Bitcoin & Beyond – by Eric Benz, Cryptopay
It’s been quite the journey and I’m not just talking about Bitcoin! We have experienced many great technological breakthroughs these last few centuries, but none more significant than Bitcoin. If this is the beginning what is beyond?
I never paid attention to money growing up; not even as a student when I had none as I knew I had a safety net. Its the simple things we take for granted in life and money is the perfect example. Upon leaving college I knew I wanted to work around technology and quickly found a home in the payments industry. What fascinated me most was how painful the process was when it came to moving money. The entire payment stack was broken and it was clear this couldn’t go on forever.
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned these past few years is not only around how money works but what money actually means. When I started working in payments you didn’t have wallets or digital currency; When the internet was in its infancy no one had any idea what to do with it. There was no manual or interface; it was guts and has taken us over 50 years for it to reach today’s level of maturity.
Money was never designed with the ‘digital’ age in mind and as a result had to depend on technology to ‘fit in’. PayPal was that missing link but many didn’t see the immediate advantages. Digital money was in its infancy and user adoption was slow. For all of its inefficiencies and cost, PayPal would quickly become an instant game changing means to transact online for people and businesses globally.
Paypal’s growth can be credited to one industry alone; Gaming. PayPal gave players and users an easy way to get money into the game whilst also giving operators and merchants a more effective way to make payouts. It might sound simple enough but the costs and friction involved in the deposit and withdraw process was and still to this day is the main driving force around financial innovation. PayPal simplified the process and as a result online industries would flourish.
IGaming alone pushed the boundaries of technology and can directly be credited for helping pave the way for what we now know as mobile money. Along with the digitisation of money also came new regulation specifically designed to stifle its growth. Not only did this not stifle innovation it pushed people to further explore technology and think ‘outside the box’.
Money hasn’t changed much these past few centuries. Sure, we’re better connected but cash is still the beating heart of the global economy. Could this change? With one financial collapse after another our confidence in government-backed money is falling. How do we provide digital solutions in areas of the world without even the basic services? We’ve come a long way in making the world a more ‘connected’ community but still struggle reaching most of today’s cash centric communities.
Changing a person’s behaviour is very hard when it comes to money. Cash is King! As the saying goes…or is it? Confidence and trust in finance is at an all time low and we are curious why people in the emerging markets are sceptical. Who is meant to be trusted? From an early age I remember being taught what do with money. My grandfather told me that all my cash should go in the bank. I’ll never forget this conversation because that was the first time he told me what a bank was and I must have only 6 years old at the time. “A bank is the biggest building on the block with the white pillars and the marble floor”
In today’s world this is of course less the case. Banks of today don’t need retail locations or ATM networks; a digital wallet and a smart phone and there’s your bank. Are these new challenger banks truly redefining the way we interact with money? The problem still lies in the rails the fact that these challenger banks still use these legacy rails means its still lipstick on a pig. The rails must be rebuilt from the ground up and the need for better, faster, and more efficient solutions are required immediately.
When bitcoin found me I’ll never forget the day! I was involved with a cash remittance company at the time and the request came in to connect a bitcoin merchant to our MoneyGram network. The year was 2012 and bitcoin was in its infancy at 4 dollars and could be purchased all across America with a money order. As the price continued to rise I immediately began to take notice. Bitcoin operates very similar to cash and this is why many people are beginning to see the advantages but also disadvantages depending which side of the coin you fall on. Cash centric communities worldwide now have a way to digitize their cash whilst maintaining full ownership of their money and not controlled by any central bank or financial institution. Bitcoin provides the ability to make instant payments without the need of a third party to process, clear, or settle the transaction.
Similar to e-money; bitcoin would quickly gain traction with online gaming operators and players as it provided the ability for payments to be made from anywhere in the world without the need for third party intervention. Bitcoin was the first time players actually had a functional single unit of account, which acted very much like a casino chip but in a digital landscape. The gaming industries quickly took notice to bitcoin and as a result now see it being used across many other industries.
Like most still to date, I also used to be a sceptic. I understood the technology but couldn’t picture it being an efficient means to store value. Over the past 8 years though bitcoin has shown this not to be the case at all. Fortunately for me I saw the writing on the wall early and realised its true potential late 2012. For me the great opportunity now is developing solutions for customers to be able to interact with bitcoin without having to deal with all the complexities. As with any early technology, it starts in a nascent state and over time it matures take in point the Internet. The Internet was never built to transfer data and messaging. It was never thought of as being a way to transfer value so many of the features required were not built from the ground up. Bitcoin has changed the game when it comes to how we define money and more importantly how we use it.
I realised early on that bitcoin needed a bridge into the legacy financial infrastructure and both on-boarding and off-boarding points would be key to its increased adoption and growth. Providing products and services, which fit into the consumer mind-set is key with any new technology but even more with bitcoin. I’ve been involved thus far with a few different companies in bitcoin both in an investment and advisory capacity but none that I’m more excited about as I am with Cryptopay.
Cryptopay is one of the UK and EU’s longest running bitcoin exchanges, wallet providers, merchant processors and bitcoin debit card providers. I met the founders, Dmitry and George, back in 2013 and it was clear from that moment, these guys knew exactly how to build a business let alone the rails in and out of bitcoin. After a few years I have witnessed the business grow and the product gain significant traction and I’m very exited for what’s in store As of January 2017 I officially joined Cryptopay as the new Managing Director and really get behind the company I saw as having a big future. Our product is by far the easiest and most compliant way to store, purchase and use bitcoin both for the consumer as well as any merchant. We have some exciting products launching this year along with announcing some further strategic partnerships.
A bit about the Benz
Deeply involved in the payments technology sector for the last decade, Eric Benz leads Pay-Tech solutions for some of today’s most exciting companies and is focused on providing innovative financial services to partners in mature and emerging markets.
At the forefront of mobile and alternative payments, Eric engages with merchants and payment service providers around the world. His expertise is vast in the European and emerging markets and has worked in many different places immersing himself with localised payment solutions for the under banked consumers who live in low card penetration demographics.
Shaping the future of money is the main driving force for Eric. Recently, Eric has been providing innovative fintech services utilising rapidly emerging bitcoin and blockchain technologies. The identity of payments is rapidly evolving from legacy financial services to new dynamic cutting-edge blockchain based applications.
Prior to being Managing Director for Cryptopay, Eric served as a Founding Director for the UKDCA (UK Digital Currency Association) and has advised many fintech related businesses
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