Exclusive Interview: BitNational Dumps Robocoin over Privacy Concerns

In a Cryptocoins News exclusive interview, co-founder of BitNational, Drew Glover, discusses the success BitNational has experienced by switching to BitAccess software. BitNational operates nine bitcoin teller machines (BTMs) across western Canada and recently acquired the Canadian Bitcoin brokerage, Bitcoin Brains. They debuted their flagship BTM in North America’s largest mall in February 2014 to great fanfare. However, their Robocoin BTM was plagued by technical issues and customer concerns. Last month, BitNational dumped Robocoin and switched to BitAccess software, and since then, BitNational’s sales have increased by over 400%.

bitnationalbitnationalPrivacy Concerns

Robocoin ATMRobocoin ATMIn February 2014, BitNational unveiled its flagship BTM, located near Entrance 50 of West Edmonton Mall, North America’s Largest mall. The BTM was an immediate hit, but BitNational also started receiving a lot of complaints from potential customers. The complaints mostly focused on the Robocoin BTM’s invasive privacy practices, which include requiring customers to scan an ID as well as a palm vein scan. While the BTM was successful,”Right from the start we were getting flack for the palm vein and ID scan,” said Glover.

While Glover says BitNational was very concerned about their customer’s dissatisfaction with their policies, he says they didn’t have much choice. He says the invasive privacy policies were the result of their banking situation.

“Our first bank said they were going to shut us down if we didn’t have any KYC (Know your Customer) and with Robocoin unfortunately it was a heavy all or nothing with the KYC.”

Banking concerns are very common among Bitcoin related businesses, and many companies are often forced to over-compensate to ensure their stability, such as Circle’s policy on knives.

Software Concerns

Despite the intrusive privacy policies forced upon BitNational by RoboCoin and their bank, BitNational was still able to run successful BTMs – until October 2014 when RoboCoin released their 2.0 software.

“It was a good quality machine until they switched to the 2.0 software without telling us. There were so many bugs, glitches, and black screens,” Glover said. “We were always headed to the mall to fix it and try to salvage the client base we had established.”

According to Glover, BitNational had experienced continued growth and success until Robocoin’s 2.0 software sent them on a decline.

BitAccess to the Rescue

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BitAccess BTM

Finally, last month, BitNational was able to upgrade their software through BitAccess. That upgrade has put BitNational’s flagship BTM back on the path to success, says Glover. He didn’t have a bad word to say about the new software, and neither did his customers:

“September 2014 was our busiest month, and with the software update in October, it went downhill. March and April were our worst months of operation. In May (with the switch to BitAccess) our sales increased 400%, and we got lots of phone calls thanking us for making the BTM useable. We haven’t gotten any negatives, really, the simplicity is definitely uncontested compared to Robocoin.”

400% is an insane amount of growth, but here’s the kicker: BitAccess offered to upgrade BitNational’s BTM software for free. “BitAccess gave us the software for free; it cost us nothing,” said Glover. “They basically used us as the test, changed our software for free, and it worked out for everyone, especially the end users.” Glover says he’s very pleased with the outcome, and his customers are too. Glover knows there are plenty of other Robocoin operators out there, and he wants them to know there are solutions:

“Other Robocoin operators should know that there are alternative options. General Bytes, for instance, charges ~$1500 to modernize a Robocoin machine: a machine that most paid north of $20000 for initially. As we have experienced, these alterations can lend a new life to a machine that had been all but abandoned and discredited. Robocoin machines were guaranteed to us at the point of sale to be supported for 20 years. In our experience, however, this support lasted merely 7 months.”

BitNational got its flagship BTM on track. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of BTM’s that are plagued with unintentional software glitches, as well as intentionally invasive privacy policies. Bitcoin ATMs are a lot of people’s first exposure to Bitcoin, and if they have the misfortune of stumbling across a bad BTM, that person just might be turned off to Bitcoin forever. As a community, we need to encourage more companies to take steps like BitNational and BitAccess. We need to work diligently to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make people’s first Bitcoin experiences positive.

Updated: June 16, 2015 at 10:50 am CET.

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