Despite being hailed as the best for security, accountability and resilience, Blockchain initiatives seem quite exposed to all sorts of malicious actors.

Mt.Gox collapse has become a byword, but there are other, more recent examples, such as The DAO attack, and the ensuing ETH vs. ETC feud, or the HashOcean hack. In an environment like that, there is a need for secure apps, which care about the safety of their users’ funds.

Waterhole, a company registered in US, has built an app based on these ideas. It is an encrypted Blockchain-powered messenger, an OTC escrow, and a local trading marketplace, all in one simple mobile app.

Different approaches to crypto apps

Seven years after the launch of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency industry is still growing rapidly.

Different trends come and go, and new projects appear daily, striving to find their niche and their audience. Some choose to compete in highly saturated markets, such as exchanges and wallets. There are also those who maintain a combined approach by fusing several crypto applications into one solution, or bringing the benefits of cryptocurrency to hitherto unrelated systems.

The success of the latter approach was recently demonstrated by Steemit, a decentralized social platform which rewards its content creators. Steem, the cryptocurrency which powers the Steemit network, is right now one of the top three coins by market capitalization, right below Bitcoin and Ethereum - just several months after the launch of Steemit.

What is Waterhole?

Waterhole is designed in California by Ziqi Chen and Jason Nguyen who have first-hand experience in trading, mining, and ATM operations; the app source code is developed in China and US by top engineers from various universities.

Its first and foremost feature is the OTC escrow Bitcoin trading. Waterhole allows its users to find buyers or sellers based on location, volume, score, ratings, verification, and more. There are extensive safety measures in place, in order to prevent fraudulent activity.

Its additional feature, a social instant messaging platform, provides end-to-end dynamic encryption, and in case a user somehow loses their phone, Waterhole has the ability to block the device until a new one is bought and verified.

Waterhole’s key focus is to provide the images of receipts and verification of uploads as genuine proof of payment, which means that there is no room for photoshopped or modified editing. Users have options to undergo a triple-layer verification process via ID, headshot photo and video verification. After that, the location-based selling feature gives an additional layer of security by allowing users to set up face-to-face transactions. Geo-fencing allows Waterhole to block suspicious activity from particular areas. These verifications will be fully controlled by the trading parties and are not mandatory.

Dealing with scam payments

Cointelegraph has reached out to Jason Nguyen, Waterhole’s COO, and asked him to tell us more about their team’s prior experiences, and their product.

Nguyen says:

“Being a mobile-based escrow trading marketplace, it allows us to protect both sellers and buyers as opposed to web-based, which are prone to phishing attacks and viruses. One of our goals is to alleviate the pain produced for OTC users by scam payments. The instant messaging aspect allows for blazing fast trades to be completed.”

Waterhole veterans of pool mining in Avalon from 2013 and one of the very top traders on Localbitcoins with 30,000+ confirmed trades.

“Here is a technical guide we wrote on Bitcointalk in 2013 in regards to Bitcoin mining,” says Nguyen. “We assisted Blackarrow, a UK mining rig manufacturer who also had a factory in Shenzhen, China to make the very first Bitfury miners. We also developed a  strong relationship with ATM companies such as BitAccess and BitOcean.”

Pokemon Go, OpenBazaar and others

Waterhole is operating from China. Nguyen explains that they chose to develop in China because they wanted top engineers to work for them, those who know both aspects of hacking and security related fields.

Waterhole is registered in the U.S. and FinCEN licensed federally as a completely regulated marketplace.

Nguyen says:

“We are constantly developing and improving the platform, one example being the implementation of trading game accounts, which is already in place today. One of its use cases is to allow users to list their Pokemon Go on Waterhole and sell internationally with escrow protection.”

Nguyen believes that Waterhole will be a true marketplace competing with OpenBazaar, with built-in IM and escrow services. They will offer customers a low fee (e.g. 0.99% for all trading), escrow service worldwide, and also solve the virtual currency volatility issue, which may lead many traditional business to benefit from BTC.

He notes:

“Some examples: we allow international legal consulting services for lawyers and remote customers, such as language speaker conversation services, or even for international school applicants to receive consulting services from existing students in the university they’re interested in applying, who are then be paid in BTC.”

Currently, Waterhole is running promotions of 1mBTC faucet for new users and no escrow fee for the introductory period.