Back in 2014, Chicagoland real estate investor Sonny Meraban was in on a secret that few people nationwide had very little knowledge about at the time. The only difference with this secret, however, was that Meraban couldn’t wait to share it with the world and watch it spread like wildfire across the country.
Some seven years ago, Meraban was among the first American investors and true believers in Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that has steadily gained more social and financial acceptance in recent years and has started to transform investing markets around the world.
Meraban’s so-called “secret” was that Bitcoin is very much real, it possesses great staying power and it very well could be the future of currency around the globe. Now, Meraban’s belief in Bitcoin from long ago is paying off handsomely and his company, Bitcoin of America, is rapidly broadening its influence nationwide.
“Listen, even a broken clock is right twice a day, right? I was like a broken clock at that time because I was right, but nobody really understood it,” Meraban, Bitcoin of America’s CEO, said modestly. “Our broken clock has finally struck and it turns out now that I was right all along about Bitcoin.”
Meraban was so right that the aptly named Bitcoin of America is quickly approaching 1,000 locations spread over the country. Meraban’s initial investment — he spent $7,000 on a single Bitcoin ATM that he placed in a Chicago liquor store and one that proceeded to “do crazy numbers” — has grown to the point where his company now has Bitcoin ATMs and Bitcoin tablet trading options in 30 states and in the District of Columbia. After expanding throughout the Midwest —for example, there are 25 locations in Chicago and 30 in Detroit — Bitcoin of America now blankets the East and West Coasts.
Meraban’s explosive growth is in line with the growing trend where Americans are increasingly craving the opportunity to invest in Bitcoin and use it as currency. Whereas there were just a few hundred Bitcoin ATMs back in 2014, there are now more than 28,000, according to data compiled by howmanybitcoinatms.com. Meraban sees his company’s explosive growth as just the tip of the iceberg as what’s to come in the next few years.
“With the regular ATM industry, there are 300,000 normal ATMs, versus only (28,000) Bitcoin ATMs. The room for growth there is pretty huge,” said Meraban, whose company recently donated $25,000 to Jambos to benefit children in the foster care system in Illinois. “We just got lucky that we fell into that right time zone. My goal was always to be an easy, safe and secure exchanger for customers to exchange their cash for cryptocurrency. That approach has allowed us to be successful and keep growing and growing.”
Bitcoin has become popular investing and exchanging options for Americans who don’t regularly do business with banks or don’t have access to traditional banking transactions. The FDIC estimates that roughly 25% of Americans don’t keep their money in a bank and regularly use options such as payday loans, check cashing locations and money order services. The popularity and acceptance of Bitcoin has become so widespread that entities such as Microsoft, Expedia and the mobile payment service, Cash App, are now accepting it for financial transactions.
Bitcoin of America, which Meraban proudly boasts is registered with the U.S. Treasury Department and is fully BSA/AML compliant, takes great pride in the fact that many of their 200,000 customers through the years are of the repeat variety. Bitcoin of America’s user friendly mobile app has a wallet function where investors can securely store their investments. Soon, Meraban and BOA are hopeful that users will be able to fully buy, trade and invest Bitcoin via phones, making them the equivalent of a Bitcoin ATM “in the palm of your hands.”
In addition to their rapid expansion throughout the country making it easier for clients to invest and exchange in Bitcoin, Bitcoin of America recently debuted a tablet format that allows customers to have a personalized, face-to-face experience with their transactions.
Bitcoin of America is one of only two traders nationally that offers a tablet format for transactions. With the tablet format, customers who might be unfamiliar with the process of Bitcoin investing can talk through their purchasing options with a store teller to ensure their transaction goes as planned. Thus far, that option has received rave reviews from users who are relatively new to Bitcoin investing.
Meraban joked that the ever-changing technologies surrounding the Bitcoin industry are so active that, “it’s something new every day when you wake up.” Now that Bitcoin’s popularity is hotter than ever and continues to gain more acceptance, Meraban joked that the secret about the America’s top cryptocurrency is out and it’s here to stay for the long term. What’s to come with the future of Bitcoin might catch some doubters off guard, but it certainly won’t come as a surprise to Meraban, one of the cryptocurrency’s original believers from years ago.
“I think people are eventually going to get away from the central banking system,’’ Meraban boldly predicted. “Why are Bitcoin prices going up? Why is medal going up? Why are wood prices going up? It’s because people are investing in them.
“People used to buy Bitcoin to transact payments with phone bills that they owed or it allowed them to go on a site and play some poker,” Meraban added. “Now, that’s changing and you have sophisticated investors studying and investing in Bitcoin. They understand that there’s a $2 trillion market cap and how in the world are they not going to buy in and invest in Bitcoin when there’s such a huge market cap there? It’s almost like investors have no choice and they need to hedge themselves against the dollar.”