Giving bitcoin as a last minute Christmas gift just became easier thanks to two British entrepreneurs

Lynsey Barber
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Founders Laurence Kemball-Cook and Louise Doherty created the bitcoin startup over the weekend

Who isn't running around looking for last minute stocking fillers at this time of year?

That was the situation one entrepreneurial couple found themselves in when they decided upon bitcoin as the perfect present.

But one problem Laurence Kemball-Cook and Louise Doherty stumbled upon was how difficult it is to buy for someone not entrenched in the world of cryptocurrency. And how do you even gift it to someone else?

A day later and with both already having founded their own startups, they had created a website where anyone can gift bitcoin to family or friends with a single click, making it as simple as ordering on Amazon.

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For the "palatable price of buying tat" you could instead buy "something that actually has a value" says Kemball-Cook, who founded and runs Pavegen, a London startup making smart pavements that generate energy when you walk. And Doherty is the brains behind Plansnap, a social planing app backed by AB Inbev.

"Imagine this time last year having done that," he adds. The cryptocurrency's value has risen more than 1,000 per cent since then.

And Kemball-Cook is bullish that it will be a similar case this time next year, despite high volatility. "They said it was a bubble three years ago," he said, predicting it will reach $100,000. "Everyone will have a bitcoin account in future. We’re on the cusp of a revolution."

He does concede that receivers of a bitcoin gift voucher may very well end up with less than the gift buyer paid, and even zero, something it duly notes to buyers.

The concept relies on, as the website's called, doing the leg work - or as Kemball-Cook describes it, a concierge service. Buyers do a simple e-commerce transaction handing over the cash to the startup. They buy the bitcoin on the buyer's behalf, getting a gift voucher to give as a gift in return. The startup holds the bitcoin on the person's behalf and cashes it in when the giftee redeems it, at whatever price it is worth at the time. It's a process they expect to automate in the longer term.

Users can buy £10, £50, or £100 worth of bitcoin for £25, £70 and £130 respectively. That extra takes into fees for buying and redeeming bitcoin, other costs and a margin.

"This is for people on the fence who don't have the time and understanding to buy," he said. It's more for those that are interested and want to dip their toe in the waters, but the duo also see the site as becoming a potential gateway to plunging into big bitcoin exchanges for those whose appetite for cryptocurrencies is whetted - a lead generation tool of sorts.

It's not a "serious hard core product" for the high rolling betters of life savings said Kemball-Cook when I raise a question about how this might fall under financial regulation.

Bitcoin itself is in a regulatory grey area as is another trend to spring from its growth, initial coin offerings, with many watchdogs around the world keeping an eye on developments.

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And some might question the frivolity of a ligh-hearted idea turned from concept into reality in 24 hours a week before Christmas and in an area that is highly speculative, volatile and labelled a bubble.

"It's a 100 per cent serious play," said Kemball-Cook.

"We've both built companies before. We’re really excited about it. It's doing what the two of us do everyday and will be fully resourced and scaled," he said. "Hopefully it will be a really interesting scale up journey."

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