the practices of established markets."