Gaia, which operates automatic exchange machines for crypto assets (virtual currency), began collecting donations in crypto assets on January 11th in response to the Noto Peninsula earthquake. In addition to Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Cardano (ADA), we also accept donations in Japanese yen. The collected crypto assets will be used to provide direct support in the form of donations or necessary supplies, depending on the situation in the disaster area. What are your thoughts on soliciting donations using crypto assets? Gaia is also known for operating Japan’s only automated crypto asset exchange machine, “BTM,” but will the use of crypto assets by individuals progress in the future? We asked Motohiro Ogura, CEO of Gaia.
──What is the background behind starting to collect donations using crypto assets?
As was the case with the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Red Cross was the first to stand up immediately after the disaster. Since then, various donation projects have been launched by the prefecture and other government agencies, but the first problem was that it was extremely difficult to know when, where, and in what form the donations would reach the disaster victims.
For example, when the Great East Japan Earthquake first occurred, we also collected donations, but the general incorporated association donated the collected donations to the site on its own. We donated stationery to kindergartens and daycare centers in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, which were devastated by the tsunami caused by the earthquake, provided cakes for mental health care, and provided funds to purchase clothes and toys. I was doing a lot of things. On the other hand, they felt that these efforts were far from equal, bringing joy to only a small number of people. It is true that the Red Cross and government agencies are responsible for deciding how to equally distribute donations. However, since it is extremely difficult to define equality, it takes time to provide actual support, which I wanted to learn from this in the future.
As an asset exchange company, we accept donations not only in cash but also in crypto assets, which allows for quick and transparent donations. Although we may not achieve complete equality, we launched this donation project with the hope of supporting the areas that cannot be covered through regular donations.
──Crypto assets have the advantage of being easier to donate than legal currency donations.
The compatibility between crypto assets and donations is excellent. Donating cash from overseas to the Red Cross can be very complicated, especially when considering remittances from overseas, but it can be done easily with crypto assets. As of January 18th, our company has received approximately 1.67 million yen worth of donations. Although the number of donations is still small, we have no intention of stopping our donation activities in a few months. Over the long term, I would like to spread the understanding that crypto assets can be useful in situations like this. Additionally, anyone can check the donation amount on our website (https://tasukeaino.network/). It updates almost in real time, and is also focusing on visualizing the handling of crypto assets.
──In 2022, we started operating the crypto asset automatic exchange machine “BTM”. 2023 was also a time when the crypto asset market fell.
In 2023, the market cooled down, and BTM trading volume was not good. However, I think this is the year in which we were able to think about potential users and conduct market research. I think that the fact that many people still view crypto assets as speculative purposes and that many people are concerned about tax issues is hindering the expansion of the use of crypto assets and, ultimately, BTM. For example, there is a misconception that when you convert crypto assets into cash, half of the amount is collected as tax. Based on this, many people feel that they will be charged tax for using BTM. As a crypto asset exchange business, it is our responsibility to communicate the risks of crypto assets, but we believe that the challenge is to dispel the negative image and establish how to utilize crypto assets.
──What role does Gaia play as a crypto asset exchange company?
Our company’s vision is to bring crypto assets from speculation to everyday life. I think most people now own Bitcoin for the purpose of profit. We want to make crypto assets usable in daily life, not for speculative purposes. Since crypto assets first attracted attention as “currency,” the goal of incorporating them into everyday life as currency has remained unchanged from the beginning.
─To promote the use of crypto assets in daily life,2024What are your aspirations for this year?
I want this to be a year in which crypto assets can be directly linked to daily economic activities from the customer’s perspective, rather than from the perspective of businesses using financial services. For example, I believe that the reason behind the increasing acceptance of online banking is the “sense of security of being able to exchange money at any time” by being able to deposit and withdraw cash through convenience store ATMs. In fact, the opportunities to deposit and withdraw cash in daily life are decreasing, and some say that there is no need for cash. However, I believe that the shift to cashless payments will continue because of the sense of security that comes with knowing that you can exchange cash at any time, even if you don’t need it.
In this sense, crypto assets such as Bitcoin will remain just for investment purposes forever unless they are guaranteed to be safe and secure by being able to be converted into cash at any time. In order for crypto assets to expand their field from investment to everyday life, it is necessary to provide that sense of security, and we hope that we will be able to play a part in this role.
–What are the specific measures?
Installing and operating BTM on your own will incur extremely high costs. Therefore, in the future, we are considering partnering with ATMs operated by financial institutions. We believe that if we can add the function of handling crypto assets to the large platform called ATM, we will be able to improve convenience and expand the usage area all at once. If this partnership goes well, it could become an alternative platform to the currently popular QR code payment, and it also has great potential to become a new solution to the issues that are arising as the number of inbound tourists from overseas increases. .
｜Written and edited by: Koki Mizuno
｜Image: Gaia’s donation recruitment page (capture)
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