Will P2P Bitcoin Save The Unbanked?

Bitcoin often gets a bad rap and, by association, so can the organizations and companies looking to use digital currency platforms to power financial innovation.

Many believe that bitcoin is just for two types of people: techies or criminals. The latter is what has smeared bitcoin’s name. But there’s one company that launched in 2013 that’s hoping to bring a sense of security for those looking to embrace bitcoin as a legitimate cog of the financial ecosystem.

Meet BitQuick, a P2P trading platform that connects buyers and sellers of bitcoin directly, which promises to provide a safe and secure arbitration service. This platform allows anyone — even the unbanked — to buy bitcoin with cash anywhere.

And after its graduation from the Boost VC bitcoin accelerator program last May, BitQuick is equipped to have a trading volume of $1.2 million on a monthly basis. That’s up from $100,000 every 30 days, prior to that graduation.

To catch up with what’s going on with BitQuick, PYMNTS spoke with CEO Jad Mubaslat about why BitQuick views itself as “the safest way for a buyer and seller to connect in a peer-to-peer manner to exchange bitcoins.”

For starters, that’s because the buyer and seller are never directly in communication, he explains, and BitQuick is facilitating and guaranteeing each and every trade. 

PYMNTS: Who is the average BitQuick user?

JM: Our average transaction is around $350. These aren’t extremely wealthy individuals. They are just your everyday person. Most of them are looking to purchase an item online. We are the only service out there that lets consumers turn their cash into bitcoins within the first day for consumers who are brand new to the ecosystem. A lot of other services make you wait a few days. If you are trying to buy items with bitcoin, you are going to need them instantly. So, a lot of those people come to us. 

Average core users are mostly males, 18–34. A fair amount want to buy bitcoin in order to remit them back home. It’s becoming an interesting use case for bitcoin.

PYMNTS: How do you feel your company is helping innovate the payments space using bitcoin?

JM: By being at the ground level, the infrastructure level almost of bitcoin, we’re making sure that when the bitcoin ecosystem expands, it has to be easy and frictionless for individuals to enter the bitcoin space. The first step of that, obviously, is converting cash into bitcoin.

When I started the company back in Aug. 2013, my goal was simply to provide a service that was simple, safer and more secure for users to acquire their first bitcoin. I think we’ve achieved and fulfilled that goal very well for the past three years. What we have to do is continue to offer that availability to anyone in the United States so they can jump into the bitcoin ecosystem. That’s how we feel we are doing our part on the ground level to essentially bring all the benefits that bitcoin offers to the people that can benefit from bitcoin — one of those main demographics being the unbanked. 

PYMNTS: How do you convey the safety and security of your bitcoin trading platform, particularly in light of the cases that have shed a negative impact on the industry?

JM: After the Mt. Gox incident … we were the first bitcoin trading platform to actually launch proof of reserves. So, we’ve been showing the proof of our bitcoin holdings as long as anyone is trading on the platforms. So, whenever you’re executing a trade, you know that the bitcoins you are putting on hold are already waiting in an escrow address, ready to go. So, there’s no risk of the seller simply running off with your money and with you having it with no recourse.

We believe, by not just offering the security to the users but on the next level of offering transparency, it really helps put people’s minds at ease. In addition to that, we don’t offer our own wallets. Users simply provide their wallet addresses to us. So, we try and control customer funds as little as possible. And even when the funds are in our escrow address, so to speak, they are still in multi-signature addresses, which essentially means we’ve got various parties that are controlling whether we release these coins. That makes it very difficult for an attacker to really ever get to our bitcoins in our cold wallet. 

PYMNTS: What should the attendees of Innovation Project expect to hear from BitQuick?

JM: We’re looking to demonstrate a little bit about how the process looks for someone who is looking to onboard into the bitcoin ecosystem. So, someone who is unbanked. Our platform doesn’t require people to have a bank, so we are serving the people that will really most greatly benefit from having access to the financial system. 

Something unique to our platform is that we offer a compliance API for our sellers, so if they are a money service business, they can easily collect information on our buyers without having to directly ask each one to handle the sensitive data. They can depend on a company such as ours to be collecting that data, supporting whatever relevant information they need to fulfill their reporting requirements.

We are the only peer-to-peer service that is guaranteeing that, with each trade that is executed, each side is going to get what they need. 

Jad Mubaslat and BitQuick will be among the innovators participating in the Innovator Expo at this year’s Innovation Project, taking place March 16–17 at Harvard University.



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