The world’s first cash-in cash-out remittance platform built on the revolutionary blockchain technology, Bitspark is truly disrupting the US$700 billion remittance industry. For too long, the industry is being played and manipulated by banks and other money transfer platforms like Western Union and MoneyGram. Then came Bitspark, that showed the world how banks and other money transfer platforms are charging so much and practically ripping off people in the name of cross-border transaction fees. Bitspark is the world’s first bank-less money transfer platform that uses cryptocurrency for international money transfers and only charges a fraction for the transaction fee, much less than other remittance platforms.
A blockchain and crypto enthusiast, Maxine Ryan, the co-founder and COO of Bitspark is challenging the status quo, along with George Harrap, her business partner and other co-founder of Bitspark. I talked to Maxine and she discussed the challenges Bitspark is currently facing, vision of her startup and current circumstances Bitspark is going through.
- What difference do you see in conditions when you first started Bitspark in 2014 and now?
Maxine: Specifically in Hong Kong there hasn’t been too much of a difference just because there hasn’t been a huge legal change or regulation change, pertaining to cryptocurrencies. I personally think it is a good thing as I do understand the need for a minimized risk but I actually like the way that Hong Kong is approaching this landscape, which is more of a wait-and-see approach. I would say that because of the landscape, regulators have a hard task on their hands to try to understand how to regulate this space without trying to tap off the potential as we have seen in the U.S. where businesses are failing because they sought to spend so much time and money on the regulations.
- Since 2017-18 bull run, have Bitspark witnessed an increase number of users?
Maxine: We are in the game of moving money using cryptocurrencies so we have seen a very steady adoption of Bitspark over time. I would say that we have seen pretty healthy adoption, although our customers don’t know that they are using cryptocurrency, they just see that they have got a really good rate and sometimes it is 15% better than the market rate and a lot better than Western Union or any other service. But I would say that adoption has definitely become much easier in terms of selling practice standpoint because they already know of bitcoin and there isn’t such a vagueness around it that people could not understand before.
- Great! Currently, in how many countries people can actually use Bitspark?
Maxine: We have 4 cashing locations in Hong Kong and one vault. The vault is for business customers and the shops are for retail customers, so people can cash in meaning, they can get a balance on their account, now that does not mean that people can’t deposit cryptocurrency. Currently, people can actually deposit Ethereum and bitcoin as well and as soon as they have a balance, they can cash out from Philippines, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria and Vietnam as well. There are 5 countries and over half a million locations that people can currently cash out from.
People in the country that are sending and the countries of which they can send to, is not really the cash out locations, they are recipients and the cash in locations. It is dependent on who is sending, like Hong Kong has a huge Indonesian and Filipino population because most of them are here for work and we have seen a really big adoption between our Hong Kong-Indonesia and Honk Kong-Philippines corridor.
- How stable is Bitspark and currently, how big is the team?
Maxine: Bitspark is built on the BitShares blockchain, which is stable and actually faster than MasterCard, I believe. We are definitely built for scalability and that is the reason Bitspark is built on BitShares blockchain.
Our team is about 20 people and we have 2 offices in 2 different countries. One is in Hong Kong, which is our operations office, consisting of our marketing, sales management and design department and then our Ukraine office has all our technical team of mobile-web platforms and DevOps.
- What are the challenges Bitspark is facing currently?
Maxine: I think the biggest challenge right now is trying to find great talent which means that we need some special people to help us execute what we visioned. We want people who would bring value to Bitspark to expand and we are looking for special individuals to join the team.
- Are you also planing to expand operations in other countries?
Maxine: We are focusing on 5 corridors that people can send to currently but definitely, we are thinking about expansion. Currently we are focused on building a second component to the platform, that allows anybody in the world to become an inclusion point. Definitely, we have a global vision of what the company should become.
People can expect the new version of Bitspark by end of Q1 2019, as the second roll out will include a feature where people will be able to apply and become an inclusion point.
- Do you think bitcoin ETF approval will help massive adoption?
Maxine: It depends on the jurisdiction. I think that because of the nature of cryptocurrency in general, it is very hard to provide regulation on something that essentially is technology but I think that there will be more regulation coming out to deal with the services. Singapore just recently came out with a new payment regulation that also includes cryptocurrency under its umbrella but I think that we shouldn’t be looking cryptocurrency as something to regulate, we should be looking at the services of which it can basically touch and then look at the regulations on them and then consider it within existing regulation.
- Right! Do you see any regulation coming from the U.S. any time soon?
Maxine: Yes U.S. will probably come out with regulation but it just makes it very hard market to enter and also to foster innovation, one of the reasons why we don’t actually service the U.S. citizens, which is a real shame but essentially, it is just too regulated to operate in this space. I think in terms of the technology development, we will definitely see more from the US and they are definitely at the forefront but I think we are going to see the application of it in Asia and Africa.
- How is the crpto community shaping up in Hong Kong?
Maxine: The community in Hong Kong is definitely thriving as more blockchain companies are opening up along with some of the largest exchanges in the world. The things are pretty positive because we do see a migration of companies that are setting up here. We talk to a lot of partners as well that want to partner with us because we are based in Hong Kong. The landscape of Hong Kong to start a company is very good especially, if it is in the crypt.
Bitcoin Educator Andreas Antonopoulos Gives a Digital Deep Dive on Blockchain Transactions
One of the ways by which the crypto industry can make significant process is through the education of those who make use of crypto and those who simply observe the industry.
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He recently uploaded a video in which he touched the process of manual construction of transactions that have multiple inputs in response to a question posed by a user about whether the process will be done by a blockchain or not. Antonopoulos explained that the process is done by a wallet and not a blockchain.“You can conduct the process with a variety of wallets that allow you to construct transactions. With multiple inputs. Electrum wallets and other web-based wallets are good examples of platforms that give you the liberty to control transactions. Just to clarify, the process is done by the wallets and not by the blockchain,” Antonopoulos said.
He also pointed out that the construction wallet is based on an algorithm and if more than one payment is needed due to small amounts the wallet will construct the transactions with payments. This process, he explained, is called coin selection and helps in the movement of various transactions.
Also, he touched on the concept of change on the blockchain and pointed out that bitcoin transaction outputs have two states in which the exist which are spent or unspent and that there is no concept of a half-spent transaction.
While this was very helpful for users, some controversy was caused when Antonopoulospointed out that the scalability problem that bitcoin struggles with will always exist and that solving one issue will inevitably bring up more.
“..and you can’t, in the beginning, solves the problem for the end there is no end and also if you prematurely optimize if you try to solve scale problems for a scale that doesn’t yet exist you shift the problem somewhere else in the case of cryptocurrencies,” he said.
The Need for an Education
While Antonopoulos might have caused some controversy, it cannot be denied that his efforts to educate the public on blockchain and crypto are highly needed, especially seeing as many of the problems faced by users can put down to a lack of education about how blockchain works.
An example of this can be seen in security as a research piece that was published recently pointed out that over 700 crypto wallets were broken into by the researchers merely guessing the passphrases which were usually weak and repetitive phrases.
In such a case, education about how wallets, blockchain, and crypto work could go a long way to prevent such issues, ensuring Industries safer for all.
Blockchain Capital Ltd Co-Founder: Release Of New Crypto Assets By Businesses Isn’t “Unreasonable”
Co-Founder Of Blockchain Capital Says That The Release Of New Cryptocurrencies From Businesses Isn’t “Unreasonable”
There is a strong possibility that multinational firms could end up creating their own cryptocurrencies. Gavin Brown, the co-founder, and director at Blockchain Capital Limited commented that this idea isn’t “unreasonable” right now while speaking at the Credit Suisse Global Supertrends Conference, hosted in Singapore. According to reports from CNBC, the director said that it would be possible to create a CNBC coin as the “democratization of money” happens.
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To further explain this concept, Brown brought up prepaid cards for Starbucks. With “over a billion dollars of assets work on their balance sheet” of people that like their morning coffee enough to buy a prepaid card, it is clear that they trust the brand to be around and that they like spending their money with the company. Considering that there are some companies with better credit than others, like McDonalds over the whole government of Ireland, there is a chance that multinational companies could easily get involved to start using crypto as something between an asset and a loyalty credit.
Brown believes that the next “big one” that could happen is most likely to be Facebook coin, even though the company has yet to actually confirm that they’re following this path. However, reports indicate that the social media platform has been working on crypto asset to tie directly with fiat currency, which will be used through their messaging app. So far, both Bloomberg and the New York Times have run this report, and Facebook still has not expanded on the work.
When asked if it would cause too much confusion to have many companies simultaneously offering their own tokens, Brown commented that the mostly likely outcome would be “groups or alliances” developing. He even called the launch of the JPM Coin by JPMorgan Chase a “really intelligent play.” However, the rise of the coin’s popularity will ultimately dictate how strong the asset becomes.
China’s Foreign Exchange Regulator Piloting Blockchain in Trade Finance
The agency that regulates and manages China’s foreign exchange reserves has developed a blockchain system aimed to address inefficiencies in cross-border trade finance.
As reported by local financial news source CNStock, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) worked with the Hangzhou Blockchain Technology Research Institute to build the open blockchain platform, which uses multi-signature technology to keep transaction content private, revealing details only to the firms involved and regulators such as those relating to customs, taxation, industry and commerce.
Traditionally, China’s import and export financing uses a manual, paper-based operation for processing a hugely complex industry and that brings low efficiency, commonplace errors, high operational risk and, thus, elevated cost of financing. Putting the financial data on a distributed network enables information to be shared transparently and in real-time, according to the report.
The forex watchdog’s blockchain platform takes a focus on export receivables – the funds owed to a company by a foreign buyer after delivery – allowing firms to enter data on financing, audits, loans repayments and so on, and manages the entire process. It further automatically verifies customs documents and calculates a final balance for the customs declaration, a factor that prevents double or excessive financing, according to the report.
With initial development now complete, SAFE will now pilot the blockchain platform in three major trading provinces – Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian – and two cities, Shanghai and Chongqing, CNStock indicates.
The pilot will run for six months and is expected to be taken nationwide going forward, with many banks said to be involved in the scheme.