Alan Brian Nussbaum: “We are here to change the way people buy stone, always embracing new technologies.”
London stone specialist MKW Surfaces is believed to have become the first stone company in the kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms (KBB) sector to formally adopt the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
The digital currency’s exchange rate with other currencies (such as the pound) fluctuates even more wildly than other exchange rates. In 2011 Bitcoins traded for 50p. Last month (November) each Bitcoin cost more than £5,000. That might seem to present a problem with pricing, but Alan Brian Nussbaum and his Venezuelan partner Jesus Mouzo think the volatility of the currency might make those who choose to pay in this way do so quickly to avoid the risk.
Brian Nussbaum says: “I think one of the main advantages of accepting Bitcoin for a services business such as ours is its positive effect on cash flow. Because of the volatility of Bitcoin, payment needs to happen practically immediately upon the invoice being issued. That considerably helps operations.”
Of course, the risk works both ways (although the general trend has been upwards), so customers might decide not to pay promptly.
Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009 as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system.
MKW Surfaces is upbeat about its decision to accept it in payment for the 15-50 installations it carries out each week, or the one or two larger projects it is involved with each month.
There is a 1% transaction fee with Bitcoins, but MKW prefers that to the 2.5% charged by mainstream credit cards.
It feels it is a KBB trendsetter and its acceptance of Bitcoins will inspire others to follow suit.
Brian Nussbaum: “We feel that it would be a new beginning in the UK and as we see it, it is going to help make our business smoother by its ease of doing instant payments with lower transactions fees.”
Brian accepts that the stone industry is sometimes seen as a little old fashioned, but says: “We are here to change the way people buy stone, always embracing new technologies.”
MKW Surfaces has also launched apps for iOS (Apple) and Android that have a comprehensive library of thousands of different materials. The apps are intended to help architects, designers and homeowners working on projects for which they want natural or engineered stone.
Brian says MKW Surfaces decided to accept Bitcoins because it had clients who were showing great enthusiasm for it.
Brian himself has a Bitcoin wallet and says the bitcoins are now worth four times what he paid for his first purchase.
Estimates of how many people use Bitcoins vary. It is believed to be between 2million and perhaps 5million worldwide. Possibly London has a disproportionately large number of people with Bitcoins, but even so the publicity value of accepting Bitcoins might be greater than the sales value.
Nevertheless, Brian says: “We felt it was appropriate that we started to offer a choice of methods of payment to include Bitcoin.”
And he says the day might not be far off when MKW Surfaces’ suppliers and employees are paid in Bitcoin.
The company has opened an account with Bitpay and will be adding it to its website, www.mkwsurfaces.co.uk.
An inaugural Heritage Building & Conservation (HB&C) lunch was held last month (6 November) in Plaisterers Hall at One London Wall in the City of London, with more than 175 guests from across the heritage sector attending, including architects, engineers and surveyors.
HB&C expressed its great Gratitude to Szerelmey for its hand in the formation of the company, stating that the Szerelmey support and encouragement had been invaluable. However, for more than a year now HB&C has been an independent, stand-alone company.
The key note speaker for the afternoon was Professor John Edwards, who provided an insight into his career in the heritage sector spanning more than 30 years. He was the author of BS 79132: A Guide to the Conservation of Historic Buildings. He discussed some of the challenges facing the industry of ensuring people with the right qualifications are in the right positions.
HB&C says what it offers is a national supportive network of heritage craft skills, knowledge and experience that maintains local connections. As it phrases it: national resource, local knowledge.