The Bitcoin Economy’s ‘Backbone’ Is Bitstamp, An Exchange Run By Two Young Slovenians

Bitstamp26 June 2014 / Forbes – The two twenty-something founders behind Bitstamp, Nejc Kodrič and Damian Merlak, are increasingly opening up. They’ve attended Bitcoin events, collected a “best virtual currency startup” award at a European tech conference, and spent an hour with me on Skype talking about what it was like to discover Bitcoin and suddenly become two of the richest people in Slovenia.

“We’re the backbone of the entire Bitcoin industry,” says Kodrič, 25, who’s wearing a black t-shirt with “Zero Excuses” in fluorescent green capital letters. “The wallet services, ATM machines, mining companies all rely on us. The price of Bitcoin is the de facto price on Bitstamp. We’re the to-go exchange.”

It may sound like bluster, but I hear the same thing when I talk to people in the wider Bitcoin community. Of all the exchanges, Bitstamp has 11% of the total Bitcoin market share in the last six months, and is at the top when it comes to US dollar trading

Kodrič and Merlak, 28, live in Kranj, the fourth-largest city (population: 50,000) in the tiny country to the east of Italy. “You could fit our whole population into Manhattan,” says Kodrič, who sits in a sparsely decorated office there. He is the business brain on the team. Merlak, who wears a plain grey t-shirt and periodically pushes long dark bangs out of his eyes, is the financially-minded techie, having learned computer programming in primary school and dabbled in stock investing during high school. They’ve known each other since they were kids — which isn’t that long ago — because Merlak went to high school with Kodrič’s older brother. Both are college drop-outs, lured away by profitable jobs. Merlak first started mining Bitcoin in 2011 while working as a software developer at Lyst after his boss mentioned it. Kodrič was in the business of selling computer hardware and started advising Merlak on the equipment he should use for the mining. “We started hanging out and drinking beers and talking about how cool Bitcoin was,” says Kodrič. “We knew we wanted to go big on Bitcoin. Our original idea was to set up a mining pool but we knew there were people who knew way more about mining than us. Our next idea was to buy Bitcoin but it was hard to do as a European. We had to wire money to Japan to Mt. Gox. That’s when we realized our best opportunity was to set up our own exchange.”…. Read more

By Kashmir Hill

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