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Earthling Interactive: Local tech company gifts employees bitcoin for the holidays

Contact: Erin Courtenay, Digital Communications Earthling Interactive

Madison, Wisconsin — In mid-November bitcoin began a wild climb, rising nearly 2000% since the beginning of 2017. With the holidays coming up, local tech company Earthling Interactive thought it would be fun to gift staff with a token amount of bitcoin. A stroke of luck meant that their initial buy of $50 per person increased 70% in a matter of days.

So how do you gift bitcoin anyway?
Earthling considered setting up an account using the company credit card to purchase bitcoin but fees and uncertainty about who would need to “own” the account made that impractical. Instead, office cryptocurrency expert, Don Smith, volunteered to purchase $1,650 in bitcoin using his account which was expensed to the company.

With bitcoin in hand, the company needed to figure out to distribute the digital currency. The popular exchange platform Coinbase doesn’t support transactions with multiple recipients, so they needed to send the funds to an Electrum wallet where Mr. Smith could divvy up and send the bitcoin to multiple public keys. Earthling needed to place the keys in the possession of individual staff but asking every employee to set up a digital wallet was burdensome. Instead, they generated paper wallets at bitcoinpaperwallet.com where they selected an attractive holiday-themed wallet design to print the public/private keys.

The next step was to build a list of the public keys to which Earthling would send the bitcoin allotments. There was a little anxiety while they waited for confirmation that the company hadn’t lost one-and-a-half grand to the digital ether, but ten minutes and a $65 fee later they had successfully transferred the bitcoin to 33 public keys.

Staff then prepared the wallets to make a presentable and somewhat secure packet for the precious keys using holographic security stickers and zip sealing bags. Paper wallets have no actual value other than as a reference for the private and public keys, but that information should be carefully guarded from tampering and water damage.

It Held!
Gifting bitcoin means you run the risk of handing over a lump of coal instead of the shiny object you’d planned on. Lucky for them, the price held until the day of the office holiday party when they passed out paper wallets to all the employees.

Does this mean Earthing advocates moving to digital currency for transactions? Is payroll next? Not so fast. “We admire the elegance of the blockchain and appreciate the hacker roots of cryptocurrency. But we also respect the skeptics and as a practical matter need to remain firmly in the fiat world,” says company CEO Adam Simcock. But they probably won’t hear any complaints if that token gift turns into a nice family vacation for employees that hold the currency long enough.

About Earthling Interactive: Earthling Interactive helps businesses and institutions build better products and systems through excellence in software development and engineering.

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