SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Armstrong is a Bitcoin believer.
Given half a chance, he’ll talk unceasingly about the virtues of the virtual currency. He’s so into Bitcoin that he takes his paycheck entirely in the virtual currency and has a special debit card that allows him to pay with Bitcoin — indirectly at least — when he goes to the mall.
Four years ago, Armstrong’s enthusiasm led him to help found and run Coinbase, a company designed to help link the virtual currency to the real world. Based in San Francisco, Coinbase helps consumers convert standard currencies to Bitcoin and helps businesses process payments made in the cyber money.
Although Bitcoin’s value has been extremely volatile and backers of the currency have been struggling to reach an agreement to upgrade its underlying technology, Armstrong’s faith remains unshaken. He spoke recently with the San Jose Mercury News about Bitcoin’s evolution and promise and his company’s role in the ecosystem. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What got you interested in doing something with Bitcoin?
A: It’s the first time the world has an open payment system. I like to draw an analogy with the Internet.
When it first came out, there were only