If you’ve driven on Santa Clara’s Lawrence Expressway sometime in the past six months, you may have seen the Bitcoin honey badger. He’s on a billboard between the El Camino Real (the road that once served as the major traffic artery from San Francisco to San Jose) and Highway 101 (the modern-day equivalent).
Roger Ver pays for the billboard, forking over about $1,500 a month. It’s located about half a mile from Ver’s company, Memorydealers, a computer-parts reseller that in 2011 became the first company to accept bitcoins — a digital currency that exists only on the internet — in exchange for real-world products. With the billboard, Ver is encouraging others to follow his lead.
The billboard housed a variety of other Bitcoin ads before the honey badger, but it’s the honey badger that really caught on. It has become a beacon for those who believe that digital currency is destined to take over the financial world.
It plays off an existing meme. The honey badger became the internet’s ultimate snake-eating, beehive busting badass after a January 2011 video on the animal went viral. “Honey badger don’t care” is the family-friendly version of the video’s catch phrase. With his billboard, Ver is applying that same attitude to Bitcoin, an open source system controlled by no one that lets you store and transmit money without the big banks and credit card companies.
Thanks to Ver’s billboard, you can now buy Bitcoin honey badger t-shirts, and the little devil crops up in all kinds of pro-Bitcoin images across the net. “The Bitcoin honey badger has made its way all over the internet,” says Ver. It’s a meme within a meme.
The meme’s message is especially resonant today, as China has taken steps in the past weeks to clamp down on Bitcoin trading, a move that sent the value of a bitcoin plummeting. The believers don’t care what the Chinese government does, and their numbers are growing, as Silicon Valley takes begins to embrace the currency in a big way.
“Silicon Valley is a great place for Bitcoin, since everyone understands computers, and there are lots of libertarians running around,” Ver says. He plans to keep the honey badger up “until I think of some other interesting idea for the billboard.”
The point, he says, is that — for people who see Bitcoin as a game-changing, frictionless payment system — it doesn’t really matter what the currency is trading at. Bitcoin’s recent price drop is bad news for speculators, but for the honey badger true believers, it doesn’t really matter.
Says Ver: “I don’t think Bitcoin cares what the Chinese or American politicians do.”