Launched this past May, Living Room of Satoshi (LRoS) is an Australian startup that enables users to pay in Bitcoin any bill with a BPAY Biller code (BPAY is Australia’s leading bill payment service).
Users of the free service can go to the LRoS website and enter the biller code and reference number from their bill and the bill amount to pay it in Bitcoins. LRoS refers to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index for its exchange rate, according to an FAQ on the startup’s website. LRoS processes payments on the same day the Bitcoin transaction is conducted, as long as a payment is submitted before 5pm on a bank business day. Payments after that cut-off time, or on weekends and public holidays, will take 2 banking business days to get to the biller. LRoS carries the burden of risk on any rate movements.
Founded by Brisbane-based Daniel Alexiuc and his brother, who has since moved on to focus on another startup, LRoS was awarded “Best Pitch” at the “Start-Up Showdown – the Payments Pitch Pit” at the Financial Services Technology (FST) Media’s “Technology & Innovation – the Future of Payments” conference in Sydney on September 19. Along with three other presenters, Alexiuc pitched his ware in front of senior decision-makers in financial services and each pitch was rated by the audience through a live poll. The win has netted Alexiuc a future write-up in FST Media’s digital publication. An audio recording of the competition is available online.
CoinReport spoke to Alexiuc about his startup and his pitch at the conference.
Named after Bitcoin’s mysterious founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, LRoS began development in March. Alexiuc said he had some Bitcoins and wanted to spend them.
“I went looking for a way to pay bills, but there was nothing like (LRoS) that existed in Australia, so the motivation came out of personal need. I think it helps ‘close the loop’ a little bit, in that it makes it possible for individuals to use bitcoins in their daily life.”
Asked if he faced any obstacles in founding LRoS, Alexiuc said:
“Plenty of obstacles in the banking industry, and absolutely zero in the bitcoin ecosystem! Working with bitcoin is really a pleasure, and continually helps to reinforce to me how groundbreaking this new technology is, and how it will transform all kinds of business in the future. There are four major banks in Australia that have the banking industry pretty well wrapped up, and they each have a one quarter ownership share in the BPAY system, which has a monopoly on bill payments in Australia. I have had plenty of rejections from them, and even one business bank account closed without any reason given.”
As a legal requirement, LRoS states on its site it is not affiliated with nor endorsed by BPAY.
“We have an open dialogue with BPAY,” Alexiuc said.
Looking to try to break the monopoly that BPAY and the four major banks have on bill payments in Australia, Alexiuc told CoinReport his hope is that “billers start to notice that there are many people (who) are already using bitcoin to pay them through our service, and we can approach them about accepting bitcoin instead of using BPAY as a proxy.”
Since its launch in May, LRoS has processed more than $250,000 AUD worth of bills in Bitcoin.
“It’s safe to say it exceeded expectations,” said Alexiuc. “I had no idea at the time that there was that much interest in bitcoin in Australia, but since then (I) have discovered that it is quite a hub of bitcoin development and innovation. I’ve observed that we are definitely starting to get some ‘normal’ users too – i.e. those who are just everyday people, and are not necessarily technophiles or early adopters.”
Alexiuc told CoinReport that users of his service are very appreciative.
“It’s a no fee, no commission, no ‘exchange rate trickery’ way to pay bills with bitcoin – and (users) simply love it.” Feedback Alexiuc provided includes “incredible service,” “so easy to use,” and “finally an easy way to spend a substantial amount of Bitcoin.”
Visitors to the LRoS website can see what kind of bills people are paying. The site includes a list of billers and amounts for bills paid in the past 10 days. Additional information is found on the Graphs page, which lists data from the past 28 days. The information is broken down into bill category, dollar amount paid, average bill amount, and traffic by day of week.
Asked why he publishes such information, Alexiuc said:
“We list this information in the spirit of the bitcoin blockchain. All transactions on the blockchain are publicly accessible – and we think that as long as there is no personally identifiable information being exposed, this kind of transparency on our site is something that most of our customers appreciate and indeed expect. It also helps as a publicly available marketing tool for bitcoin acceptance in Australia, and it is interesting to see the graphs as well.”
On the matter of his pitch at the FST Media conference’s “Start-Up Showdown,” Alexiuc said:
“I was keen to present to a large audience composed mostly of those in the banking industry, and try to get a few people thinking. I have previously worked on risk systems in an Australian bank, so I know how risk aware (or averse) they can be. However, I firmly believe there is a massive opportunity and benefit for the banking industry to get on board with cryptocurrencies, they just need a bit of a kick to get started.”
As for others getting on board, Alexiuc told CoinReport that merchants do not have any reason to refuse Bitcoin right now, noting that as a payment system, Bitcoin offers drastically lower fees to merchants compared to credit cards and PayPal. Consumer adoption is a different story.
“(Bitcoin) needs to be easier for people to use and understand, and there are some great people working on that problem right now,” said Alexiuc.
In the near future, LRoS wants to go whatever is best for general Bitcoin adoption in Australia, including making it easier for everyday people to pay for things using Bitcoin, said Alexiuc. In the next five to 10 years, he hopes to have a legitimate Bitcoin-backed BPAY alternative that puts the control back in the billers’ favor rather than that of the banks.
Alexiuc told CoinReport that Bitcoin feels more real to him than money his government prints.
“I can spend it anywhere in the globe, or send it to anybody without needing a middleman to take a cut, which is something my Australian dollars can’t do in Canada, for example. Like gold, there is a fixed amount of it, and it cannot be printed by central banks or governments at their whims, or even generated from thin air by regular banks through fractional reserve…It is secured by mathematics, not safes or vaults. Finally, getting a bitcoin account can be done by anybody without permission from anybody else.”
Images courtesy of Living Room of Satoshi