ACN: How was Snapcard started?
Snapcard was founded on November 19, 2013. It started when I moved to San Francisco in April 2013 and my co-founder Yanni moved the following month in May 2013. Yanni and I met in a hacker house (it’s like a large house that is an orphanage with Wi-Fi, bunk beds as far as the eye can see, and glowing faces from laptops and iPads on every bed). Everyone there was working on the next ‘big thing,’ all tech, all the time. Yanni and I arrived on the same day and were assigned as bunkmates. We initially worked on separate projects – I was working on an iOS app and Yanni was working for a data encryption company – although personally we shared a common interest in bitcoin.
We both thought that bitcoin was an amazing piece of tech that should be able to be used by anyone and everyone around the world. We saw the potential of bitcoin to change the lives of billions of underbanked people, and radically reduce friction in international payments.
So, we both quit our projects and founded what eventually became Snapcard today.
Snapcard was accepted into Boost VC, a specialized seed-stage accelerator program that invests in blockchain and virtual reality startups, in November 2013 and launched on Black Friday of that same year.
ACN: What is your 5-year plan?
Our ultimate goal as a company is to make money transfer (locally and globally) easy and cheap for everyone. We’ve done this by choosing emerging markets and underdeveloped economies (e.g. Georgia with UniPay and Brazil with PagPop) and remain committed to giving access to bitcoin technology so everyone can send and receive money really easily.
At our core, we see the potential to disrupt the way money moves around the world by focusing on bitcoin, leveraging the power of digital currencies and blockchain technology. Bitcoin helps people to send money to anybody in the world, instantly and free without the confines of the traditional banking system. Snapcard provides the opportunity for everyday people to engage in the financial eco-system easily and affordably. A perfect example is Snapcard’s MassPay program – it’s an innovative way to instantly send cross-border payments to a any phone number or email address in the world, for a fraction of the cost of what any other mass payout company offers (0.25% of funds paid out).
ACN: How is Snapcard impacted by the advent of all the bitcoin debit cards?
Bitcoin debit cards serve a small minority based on who would have practical application for them. I think they’re extremely cool, but I feel they’re more of a publicity tool than anything. We looked at doing it earlier in 2015, but felt that it would be more of a publicity tool than a core value add to our users. However, if this is in an emerging market, the conversation becomes much different because their currencies can be unstable enough to make bitcoin a solid everyday alternative. For right now though, I don’t feel like there’s a need for them.
ACN: What do you think about the move of some bitcoin companies away from bitcoin or the perception of that?
We’ve noticed many people shying away from the term bitcoin and saying ‘blockchain’ instead. Admittedly, bitcoin has been scarred over the past few months. As a result, everyone is talking blockchain and not bitcoin anymore. They’re essentially the same thing, just people are shifting the language and branding of it.
ACN: What is the best way to educate public about bitcoin?
At Snapcard we know that educating the public about bitcoin in general is the first step to gaining our own users. We spend a lot of time doing that. In San Francisco we recently ran a campaign to get as many stores as possible set up to accept bitcoin as a form of purchase – in just one month, we got 160 retailers.
ACN: What is your view on the bitcoin scalability issue?
The block size should be elastic with relation to the network volume. Granted it doesn’t solve all the issues, but having a network that can be flooded by a spammer who’s willing to pay $5k per day in transaction fees to accomplish it, doesn’t seem like “the next big thing.”
ACN: Do you have any new products or services that you want to mention?
We have three core products:
- Bitcoin merchant processor: people can spend bitcoins at businesses
- Bitcoin wallet: people can buy and sell bitcoin and transfer money internationally using the wallet (more consumer-focused)
- MassPay: uses blockchain technology for large-scale businesses to move their local currency across borders from country-to-country (more enterprise-focused)
Our bitcoin wallet is the most popular product so far, but MassPay is projected to be big in 2016.