Bali, Indonesia is fast becoming a popular hub for location independent freelancers, entrepreneurs and a great place to knuckle down and work in a pleasant and fun environment.
From October till December 2015 I was working on my new Bitcoin related business (btcstores.co) there. I thought to write this post about the Bitcoin scene in Bali, as well as the general startup/freelancer scene.
Note that while I have done a lot of touristy travelling before, I have not been to popular startup hubs like San Francisco or London, or location independent hubs like Saigon or Chiang Mai. Hence comparisons might be lacking.
Bitcoin In Bali AKA BitIsland
Bali has probably around 40 Bitcoin accepting businesses. Thats a lot compared to my hometown Adelaide, Australia where I am yet to find a Bitcoin accepting merchant. Adelaide and Bali have similar populations. Local Bitcoiners are trying to turn Bali into BitIsland and they are doing a fine job.
Its possible to pay for food, accommodation, co-working, scooter rental, phone credit and much more with Bitcoin. I even got some business cards designed and printed by a bitcoin-accepting studio that by coincidence was on the same street as my accommodation!
Indonesian Bitcoin Directories
The one issue is that many of these Bitcoin accepting merchants tend to be more in the mid to upper price range, and I was trying to live on a budget.
A lot of this is the result of the work of Gary Dykstra, Christine Chiang and a small group of dedicated and passionate people (my apologies to people who I omitted through forgetfulness). They have been hitting the pavement convincing local businesses in Ubud to accept Bitcoin. They also organise events like Bitcoin Film Festival and Bitcoin 101 learning sessions. The highlight is “The Filter” a weekly recorded Bitcoin meet-up in the Hubud co-working space.
The meet-up is well attended by roughly ten people on average, there are always some regulars and new faces as people come and go to Bali.
I also had the pleasure to meet one Bitcoiner who runs a broker/exchange in Europe from Bali. It is very similar to my old exchange in Australia that unfortunately had to be closed down due to bank issues (on that note if anybody wants to cooperate on a new Bitcoin related business contact me).
The largest Indonesian Bitcoin exchange and 10th largest in the world is based in Bali. To sell Bitcoins for IDR I would simply go to their office and the whole encounter only took a few minutes. I did have to provide my ID on the first visit however.
The exchange price is often lower then the ‘world’ price so there are arbitrage opportunities. This is due to a large amount of expats cashing out their Bitcoin, to presumably live the good life in Bali. Nevertheless, I was buying Bitcoins through Localbitcoins in Australia and selling them in Bali. That worked out cheaper for me then converting through my bank. I do have a good reputation on Localbitcoins and can get a good price, though.
The exchange has also played a big part in promoting local merchants to accept Bitcoins through their POS system. Its CEO has put great effort to turning Bali into BitIsland and for that reason relocated there.
I find it interesting, and so might readers, to know the involvement of Indonesians in Bitcoin.
Gary and Christine are US citizens staying in Bali for an extended period. Most of the participants of the meet-ups were expats from all over the world, with a few Indonesians occasionally. The small studio that produced my business cards was run and owned by Indonesians. I presume many of the more expensive hotels and restaurants that accept Bitcoin are owned by expats.
The Indonesian exchange is owned and run by Indonesians.
Next Week, Part 2 – Bootstraping a business in Bali, Why/Where/What