Richard Branson has joined a burgeoning group of entrepreneurs to endorse bitcoin, the decentralized digital currency. Branson announced on his blog Friday that his commercial space startup Virgin Galactic will allow customers to pay for a ticket to space with bitcoins.
A female flight attendant from Hawaii has already used bitcoin to buy a Virgin Galactic ticket to space, according to Branson.
From Branson's blog post:
Virgin Galactic is a company looking into the future, so is Bitcoin. So it makes sense we would offer Bitcoin as a way to pay for your journey to space. A lot of the people who have joined Bitcoin are tech-minded people, as are many of our current future astronauts.
Branson has shown interest in unconventional payment methods, investing in Square and Clinkle. He has also invested in bitcoins, although it's unclear how many he has purchased.
Branson notes in blog post that the lack of transparency from bitcoin's founders have attracted some criticism. That doesn't appear to concern him. Instead, he appears won over by the currency's open source nature, which allows anyone to audit the code, and that the peer-to-peer payment network gives consumers more control and freedom.
Merchants and startup companies are increasingly accepting bitcoin (or at least thinking about it). And while most of these are smaller niche companies, it does signal a shift in corporate and
entrepreneurs see bitcoin as a means to offer customers lower payment
processing and secure transactions. John Donahoe, the president of eBay, said PayPal could
one day incorporate Bitcoin and online dating site OkCupid already does.
Bitcoin still faces numerous challenges before it's widely adopted by
the mainstream. For one, bitcoins are not formally recognized by governments as a currency. And it has experienced
wild price fluctuations.
Two years ago, one bitcoin was valued at less than $10 and in the beginning of this year it was around $13. In April, the price skyrocketed to more than $260 over a five-week period, before falling again. The value of one bitcoin had nearly doubled in the first two weeks of November to hit $425 on the Toyko-based Mt. Gox exchange and has since surpassed $700.
Photo: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic