Pizza For Coins is a deep internet enthusiast's dream start-up. The site allows users to order Dominos Pizza delivery with bitcoins, perfect for those who love eating cinna-sticks as they browse through Silk Road, but are not fans of the Federal Reserve or PayPal.
For a .09BTC fee - close to $2 based on today's conversion rate - 'patrons' can use the cryptocurrency to order, say, a large 14" pizza (sans-toppings) for a total of .72BTC, or about $18. It's no 5-5-5 deal, but the opportunity to use bitcoins at a large, well-known company marks a change in the bitcoin game, even if it's going through a middleman.
I talked to Matt and Riley, the creators of Pizza For Coins, and they clarified a few things about their just-out-the-oven fresh site that launched on February 5th. The company "does not have a legal partnership with Domino's Pizza, but we do have an account with them for purchasing mass quantities of gift cards to fulfill our orders," Matt wrote in an email.
Right now, the main attraction of Pizza For Coins is novelty and convenience, should you prefer not to exchange your bitcoins elsewhere. At the time of his email, Matt said they'd filled 28 orders so far, ranging from $9 to $95. But he said that "hopefully in the near future though, the incentive for using our service will be cheaper pizza than you can get with USD. Once we have the volume of sales, we're going to be trickling down our discount on gift cards to the customer."
The company does not have any investors, and has not spent a cent on advertising. Previously, bitcoins could be used to pay at a variety of websites, but none as gigantic as Dominos, the largest publicly traded pizza company. To be clear, though, Dominos isn't offering bitcoin payment as an option to its customers. Pizza For Coins is an independent service that's sole function is to be the cybercash-handling middleman between the buyer and supplier.
Groups that have implemented bitcoin payment in the past include Bitmit.net, a site that has an interface similar to Ebay. At Bitmit, users can bid for a variety of products, included (but not limited to), MacBook Airs (46BTC, or $1,160), used copies of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (with a whopping asking price of 2.5BTC or $62), and even cactus plants. If the bidding process sounds too enervating for those already overwhelmed by the idea of cryptocurrency, then there are more direct options to use bitcoins to purchase (legal) goods.
Stateless Sweets, for example, is an online candy and sweets delivery service that offers (and even encourages) bitcoin usage to its customers. Unlike Pizza For Coins, Stateless Sweets is not a middleman service. I talked to Jillian Datty, the owner and head-confectioner of SS, and she told me that her company has been around since November of 2011, but it started offering bitcoin payment about a year ago.
Datty explained that she incorporated bitcoins into her business model because "not a fan of the Federal Reserve and the monopoly they have on currency - so I was looking for another option. I have friends who are big bitcoin supporters, and I like how simple it is to use." She has a Bitpay plugin on her site, which automatically takes care of calculations and conversion rates. When customers use this option, the money goes right into her 'Bit Wallet' the next day, without the delays or fees associated with services such as PayPal.
Stateless Sweets gets about 5-6 purchases-via-bitcoin per week, and Datty noted that customers tend to make larger orders or purchase monthly memberships when they decide to use the e-currency.
"Using bitcoins actually drives a lot of business to Stateless Sweets," she said. Customers like to have total control of their money, and bitcoins are a direct and government-free system of purchasing goods. Sweet, delicious goods.
Other innocuous sites that allow bitcoin payment include Gift For Coins (also created by the guys behind Pizza For Coins), George's Famous Baklava, San Francisco's Cups and Cakes Bakery, and other food-related companies that are just sugary enough to give the impression of a drug front. (Then, of course, there are sites that don't even hide being a drug-front, including the much-discussed Silk Road.)
Until bitcoins are more commonly accepted directly, users will be stuck converting their currency, either through an exchange or a middleman like Pizza For Coin. One startup wants to make that seamless. BitInstant, which CNN recently profiled, plans on becoming the first internationally accepted, bitcoin-funded debit card. BitInstant says it wants to be "the Apple of bitcoin," and currently has close to $1 million in financing.
BitInstant may mark the beginning of a new and profitable start-up craze centered around cyber currency. Imagine seeing people pay for Starbucks with a card that has zero connection to MasterCard, American Express or Visa. This isn't Jack Dorsey's Square, though. Bitcoins have absolutely no connection to government or banks.
Sure, it might sound like a pain to purchase bitcoins and download a bitcoin wallet for a mediocre Dominos pizza, and for someone who doesn't already deal with them, it probably is. However, the crypto-currency continues to grow in popularity for direct purchases in meatspace, which is key to its growth. Right now, converting dollars to bitcoin and back again isn't often practical. But once you can swipe a card or buy your groceries with a currency that's disconnected from corporations and governments? That's worth talking about.