Crypto ATM Company Lamassu Moves to Switzerland, Highlights Banking Challenges

Crypto ATM Company Lamassu Moves to Switzerland, Highlights Banking Challenges

Popular cryptocurrency ATM manufacturer Lamassu has announced it’s moving to Lucerne, Switzerland. The company, one of the first to develop the fiat-crypto machine concept when it launched in 2013, also noted the continuing prejudice companies in this industry face from the traditional financial sector.

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Over 4,000 Cryptocurrency ATMs in the World

Consulting and research firm dcresearch released data this week showing Lamassu as the third-largest cryptocurrency ATM hardware manufacturers with a 10.7 percent market share, behind Genesis Coin (31.8 percent market share) and General Bytes (30.6 percent).

Despite 2018’s market slump and KYC/AML regulations that often worked against bitcoin and cryptocurrency ATMs, the industry has continued to grow rapidly. There has been a marked increase in existing machines in the past two years, from around 1,500 in mid-2017 to over 4,000 today.

Formerly Portugal-based Lamassu will also change its official name to Lamassu Industries AG with the move. In 2019 it will sell a new series of devices it calls “cryptomats”, including the Sintra and Sintra Forte which can receive and dispense fiat cash, and the Douro II, an updated fiat-to-cryptocurrency machine based on its recognizable Douro.

Lamassu will continue to manufacture its machines in Portugal.

Lucerne is the center of Switzerland’s “Crypto Valley“, a region and lobby group created to attract blockchain businesses with its lifestyle options and favorable regulatory environment.

Lamassu Douro II machine
Lamassu’s Douro II machine

Lamassu ‘Bankless for the Past Year’

In a post on Medium, Lamassu CEO Zach Harvey said the firm has struggled to retain a bank account, and has “been bankless for the past year”. He added that his company was also rejected by payment processor Stripe “for having the word Bitcoin on our site”, despite being a hardware manufacturer that doesn’t actually provide crypto or fiat accounts.

In Switzerland, Lamassu now has a full bank account that supports its business model and even plans to install a cryptomat machine at its headquarters.

Lamassu machines support bitcoin, zcash, ethereum, bitcoin cash, litecoin and DASH, and supply UIs in most languages.

Harvey also said Lamassu also plans to start a monthly meetup group “dedicated to ideas of privacy, free speech, free markets, decentralization and cryptoanarchy.”

Industry Has Faced Challenges, Increasing Regulation

While words like “cryptoanarchy” may continue to frighten off larger players in the banking and payments industry, it appears other players are emerging that are more willing to embrace blockchain-based financial models.

Companies like Lamassu, General Bytes and Genesis Coin may have prospered, but not all bitcoin ATM manufacturers have survived the rocky road. Early pioneer Robocoin made a series of missteps that resulted in an operator lawsuit and the company shutting down its bitcoin-related services in early 2016, before attempting a pivot to more traditional remittances and payments as Romit (also now defunct).

Bitcoin ATMs have proved useful for travelers and remittances alike, allowing money to cross borders quickly at minimal cost and with little oversight. This has made the machines highly profitable for operators with access to high-traffic locations, and who regularly charge an 8 percent or more premium for the service. However, this also came at a cost.

General Bytes 'BATMTwo' machine
General Bytes ‘BATMTwo’ machine

The ATM industry (like exchanges) flourished in an unregulated cryptocurrency market, but faced hurdles when regulators fingered the concept as enabling money laundering. Jurisdictions have placed restrictions on the machines’ use that restricted convenience, forcing customers to complete various kinds of KYC processes before converting. This may be as simple as supplying a phone number, but may also require an official ID scan which needs to be approved.

The term “bitcoin ATM” has provided mixed fortunes too, possibly suggesting a challenge to banking rather than an attempt to integrate with it. While the term makes products more familiar to the general public, some have tried over the years to distance themselves with new expressions like “kiosk”, “vending machine”, “BTM” and now Lamassu’s “cryptomat”.

However Genesis coin (which owns the domain “bitcoinatm.com”) and General Bytes (which provides a firmware kit for existing Robocoin hardware) have chosen to stick with “ATM” — at least for now.

Have you ever used a cryptocurrency ATM? What was the experience like? Tell us all about it in the comments section.


Images via Lamassu

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