An Edmonton-based Bitcoin broker is spending $4 million to move its headquarters from Whyte Avenue to the Downtown core.
Bitcoin Well, a company that buys and sells digital currency, announced on Tuesday it had secured 35,000 square feet of office space spanning across two floors at the corner of 104 Street and Jasper Avenue. The company plans to move from its current location along 82 Avenue to the new space by the end of the year.
The move comes as the city’s Downtown reports the highest office vacancy rate in decades. By the end of 2020, the rate had climbed to nearly 18 per cent, according to Colliers International’s year-end report.
Bitcoin Well founder Adam O’Brien said the new space will allow the company to grow as the location along Whyte Avenue was getting too small. He said he did get a favourable rate for the new location but believes it was because the landlord saw the potential of the company.
“We made a conscious choice to stay in Edmonton,” O’Brien said. “We started designing this in the (COVID-19) pandemic so it didn’t change anything for us, but we did go away from a completely open-concept and move towards being team-focused. We’ve made a decision to kind of make little cohorts, or smaller offices, inside the big office. The flip side is we’re going to have a giant eating area (with) individual nap pods (and) a kitchen.”
Bitcoin Well began operations in 2013 in order to give customers more convenient access to cryptocurrency. The company brought in some of the first Bitcoin ATMs to Alberta and Saskatchewan and now has more than 100 machines across Canada. Bitcoin Well employs about 40 people but O’Brien said he plans to expand that to roughly 150 within the new space.
The move also comes as more people have shifted to working at home because of the pandemic. O’Brien said he found that productivity had increased while people were working at home but innovative ideas were down.
“When we were together, having what I’ve kind of deemed like the accidental conversations, those have been yielding products or product features that we haven’t seen coming from Zoom calls or Google Meets,” he said. “We’re setting up (the new space to be) more inviting and more collaborative.”
Tech sector small but growing
While small, Edmonton’s tech sector has been growing over the past few years and was ranked among the top 10 markets to watch by CBRE Limited’s 2020 ranking on U.S. and Canadian cities The city had more than 25,200 jobs in the tech sector in 2019, a 17 per cent increase over the last five years, according to the ranking.
O’Brien said the University of Alberta provides great talent for the tech industry, which normally turns to places such as Vancouver and Toronto.
“There are some great organizations that are calling Edmonton home,” he said. “We love working with the (U of A) and other colleges around town to have summer students or internships, get them used to the organization. We’re all about cultivating talent and I think Edmonton has done a great job.”