One company's experience with bitcoin: Tortuga Backpacks

Monday 25 August 2014

A passion for travel and a frustration with the lack of decent, quality backpacks was what first led to two best friends forming their own company, specialising in travel backpacks. Four years later, Tortuga Backpacks is a successful online company, which in the past year, has also started to accept bitcoin.

Fred Perrotta and Jeremy Michael Cohen from Pennsylvania, United States, recognized the gap in the market and describe their flagship product, the Tortuga Travel Backpack, as just the right luggage: organized, easy to use, and sized perfectly as a carry-on for flights. 

Tortuga Backpacks accept bitcoinSince its inception, the firm has continued to grow to the point that the backpacks, available in batches every few months, are quick to go within the day. The pair have even started a biannual Study Abroad Scholarship for students looking to study around the world. With this growth, the duo has expanded their horizons with their acceptance and support of bitcoin.
Fred and Jeremy have been interested in bitcoin and have been supporting the cryptocurrency for a while now, having started accepting it back in 2013. Fred himself has even written about the future of bitcoin in Tortuga's blog. The two have shown enough confidence that instead of converting the cryptocurrency to fiat as many businesses do, they have been storing it.  Since then, the results for the company have been interesting. With a mix of success, disappointment, and positivity, the story behind the company's bitcoin acceptance is well-worth the read so BitScan spoke to Fred to learn all about the highs and lows of being a bitcoin business.

BitScan: When did you start accepting Bitcoin, and why?
Fred Perotta: We started accepting Bitcoin when Shopify, our ecommerce software, added it as a new payment option in late 2013. While I work in ecommerce, I'm also a tech nerd living in San Francisco, so I was very familiar with Bitcoin. When Shopify added Bitcoin, I thought that it would be a good experiment and a way to support an exciting new technology.

BitScan: What payment system do you use for Bitcoin transactions? (Coinbase, BitPay, etc.)
FP: Shopify initially integrated with Bitpay, so we used Bitpay for transactions and Coinbase as our wallet. Shopify now integrates directly with Coinbase, so we just use Coinbase for everything.

BitScan: Do you convert all your Bitcoin to fiat, or do you keep a portion of it as Bitcoin?
FP: To date, we've kept it all in bitcoin. Most of our bitcoin sales came as part of the Bitcoin Black Friday promotion last year when bitcoin was at its peak of over $1,000. We haven't needed the money yet, so we kept it in bitcoin to see if we can at least get back to even on it.

BitScan: How successful has accepting Bitcoin been for your business? How many Bitcoin transactions do you get a month?
FP: Accepting bitcoin has been a great way to connect with likeminded customers. We've gotten several thank you emails. We haven't had a regular flow of bitcoin purchases though. Most came on Bitcoin Black Friday then a few thanks to tweets from DailyBitcoiner.

BitScan: What are your personal views of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?
FP: As a traveler and owner of a travel company, I'm most intrigued by bitcoin's potential as an international currency that doesn't need to be exchanged and can be transferred instantly and cheaply, if not for free. Bitcoin could eliminate foreign transaction fees and currency exchange fees while encouraging more cross-border commerce. We're all for it.

I wrote about BC's potential as an international currency and some of the travel companies already accepting it here:

BitScan: Did you have any burdens or 'bumps' with accepting Bitcoin?
FP: No problems so far except that the price dropped right after we got our first BC orders. We're still bullish on BTC and understand it's very much a long game. We haven't spent any bitcoin yet but look forward to keeping it in the tech ecosystem and using it to pay for hosting, SaaS, and other online products.

BitScan: What advice would you give for any merchants considering to accept Bitcoin?
FP: Do it! Support causes you believe in that are empowering for individuals. Here's to the future!

While bitcoin hasn't proved to be tremendously successful for the company, the smooth sales that have come through are definitely a positive, along with the positive PR that comes with it. Hopefully Fred and Michael's patience pays off and they see their bitcoin portfolio getting into the green given time. We'd like to give a shout-out to Fred and Tortuga for taking the time to reach out to us - and with an upcoming new backpack design coming out, BitScan wishes the two luck, especially as bitcoin continues to grow.

Kevin Payravi

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