While in NYC last week at a Bitcoin developer’s meeting I met two interesting guys behind a new payment network called Easybitz, that allows merchants to be set up with bitcoin without even needing internet. A true Bitcoin innovation. In addition to getting a sneak-peek of their impressive mobile merchant app, I got to interview the creators, Ray Yusuf and Artur Schaback.
What is Easybitz and how was it formed?
EasyBitz is a payment network powered by crypto-currency. It began on the New Year of 2014 when Ray, a crypto fanatic, tried to explain bitcoin to a friend who ran a shop. Three hours later it became clear to me that for Bitcoin to work on the street a vastly different approach was necessary. I built a 0 click system, using preprinted paper wallets, to allow even the crustiest non techie NYC shopkeeper to get bitcoin. Made a video about it just for crypto geeks and somehow the media got ahold of it and the next thing you know we were on Fox Business news nationwide and signups were coming in from all over the world.
Working desperately to keep up with the demand I began to realize that for bitcoin to work on the street a 0 click system wasn’t enough, an entire eco system had to be built. Nearly everything was happening to stop it, I came down with pneumonia and a hernia and then my mother got very sick but I still kept going and literally prayed for help. When I finally was able to get out again I went to a Meetup for bitcoin Developers BitDev’s and the organizer introduced me to Artur the moment I stepped into the door for the first time. It was like magic and we joined forces. Artur has single-handedly rebuilt the entire operation into an enterprise-grade cryptocurrency network, ready to host the most comprehensive retail bitcoin network in the world.
What is you guys’ professional background?
Ray: I come from a liberal arts background and taught myself to code. My first business was ringtones and I had what was called the “Napster of Ringtones” at the time (2001) Napster went down. We kept low and did really well selling 20 second monophonic songs for $2.00 Looking back at that I see ringtones as one of the first social digital currencies since the way they were traded, acquired and showed off was more akin to a currency than content. My next business was a social network based on virtual gift giving in 2004. We made Wired magazine and national news when one of our members got over $10,000 in virtual gifts in a single month. We had our own virtual currency as well backed by the trendy theme of the site much like a nightclub.
Artur has a BSc degree in business information technology and has worked on European banking systems back office operations for over 4 years and is also a superb UI designer. Moreover, Artur had success with mobile apps and has successfully created and marketed apps on the Play market totaling over 500k downloads. A couple of years ago Artur started with his own consulting company and has provided solutions for enterprises with bank integrations. Artur is a lot more than a coder or tech guy, he really loves solving big business challenges and that makes him an architect and a visionary at heart.
What are you guys currently busy with?
The deeper we go into the challenge of signing up merchants the more we see it is not about signing up merchants. We’ve got our pitch down to where signing someone up is a breeze, the challenge comes in showing them what it can do for their business. No fees and ease of use are great but it doesn’t mean anything unless they are getting customers. To really make Bitcoin “stick to the street” we have to prove to the merchants that it is real and this means mobilizing the bitcoin community to support those merchants in a way that is psychologically active.
This translates into flash mobs of Bitcoin users rushing to support a merchant. This demands we have a consumer based presence as well. This is a whole new business, ask Groupon or any retail reward network. We’re out to do one thing and do it better than anyone else, however that one thing isn’t being a payment processor. More and more we see that our core value must be in building out an entire crypto-currency ecosystem for retail transactions.
What is your vision for Easybitz?
To make Bitcoin real for everyone. By everyone we mean a merchant selling a bottle of coke in the Ivory Coast, to a hardworking son sending money back his family in Calcutta to a guy taking his sweet heart to dinner. By making it real we mean showing the whole world that you don’t have to know a thing about bitcoin to use it and let it make your life easier and more free. To do this we are going to have to build out an entire crypto currency eco system, not because we want such an immense challenge but because we have to. No one else is doing it, not on the street anyway.
Some folks out there may be disheartened to see that bitcoin’s transaction volume isn’t growing exponentially. Folks need to take a birds-eye view of this immense opportunity before us. Going back five years to the birth of Bitcoin isn’t enough. We need to step way back, beyond Colonial Script of the 13 colonies, beyond the Battle of Waterloo, beyond the Florentine merchants and even beyond the coins of Lydia. We need to appreciate the immense value that bitcoin has given civilization in that for the first time in so very long people are asking “what is money?”
Once we realize that money is work we see that every word we write, hash we crack and most importantly fellow human we educate about bitcoin is adding tremendous value to this new peoples economy. Once we realize that our passion and effort is what has taken bitcoin from zero to an eight billion dollar economy we can see the full scope of the opportunity before us. We should understand that the hard part is done, and that now comes the fun part. Now come the building and connecting.
The most valuable work now won’t be building API’s and features but connecting with people. Bitcoin is becoming a functional fixture in the lives of humans now. For that to truly stick bitcoin must first morph from an idea of a decentralized consensus engine into a seamless tool of value transaction. Us crypto geeks need to be ok with that and adopt a new state of mind. The cocoon should’ve burst a while ago but it certainly is happening now and the sight to see will be worth waiting for.