Austin Craig: Pioneer in the Wild West of marketing and technology

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Austin and Beccy Craig took a 100-day trip around America, Europe and Asia using only bitcoin, a digital currency. Their trip experiences will be documented in a film called "Life on Bitcoin." (Photo courtesy of Austin Craig.)
Austin and Beccy Craig took a 100-day trip around America, Europe and Asia using only bitcoin, a digital currency. Their trip experiences will be documented in a film called “Life on Bitcoin.” (Photo courtesy of Austin Craig)

Austin Craig and his new wife, Beccy Bingham Craig, had aching stomachs in Stockholm, Sweden. They sat in their hotel room, hungry and watching the clock, waiting for the hotel breakfast at 7 a.m. By the time breakfast was available, they had gone about 24 hours without eating.

It is not always easy being a pioneer in the Wild West of technology, as the Craigs have found out. There were times when the couple had to go without food — not because they did not have money but because they could not find anybody who would take the currency they carried.

The newlyweds left in July on a 100-day trip across America, Europe and Asia using nothing but Bitcoin. They were accompanied by a film crew making a Kickstarter-funded documentary.

Craig describes Bitcoin as a decentralized digital currency that lives online. It is not issued by a government or a bank, and it has no physical representation.

The couple and camera crew met varied reactions along the way, including enthusiasm from other Bitcoin users and skepticism from those who did not know about the currency. There were times when the couple struck out finding food and had to go without it. However, there was only one time they had to go 24 hours without eating.

“Austin and Beccy — both of them were super awesome,” said Travis Pitcher, cameraman for the documentary and founder of film company The Good Line. “They stuck to the rules and had their heads up and were very enthusiastic through the whole thing. They went on the trip very well prepared, so there was foresight there, but I think they underestimated how hard it would be.”

This is not the first time Craig has been at the forefront of something new. Some particular classes he took at BYU, where he graduated with a communications degree, helped him realize what he could do with his life.

“In the entrepreneurship classes I took, they talked about how you can decide what you do, you can decide what goods and services you’re offering,” Craig said. “That wasn’t something I had been taught before. I had been taught to get a good job and hold on to it. … It was through the entrepreneurship (classes) that I realized I can do whatever I want.”

It was through one of these classes that Craig got an internship at FamilyLink, which used to operate the “We’re Related” Facebook app. At this internship, Craig heard about a need and opportunity at Orabrush.

At the time, Orabrush was a struggling company. Craig became the face of the company, and a video he made on its behalf was prominently featured on YouTube in its early days of advertising. It was then that Orabrush’s sales and distribution skyrocketed.

Craig is still working with Orabrush and was more recently involved with the launch of Orapup, a brush designed to beat bad dog breath. Although it takes skill and perseverance to launch a new product, Craig was able to make it work.

Craig put perseverance and many of the skills he developed to the test on the Bitcoin project. To try to convince vendors to do transactions with them, the couple would offer to set them up with a Bitcoin miner program, which allows for secure Bitcoin transactions. In some cases, they would offer to pay a premium on top of the asking price or send out small test amounts of currency.

Being in challenging situations was an adventure for the newlywed couple.

“I think we learned a lot about each other. … We saw each other in a variety of situations, so it helped us grow closer and figure out our dynamic a bit more,” Beccy Bingham Craig said. “We had each others’ backs, which was awesome.”

The documentary about the couple’s trip will be completed in April or May 2014. From there, the Craigs plan to take it to film festivals to see how it is received. At the end of the day “Life on Bitcoin” will likely be available online, and people may be able to rent or buy the film using, yes, Bitcoin.

Austin Craig is enthusiastic about the future. He has seen how new forms of media and funding have shaped the world with his documentary being crowd-funded by donors on Kickstarter and his involvement in Orabrush in the early days of advertising on YouTube.

“In my career, I anticipate that I’ll continue to, and always be looking for, new platforms that present new opportunities,” Austin Craig said.

The future is looking bright in the Wild West of marketing and technology for the Craigs and anybody else with a vision, diligence and perseverance to make things happen.

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