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World’s First Airline to Accept Bitcoin Misses a Big Opportunity

Neil Murray (@neilswmurray) | Published on July 23, 2014 at 19:31 BST

Neil Murray is an entrepreneur and writer involved in the Nordic and European startup scene. He runs The Nordic Web, a content and data provider, alongside VIP VoIP, an event series which connects local startup ecosystems with global tech players. Here, he discusses the perks of bitcoin as both a marketing tool and a cheaper transaction method.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.07.16 PM

This week, Latvia’s national airline, airBaltic confirmed that it is now accepting Bitcoin, and that in doing so, it became the first airline that accepts bitcoin directly rather than through a third party.

Indeed, it’s true – we have become the world’s 1st airline to accept @Bitcoin as payment for flights when booking at http://t.co/7Bh1qCedds

— airBaltic (@airBaltic) July 22, 2014

This is a a positive move for those that want bitcoin to evolve into a mainstream currency that can be used for the purchase of everyday goods and utilities, and it could lead competitors to also offer a bitcoin payment option. The immediate knock-on effect could be that Expedia will start accepting bitcoin for flight bookings, in addition to hotel bookings that you can already make with the cryptocurrency.

By becoming the first airline to accept Bitcoin, airBaltic have surely stolen a march on everybody else. However, they have missed a trick. The dreaded transaction fee.

Yes, even when booking a flight with bitcoin, the transaction fee is €5.99.

airbaltic-transaction-fees

airBaltic commented:

“The transaction fee is to cover the costs associated with processing and handling the booking rather than the bitcoin itself.”

Yet, a processing and handling fee typically is meant to cover costs from processing the payment. So, where in this case there is practically none, it is not clear why this expense still applies. Surely, the handling of the booking itself would already be accounted for in its salaries and expenses, as this is the main purpose and reason for the business’ existence, it would seem pretty odd not to have this factored in to their costs already.

There is no transaction fee when using an airBaltic card, for example, which demonstrates that the main purpose of these fees are deterrents, to encourage customers to avoid other payment methods and to take advantage of the benefits of being an airBaltic cardholder.

Having broken ground in becoming the first airline to accept bitcoin, it would make no sense to essentially deter people from using it, otherwise it is no more than a publicity stunt, which to be fair to them has done them pretty well so far already with the bitcoin community buzzing about this.

airBaltic were quick to spot a big opportunity with bitcoin, I just hope they don’t let an even bigger one pass them by.

This post originally appeared on Medium, and has been republished here with Neil’s permission.

Feature image via Aviasistemos.lt / In-article image via Viktorijatravel.lv

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Clark: Give Nike Golf credit where credit is due

by Dennis Clark   (Senior Writer I)   |   July 23, 2014

Remember all the criticism hurled at Rory McIlroy when he decided to switch to Nike Golf equipment? It’s quieter now, isn’t it?

The meteoric rise of Nike Golf has been nothing short of amazing considering that not very long ago, Nike Golf was the new kid on the block in the golf club business; a young company in a very old, well-developed industry. The success of Tiger Woods — and more recently McIlroy and Michelle Wie — has certainly been a huge part of the company’s growth, but success in the golf equipment industry has always come down to one thing: Do the clubs perform or not?

I’ve been on staff with Nike Golf now for some 10 years, so I’ve had a front row seat to watch it develop from an apparel company that also sold golf clubs to a full-fledged golf equipment powerhouse. It’s true that Nike is my company of choice as a golf professional, but If you’ve read any of my other GolfWRX stories you know that I let history, science and little else affect my opinions.

Here’s a story that nicely sums up Nike’s progress in the golf equipment world. I was giving a lesson about eight years ago and when we finished the student told me that he was interested in trying a new driver. I gave him mine to hit, a Nike Sasquatch, which at the time was one of the most forgiving drivers on the market and was pretty hot, too. But it had a problem and if you’ve ever hit one you know exactly what it was. People say it sounded like an aluminum baseball bat at impact and frankly I have to agree. While it was a great performer, it was one of the loudest drivers I’ve ever heard on the range.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find that Nike makes some of the best-looking, best-sounding and sweetest-feeling golf clubs in the industry. They offer a wide-ranging line of drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, putters and golf balls that have impressed everyone from the mini-tour players I teach to golfers who are just learning the game.

I’ve also been impressed with Nike’s ascendance on the PGA Tour. The company has teamed up with some the Tour’s finest young players: Kevin Chappell, Kyle Stanley, Scott Brown, Seung Yul Noh, Russell Henley, Jhonny Vegas and the world’s former No. 1-ranked amateur Patrick Rodgers. Ten years ago, it might have been hard for Nike to attract so many good young players to its golf brand. Now, Nike has its pick of the litter. That says a lot about how the perception of Nike Golf has changed among good players.

I also have great respect for the performance-first approach the GolfWRX Staff took with its 2014 Gear Trials: Best Clubs list, and you’ll see that Nike lead the way in several categories with its Covert 2.0 and 2.0 Tour drivers, and posted even more impressive results in the Best Players Irons and Best Game-Improvement irons with its Covert Forged and Covert 2.0 irons, respectively.

It is not hard to see why.As a teaching professional, I rely on feedback from my students and ball flight observations of my own. My FlightScope radar gives me raw data, but no technology can capture feel, that elusive feedback we get from impact and ball flight. The overwhelming positive responses I get from the current Nike offerings sanction my recommendations time after time.

It has been my experience that brand loyalty is not as high on a golfer’s priority list as one might think; my students will hit brand “XYZ” if I can show them the results, and Nike’s clubs and golf balls absolutely perform. For better players, Nike is truly at the forefront in the players irons and wedge categories, producing clubs that are not only innovative but meet incredibly high standards in looks, feel and performance.

The company’s master model maker, Mike Taylor, is the only living club maker who has made custom clubs for Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, and he was the force behind Nike’s new VR X3X Toe Sweep wedges, which have their heels designed in a way that allows golfers to hit shots around the green from deep rough without the heel-snagging problem that can affect more traditional wedges. For such a different-looking wedge, the reception with tour players has been phenomenal.

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The radical-looking Nike VR X3X Toe Sweep wedge that Rory McIlroy used to win the BMW PGA Championship. Michelle Wie also won the 2014 U.S. Open with two Toe Sweep wedges in her bag (56 and 60 degrees). 

McIlroy used a 59-degree Toe Sweep to win the BMW PGA Championship, Europe’s most prestigious event outside The Open Championship. Michelle Wie used a combination of Nike’s VR X3X Dual Sole and Toe Sweep wedges to win her first major, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst. The list goes on and on.

Nike Golf has never lost sight of its original goal when it entered the golf equipment space: To be the best. Neither the company’s affiliation with Nike Inc., nor its star-studded lineup of athletes who play its equipment could truly move Nike Golf toward that goal without a dedication to create the industry’s best products for its best players. The Nike Golf team also knew that it had to capture the great mass of average golfers around the world by crafting golf clubs that work for them, too, and the company has done just that.

How has Nike Golf come so far, so fast? It’s a simple formula: Hire the best people, listen to the industry’s feedback and make products of the highest quality. And as Nike so quickly learned, they should look, sound and feel amazing, too. At this rate of progress, the sky is truly the limit for them.

About Dennis Clark

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional, a distinction held by less than 1 percent of all PGA Professionals. He is recognized as one of the top instructors in the country, and holds no less than seven PGA awards including “Teacher of the Year” and “Golf Professional of the Year.”
Dennis holds two degrees in education and has worked with golfers of all levels for over 30 years. A native of Philadelphia, Dennis currently directs the Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.

GolfWRX Writer of the Month: April 2014, May 2014

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More Details Emerge on Bentley’s SUV

More details emerge on Bentley’s SUV

Following on from the spy shots that helpfully labeled a prototype version of Bentley’s forthcoming SUV, we’ve dug out more details on the production-spec car that we’ll be seeing at the end of next year.

As previously reported, there will definitely be V-8, V-8 plug-in hybrid, and W-12 versions. By the end of the year, a decision will also be made regarding whether to offer the SUV with diesel power. Although a compression-ignition version primarily would be for Europe and other markets where CO2 taxation is a major concern, a senior Bentley insider has told us that the U.S. market is also keen on a high-output diesel, which would be a “Bentley-ized” version of Audi’s 4.2-liter V-8 TDI, which also will be going into the next Porsche Cayenne.

Perhaps surprisingly, Bentley anticipates that the plug-in hybrid will be the best-selling version of the SUV, with nearly 30 percent of potential buyers saying it was the version they were most interested in during a recent round of market research. We’re told the PHEV will be able to cover up to 30 miles on pure electric power, which may become a major selling point as European and Asian cities move to adopt zero-emission zones.


  • First Drive: 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed Coupe & Convertible
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Bentley’s sales and marketing director, Kevin Rose, has also confirmed that one objective is to make the W-12 iteration the “fastest SUV on sale,” an engineering target that led to the reduced height of the production version’s roof when compared with the original EXP 9 F concept shown at the Geneva auto show in 2012. The show car turned nearly as many stomachs as heads when it was unveiled, and senior bosses now admit that its styling was part of a “shock and awe” strategy to prepare the public for the idea of a Bentley SUV. We’ve been assured that the finished version is far less visually aggressive.

Interestingly, we’re told that luxury-car sales in China slowed dramatically in the last year and that customers are now looking for cars that make a less-ostentatious display of their owners’ wealth. That suggests the SUV’s biggest market is likely to be the United States, where—for a certain type of buyer—such displays show no sign of going out of fashion.


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Barry Silbert Leads $250,000 Investment in Mexican Bitcoin Exchange Volabit

Last updated on Jul 23, 2014 at 23:51 BST. Based on the following values:

$ 611.00
$ 621.49
$ 619.15
$ 621.16
¥3,821.18
¥3,836.55
¥3,838.82

Nermin Hajdarbegovic | Published on July 23, 2014 at 20:35 BST

volabit

Mexico-based bitcoin exchange Volabit has received $ 250,000 in new funding, an amount the company says will be used to further establish itself in the digital currency market.

The capital comes from Bitcoin Opportunity Corp, a investment vehicle headed by SecondMarket and Bitcoin Investment Trust CEO Barry Silbert. Speaking to CoinDesk, Silbert said that he is confident Volabit can gain the users it needs to target the country’s underserved consumer market, and that his firm’s investment is a reflection of this belief.

Silbert told CoinDesk:

“Through the use of bitcoin, Volabit has the potential to radically transform the US-Mexico remittance corridor, one of the largest money transfer corridors in the world.”

Notably, Bitcoin Opportunity Corp invested the same amount in Sweden-based cryptocurrency exchange Safello two weeks ago. At the time, that was the largest investment the firm had made outside the US.

Volabit launched earlier this year under the name Coincove, and was in beta until May. The exchange officially opened at that time with the stated aim of becoming the ‘Coinbase of Mexico‘.

Pivoting from remittance

Volabit was created by former Carnegie Mellon students Hannah Kim and Tomas Melis. As Coincove, it took part in the Boost VC incubator program and developed a focus on remittances services in Latin America.

This focus has shifted to a certain extent, as certain markets like Argentina and the US proved problematic. These regulatory challenges forced Coincove to rethink its approach and put remittances on the backburner.

Volabit co-founder Hannah Kim explained:

“While testing the first version of our service, we came to the realization that the cash collection infrastructure essential to a bitcoin-based remittance system was out of reach for bitcoin companies. This is in part due to the unclear regulatory environment, especially at a state-by-state level where money licensing laws apply.”

The company is now keen to enter another niche in Mexico by providing affordable financial services to consumers that lack access to banking, though Kim says, here too, its target markets will require a unique approach:

“In-person, cash transactions for bitcoin may sound counterintuitive, but given that most of the target population do not have bank accounts and are risk-averse when it comes to sending money, it makes sense that they would not interact with bitcoins in the way that’s familiar to the bitcoin-savvy crowd.”

She added: “The confluence of all these factors makes it very difficult, at this time, for anyone to develop a service that the target market would use”.

Finding opportunities

Despite these challenges, Kim notes that Volabit is optimistic that advances on the US regulatory front will eventually allow the company to achieve its original goal of providing low-cost remittances.

In the meantime, Kim told CoinDesk that there are numerous opportunities beyond remittances for Volabit to disrupt, especially in Latin America:

“In Mexico, for instance, loans and credit are very expensive, credit card adoption is very low. [The lack of] access to competitive financial services inhibits the people living in countries with such conditions – the underbanked population in particular. Bitcoin, however, has the potential to transform this situation by increasing the choices available to those living in countries whose financial systems are very localized by connecting them to the global economy.”

Volabit says the new investment received from Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Fund will fuel product development efforts on these fronts. The company is currently developing a partnership with a peer-to-peer lending company to bring low-rate loans to Mexico.

Image via Volabit

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We chose to be a bitcoin company in the bitcoin way.

Rodolfo Novak, CEO, Coinkite

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