It is lunchtime in Oslo’s Majorstuen and the air feels crispy cold. Inside the coffee shop it is a cozy and somehow cosmopolitan atmosphere with low-voices speaking English in background. The smell of freshly brewed coffee is even more enjoyable when you sit comfortable in high-back, velvet dressed, armchairs. After all we are here for an informal conversation about Bitcoin and Fashion.
Torbjørn Bull Jenssen, my discussion & coffee partner, is expert in crypto-currency with dedicated studies, and a PhD in perspective, about Bitcoin. His name is familiar among high-profile financial institutions in Oslo that invite him to debate in seminars and conferences with large audience. He is part of the Menon Economics team as a senior economist.
Being concerned with how new payment methods and forms of money affect society, he tests himself the way Bitcoin works. “I bought few Bitcoins some years ago for making use of them, specially for buying food and stuff when I travel abroad. Here in Norway are fewer opportunities to spend Bitcoin but I did buy some nice smoked lamb at a farm in Namsos. I wanted to experience directly how is to use this new way of paying”. He sounds pleased about his purchase but most of all about the experience of spending money without having a third party to take its share and register his moves.
“ Earlier was much easier to spend your Bitcoin but now came so many investors in, that fees for transactions went up. Only the progress of block-chain technology is going to make it cheaper again for small transactions. Anyhow, for becoming a currency it has to have more use for purchasing goods, there must be more players in the market that offer their goods and services in bitcoin as well”. He names a couple of places in Oslo and the farm in North-Trøndelag but the number of businesses accepting Bitcoin is pretty limited in Norway. It is different in the Netherlands where he could have paid with Bitcoin in many coffee shops since 2 years ago. “A good overview about where Bitcoin is accepted you can find online with Coin Map. I always search for new places that accept this crypto-currency when I am traveling to new cities. It is funny and also practical, you can see the restaurant or the bar right on the map” he adds.
The day we talk, Wednesday 29th November, Bitcoin value jumped over 10.000 USD. Is this something to worry about or is it just normal development? I ask. “Somehow this was to be expected, but personally I would have preferred a slower pace in increasing its value. It has increased a lot, too quickly, and that might trigger a quick fall as well. I don’t believe it can be “killed”, but to have a sharp fall, that it might happen. It has happened before and came back on track. Besides, prices are in fiat currencies. If something costs 100 NOK than I pay 100 NOK independently of Bitcoin value, if it’s 1000 USD or 10.000 USD.” That being said, I understand that Bitcoin is here for staying independently of the market psychology, and periods of pessimism will alternate with those of optimism. “Bitcoin it’s a mature crypto-currency, it has a longer history behind compared with other crypto-currencies and most important, survived several attacks. In a storm it is important to have an experienced crew that can navigate the boat safely” he adds metaphorically. The Bitcoin is already a brand in itself, a fashionable investment and the herald of a new revolution called decentralization. And the technology behind this revolution, it’s complexity, it is interesting to be studied and understood.
Torbjørn Bull Jenssen at NRKbeta
Our chat transition from Bitcoin to Fashion is received with a giggle and a disarming confession. Torbjørn Bull Jenssen is not so much concerned about dressing well but he believes that someone’s way of dressing should enhance the character. “In professional meetings I represent the company I work with, and I dress up for example if I have to meet people from the finance industry. But definitely I do not dress like a dandy” he adds, confirming the general attitude of the Norwegian businessmen towards dressing up.
Quality of the product is the main criteria for him when buying clothing. He does not choose emotionally because of the brand name, the product itself has to have an intrinsic value. “In private I represent myself and I like to dress in a way that it makes me feel myself. When I buy something first I feel the quality and then I look to see what impression gives to me when I am dressed with the garment. I am tall and slim and often this is a problem because garments do not have a proper arm and body length.” I totally agree with my interlocutor. I have already seen many Scandinavian tall men wearing shirts that are too short. Scandinavian market is small and mass-production shirt brands give little attention for the extra shirt-length some men would need in this part of the world. “I prefer to be considered for what I think and say rather than how I dress,” concludes my interlocutor.
My final question is not so much about Fashion but about Torbjørn Bull Jenssen public profile, seen in an unconventional way: Mr. Bitcoin, Bitcoin Advocate or Bitcoin Guru…which of the nick-name alternatives would he prefer? It follows a moment of silence when I am not sure that I will get a precise answer but with a grin he decides: Bitcoin Guru. “Because is about making people to understand the knowledge behind the concept and I really enjoy to engage and discuss with people, have a real dialog instead of just presenting the concept.”
By the time I am writing this blog post, a new business has been registered on Coin map for accepting payments with Bitcoin in Oslo: ulv-shirts.com. Allegedly a Bitcoin Guru has converted the business owner into a hard-core, Bitcoin believer.