BlockTrail is one of the leading Bitcoin API developers. We at NewsBTC spoke to Boaz Bechar, the CEO of BlockTrail. We threw a few questions at him and guess what, he threw back some responses (pretty good ones too). Read further to know how the interview went.
NewsBTC: Let’s start with BlockTrail, Can you tell us more about it?
Boaz: BlockTrail is known for developers API. It is an interface structure which comes with wallet functionality, advanced bitcoin features, multisignature security and HD wallet. It is one of the most advanced APIs out there. Another popular product of ours is the BlockExplorer. It is used by lot of services in the industry to show users the status of transactions. Apart from these services, we have lot of individual users who use BlockExplorer as well.
NewsBTC: How is BlockExplorer different from Blockchain.info?
Boaz: Blockchain is more known for their consumer wallet whereas we focus more on the developer side. Our infrastructure and technology is different from that of Blockchain. Our wallet is multisignature and HD by default. I’d say that we differ in terms of technology we provide, at least until now.
Going forward, we have a few things planned out for the consumer side as well, we might come across a few similarities down the line.
NewsBTC: Every great thing has a beginning. How did it all start for you? How did you get into Bitcoin?
Boaz: It was in mid-2013, when I was reading about bitcoin. The moment you spend a few hours reading about Bitcoin, its advantages and understand it, you will get sucked into it and there is no turning back. You would want to deal with it all the time. That’s what happened to me as well. During those times, there were no professional services available. Most of them were hobbyist projects and we felt that providing professional services in Bitcoin space starting with infrastructure was a great opportunity. That’s where BlockTrail took off and there has been no turning back since then.
NewsBTC: What were you into before BlockTrail?
Boaz: I have start-ups as my background. Before BlockTrail, I co-founded a VoIP service called PokeTALK. It was my first start-up and we ran it for several years before it got acquired by Voxox. I continued in the telecom space for some time. I got to know about Bitcoin and eventually switched industry. BlockTrail takes all my time now.
NewsBTC: What do you feel about the Bitcoin Industry?
Boaz: There is a lot of innovation happening in the Bitcoin sector right now. As it is early in the industry there are lot of things left, the growth of Bitcoin is still ahead, making it more attractive.
NewsBTC: Can you tell us more about your team at BlockTrail?
Boaz: We are a small team of 7 people and growing. Our team came together because our team – our company came together because our CTO Ruben de Vries and our VP of marketing Jop Hartog were working on a Bitcoin project. I partnered with them along with an investor from Israel to start BlockTrail together. Our CTO is a big contributor to the Bitcoin community in terms of open source projects. He has also worked on the Bitcoin core in one form or another.
We recently acquired SendChat. Alejandro de la Torre has joined us to do business development and help with mobile strategy for consumer space. We also have Sarah Foster, director of expansion and sales from United States who joined recently. We are a diverse team with a Dutch, American, Irish, Russia, Israeli etc. We are open for people from other nationalities to join us as well.
NewsBTC: How many users do you get on your platform?
Boaz: We have lot of Bitcoin companies and developers using our Bitcoin API. The BlockExplorer gets hundreds of thousands of users every month. A certain percentage of those users gets converted into our API customers. We are giving a tough competition to Chain.com in the segment
NewsBTC: Do you mind sharing your plans for SendChat with us?
Boaz: We are not continuing SendChat as an application. We are planning for some products in the mobile and consumer space. We have plans to include it in that. Alejandro is helping us with it.
There was a lot of synergy between BlockTrail and SendChat, so it made sense to acquire it and combine SendChat with BlockTrail infrastructure.
NewsBTC: When can we expect new products?
Boaz: We keep releasing new products on a regular basis. If you check upon us, you will see that we released BlockExplorer API in late 2014. Early this year we released the web wallet and recently the Mint. We are constantly building new products.
Mint is a complete innovative service we developed rather quickly. It was a project we were running within our company. Going forward, we are constantly launching new products, our next product will be out in the next couple of weeks.
NewsBTC: Is that the product with SendChat integration? What are you calling it?
Boaz: Yes, for now we are calling it BlockTrail Mobile Strategy. The name is not out yet, but we will let you know once the date comes closer.
NewsBTC: Coming back to your recent product, can you tell us more about the Mint?
Boaz: We have been speaking a lot to mining pools, there is a view in the community that new coins are worth more than the used coins with transaction history. With new coin you get a lot of privacy, uniqueness etc. and that is the value proposition of Mint. Mint is the first consumer service that enables people to buy new bitcoins with no transaction history.
About a year ago, I was asking a colleague of mine about how to buy bitcoin directly from miners. It was a complicated process, in order to get the coins from miners, one has to directly contact a miner and create a large order and so on. Mint makes it easy for people to purchase fresh bitcoins. Users can start purchasing from $25 worth of bitcoin on the platform.
NewsBTC: How are the transactions so far on Mint?
Boaz: Mint is a really new service. Except for the social media and few articles, we have not even notified our users yet. We are still in the process of releasing the platform. However, we have already sold some fresh coins, we are expecting more users to use it in the coming days.
NewsBTC: We heard that Mint will be charging up to 10 percent as a transaction fee for swapping old bitcoins for new ones. How does that work?
Boaz: We don’t have a fixed transaction fee yet. The fee will be charged based on the supply and demand. The fee we collect is not completely for ourselves. It will be split between the suppliers and ourselves. They expect more than the market value. If the demand is high, then the fee is defiable.
Our goal is to make as much sales as possible while providing value to our users and partners.
NewsBTC: Are there any implications of swapping old bitcoins with new ones?
Boaz: We don’t think there are any bad implications, people can still make normal transactions on the bitcoin network, except for some people will benefit from additional privacy by disconnecting themselves from the clusters analysis companies have locked them into. You might have heard of cases where certain wallet providers have blocked users from using certain services. E.g. According to a few Reddit users, Coinbase doesn’t allow US users to use certain gambling services. Swapping bitcoins on Mint doesn’t affect the fungibility of bitcoin.
NewsBTC: Do you think the law enforcement agencies and government authorities will have objections as it might hamper their investigations?
Boaz: We are not a mixing service that delete logs etc. It is just like depositing into Coinbase and making off-chain transactions. Only they know about it. It is the same with Mint. We will know about it. If law enforcement agencies want to know about it, we may have to comply.
NewsBTC: There are people talking about possible implications of Mint on the fungibility of bitcoin. Any comments on that?
Boaz: Mint certainly puts the fungibility of bitcoins into question. That’s why it is interesting in a controversial kind of way. But there will be no long term implications. But certain people will benefit from such a service. Some people also consider it to be a collector’s item. Eventually coins with less transaction history will be considered as collectors’ items.
NewsBTC: Have you raised any investments so far?
Boaz: Apart from the initial funding of 500,000 euros, we haven’t raised any new investments. Lev Leviev, the co-founder of a well-known Russian social network VKontakte made the initial investment in BlockTrail.
NewsBTC: Can you give us some insights about the Bitcoin economy in Netherlands?
Boaz: The Bitcoin community in Amsterdam is large and active. There are lot of meetups happening on a regular basis, these meetups are always filled with people who are passionate about cryptocurrency. We have a Bitcoin Embassy here. Lot of cities have their own Bitcoin meetup groups. There is bitcoin embassy meetup groups in cities. Bitcoin Arnhem or Arnhem Bitcoincity, where people can pay with bitcoin in many shops for products and services. BitKassa has connected many merchants to enable them accept bitcoin. Netherlands is doing great when it comes to bitcoin, still bitcoin usage is less than what we wish it to be. There are several well-known Bitcoin companies based out of Amsterdam. We have Bitfury, BitPay has its European HQ here.
NewsBTC: Does BlockTrail conduct any events for Amsterdam’s Bitcoin community?
Boaz: We organized a hackathon earlier in the year. It was very successful and got media coverage. The team that created a product called NoRiskWallet won the first prize. They received 5 BTC, a Trezor hardware wallet and a ticket to Amsterdam’s The Next Web Summit. The judges for the event were from different Bitcoin companies from around Netherlands.
NewsBTC: How are the Bitcoin regulations?
Boaz: Regulations are favourable here as bitcoin is not considered a currency. It is definitely not as bad as New York.