Airbitz impressed judges last week in the Inside Bitcoins startup competition, and the wallet walked away as the winner.
You might remember Airbitz as the wallet that has a built-in Bitcoin directory, which points users to nearby merchants that accept Bitcoin. The company is also known for rolling out the first one-touch 2-factor authentication for a mobile wallet, which makes security a little easier for the average Bitcoin user.
The mission is to stick to Bitcoin's decentralized roots while also to make Bitcoin easy to use, a balance that appears to be the unicorn of the Bitcoin space. Airbitz claims that Bitcoin could shake up the fragmented system of mobile payments, improving upon the likes of Square and Google. Cointelegraph caught up with Airbitz founder Paul Puey at Inside Bitcoins New York this month to learn more about where the wallet is headed.
Cointelegraph: I know there are many aspects to Airbitz, but can you briefly summarize your goals?
Paul Puey: At a high level the company's goal is to drive privacy, decentralization, and security to the masses. Those are kind of the three core tenets. We do that by making those three things almost invisible, so that people don't have to see it. They don't have to know it happening.
Otherwise, you're going to be relegated to only the techno-elite or the people that are willing to go through the effort because they believe in the core value system of it. You'll only get those people taking advantage of those core benefits.
CT: How is Airbitz different from other Bitcoin wallets?
PP: There's a pretty significant divide in the bitcoin space in wallets and platforms. The most usable ones, the ones that have the most traction, tend to be the ones that are not wallets at all—they're entirely banks. I made this statement—and I'm trying to challenge this myself—and have other people challenge it—that when you hold your bitcoin with a central party, a third party, you give up every single one of the core benefits of the bitcoin protocol. It's a statement that's a little bold to say. But I haven't heard an argument against it yet.
If we're all so excited about the bitcoin—this whole conference, why are we even here—then why are giving away all its core benefits? These core benefits that it brings to an individual, why are we giving them all up? Right now, those are the implementations that are gaining the most traction. We're trying to bring that level of familiarity and usability while not giving up the core benefits of the core protocol. So retaining the privacy, the decentralization, the autonomy, and the user controlled funds. That's why it's so unique. It's unbiased access to a global economy.
So why is it different from other wallets? It's definitely not a hosted wallet. We don't hold any funds. With respect to the other wallets that are not centrally controlled, we feel that we're usable by the 99 percentile. It's grandma-friendly all the way to the developer-friendly. And there's a tremendous amount of use functionality that makes it usable long-term.
If you're using bitcoin every single day, not as a toy that you send someone a nickle or a few bucks for dinner—but you actually try to live your life in the economy—then all the other wallets would break down. Airbitz wouldn't break down under a true crypto-economy.
CT: So how does it feel to win the Inside Bitcoins startup competition?
PP: I mean, obviously it feels good to win anything, and to have some validation from third parties that what your vision is is somewhat aligned and that you can present well. But it's such a small stepping stone to what we're trying to achieve. I'd like to look back and think, “Wow, that was a fun nugget.” But the stepping stone of what the company and all the founders are trying to achieve, is something that's going to rewrite history books. This is a massive revolution happening and if that change doesn't happen, then we don't feel like we've done our job. It's as simple as that.
To answer the original question: It feels good. It's cool and hopefully it will help us achieve that goal, but it is so, so far from the goal.
CT: What are your immediate next steps?
PP: Continue developing on the app. When I pitched, one of the things I had promised is that we'd offer global bitcoin buy and sell in a handful of countries by this quarter and next quarter—so we're actively developing that.
We'll continue iterating on that. And the big thing to keep innovating rapidly in this competitive landscape is to raise funding. That's why we're here. We're raising a seed round of funding. We can do a ton with few resources because our team runs very lean and is very efficient. We have a software architecture that allows us to do a lot with little work. But that's our big focus and one of the reasons why we're here.