Home Adoption Profiles of Crypto Adoption: Community Leader Akane Yokoo on Merchants and Connections

Profiles of Crypto Adoption: Community Leader Akane Yokoo on Merchants and Connections

TL;DR: Profiles of Crypto Adoption is series dedicated to highlighting the work of those who push peer-to-peer digital cash adoption forward in a variety of ways all over the world. It’s a great way as well to get inspired and, hopefully, start your own meetup or join one (meetup@bitcoincashers.org). In this inaugural installment, we catch up with Akane Yokoo, a Bitcoin Cash (BCH) enthusiast in Tokyo, Japan. 

Profiles of Crypto Adoption: Akane Yokoo From Tokyo, Japan

Akane Yokoo is a community manager at Bitcoin.com, and principal organizer of the world-famous Tokyo Bitcoin Cash Weekly Meetups. She has recently been helping other meetups around the world get started, providing constant support for organizers in the form of expertise and advice. Yokoo understands the needs of merchants especially, and she’s able to provide special insight from her vast experience. She was one of the first in Japan to actively use and promote Bitcoin.

Her latest initiative, Satoshi’s Angels, seeks to do just what she has been for a couple of years: push adoption of P2P digital money and help with community growth together with two very successful crypto-oriented women, Cindy Wang and Tammy Joo.

Satoshi’s Angel: The Interview

CoinSpice: What were your first steps in the cryptocurrency world?

Akane Yokoo: I was actually on the merchant’s side first. I was an event organizer for the restaurant The Pink Cow in Tokyo, and back in 2013, it was the first restaurant to accept Bitcoin payments in Japan. I remember people, including Roger Ver, came to the restaurant and helped set up the payment service to receive bitcoin (BTC).

Akane Yokoo

They used to have their Bitcoin weekly meetups there at The Pink Cow and that is when I got connected with the Bitcoin OGs, many of whom I still meet at the current Tokyo BCH meetups (two of them are organizers).

It was an interesting experience because I was able to witness changes in the Bitcoin community and market for years, including the price spike, Mt Gox, etc. Lots of magazines and TV companies came to interview us at The Pink Cow. It’s also when I saw the power of media – in a good and bad way. As people at the original Bitcoin Meetups started talking about BCH more, Tokyo BCH meetups were created by some of the members. Because I was interested in BCH and I had some connections with some merchants (and I speak Japanese), I started helping book venues, and that is how I started helping to organize the Tokyo BCH meetups.

Onboarding Merchants

How did you begin onboarding merchants? 

My mission when I started helping out the meetups was to find a place to have a meetup. The main organizer, Aaron Gutman, suggested (I am still not sure if he was joking or serious) to have a meetup at a new venue every time (we were hosting it monthly at that time). I took it seriously and started asking venues to accept BCH, and this is how it all started.

Akane Yokoo

First, I went to some merchants that I knew through The Pink Cow, and it made it easy to get them to accept BCH because they knew me already. In the beginning, though, I actually tried one or two places that I did not know to accept BCH but I was not successful. From that experience, I learned an effective way to onboard merchants. Having two jobs and a startup for years, I think I naturally developed a skill to try to do things efficiently.

I quickly realized using my connections or even someone else’s connections to onboard merchants is the easiest way for me. I gave a presentation at the recent Bitcoin Cash City Conference in Australia if readers want to learn more. Many people seem to think I spend a lot of time onboarding merchants but I actually don’t. I want people to know that they can do this even if they are busy too.

What is your strategy to onboard a merchant?

I am hoping to write a more detailed article about this soon, actually. My main tip is to use your connections. I am not a professional salesperson, and BCH is not a company first of all, and with the limited time I can spend for this, I want to do it efficiently. I find trying venues that you know already, or ones you were introduced to by someone else, is the easiest for me.

Almost all the venues I helped onboard involve my own connections or from someone else. I also recommend to always keep an eye out, which is something I did not say during my presentation. For example, I openly tell everyone that we are always looking for places to accept BCH. That will stick to some people’s heads. Then they find places that are interested in accepting and they may ask you for your assistance. A few of the places I helped onboard are connections from meetups.

I also emphasized that onboarding merchants is important, but following up could be even more important and it is what everyone can do. Go to merchants and pay with BCH for their service. Show them we care, and we want to bring business. Building good relationships with merchants is key to adoption.

What are some other common hurdles? 

More than half the merchants I know need to get fiat in order to pay the bills. I think it is totally acceptable as BCH should be able to function as just money too. In Japan and some other countries, we still do not have a merchant app for BCH that lets the merchants cash out in fiat. What I do here is, I personally buy BCH from some merchants who do not have exchange accounts yet, while taking the risk of volatility myself. I know one or more meetup members are doing the same thing for some merchants too.

Also I leave cash (in fiat) at some merchants so they can just take whatever they sell in BCH, and they can send BCH to my wallet. When the cash runs out, I go and add some more. I understand this may be a bit too extreme, and I do not necessarily recommend that everyone does this, but until we have better infrastructure, I feel it is worth it to step out of my comfort zone and become creative until hopefully bigger adoption happens.

Get involved. Attend a meetup or even organize one in your area (lots of crypto lovers online are willing to help). Email meetup@bitcoincashers.org for more information.

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