Centbee to deliver a game changing eco-system replacement
You may have read some press releases concerning nChain Group taking equity stake in Centbee, a Bitcoin wallet provider that aims to make global payments straight forward and easy.
Centbee, headed by co-CEOs Lorien Gamaroff and Angus Brown, come with a wealth of experience from within the financial sector itself, covering online banking development, merchant systems, retail banking, and extensive work with regulators, and much of which has been done in the digital space. All things that are abundantly important in taking Bitcoin Cash to the next level.
What hasn’t been reported in any extensive detail so far is just what the fruition of the Centbee and nChain deal is going to be.
In my discussion with Mr Brown, I specifically asked questions concerning the functional outcomes of this project. We know nChain’s investment is a large undisclosed sum. There’s more to this than just a wallet. I went digging.
Astonishingly, I’ve found the very work Centbee are doing, is precisely what the Bitcoin (BCH) eco-system needs – and desperately.
When Dr Craig Wright tweeted “Expect some BIG things this January with BCH. The crypto world is about to change and grow up.” He was onto something… because he had seen what Centbee had been working on.
Mr Brown says his time in banking has been building digital offerings and digital banks. “Centbee is the next generation of where banking is going to be. A lot of we do replaces what banks do, but with next generation models. I have good insight of how [banks] do it all. And I understand merchants, point of sale systems… we implemented all this for Mercantile. We know what banks do and don’t do.”
Brown was actually the Chief Information Officer over at Mercantile bank. His knowledge on the subject comes from profound experience. He states “I have a good relationship with the regulator… I know how the reserve bank works, I know the payment industry really well… it’s given us really good context to build Centbee.”
So how do you get banks, and regulators involved? Sure enough one of the most challenging things concerning Bitcoin has been getting trust from the institutional banking sector. “Regulators get scared of Bitcoin, and it’s because of the risk that they see… we know how to help the regulator get over the risk, we’ve been working on addressing those very things they are concerned with.”
It dawned on me that what Centbee are building – is far beyond being just a wallet. In fact, it is an entire eco-system being built using Bitcoin Cash, from the top down.
“The wallet is the easy part, most of that’s already done and we’ve been working on the user interface now trying to make it ‘slick’” said Brown. Lorien Gamaroff who leads much of the coding specialties has also done a lot of work from a user interface and experience point of view. Brown says of Lorien that “he has design flair… he even once worked at an ad agency as a director… He has a good sense of user interface… I’ve also built 6 digital banks, I understand what to do and what not to do”. Certainly however, one of the most frustrating things about Bitcoin is that it can be difficult to get money into it – with all the commotion of verifications, exchanges and the like… but Brown says “We are going to change all that and make that really easy…”
In South Africa, one interesting piece of technology that is used is called “Authenticated Mobile Transaction” or AMT. It is a standard payment method there that Brown says they can leverage to allow customers to enter debit number and do authenticated debit that is non-disputable. Using authenticated debit card transactions takes the risk away from the business. “Debit cards are popular in South Africa, so that’s the first step” he said.
So, what makes this wallet so special and so easy to use? “Contact integration is the killer use case”. Centbee have devised a method where it is super easy to send anyone an amount of money. They don’t even have to have the app installed, and in fact, they don’t even need a Bitcoin wallet at all. The app cleverly notifies a user and advises them to get the wallet to claim their money if they have any sent to them. This is a sorely needed function for wallets, and Centbee addresses this.
Brown kept going back to “WhatsApp”. The idea is that Centbee should have its ease of use, modelled after something like WhatsApp. “Sending money should be as easy as sending a message on WhatsApp” he said.
The other interesting area that Centbee are looking at concerns sending every day money. That sounds glaringly obvious, and Brown even laughed when he said it, but allow us to elaborate. Right now, there is a legitimate inaccessibility to send money across the country, or to neighbouring countries. The existing methods are either far too expensive, or just unreliable. Centbee tackles this problem by enabling citizens to be able to send a sum of money instantly, that is, fiat to fiat.
Picture that, a solution that makes money transfer so easy, that you don’t even know that you’re using Bitcoin Cash. Brown explains that Bitcoin Cash in this case works as the medium of transfer. Ofcourse that’s not the way it’s going to remain, as adoption grows, more and more people may choose to receive BCH instead of fiat.
Usability is key with all of this. Accessibility has been thought through to the n’th degree that even grandma can use it. Brown said “this is a real important human problem to be solved, especially here in South Africa, where there is a real need”.
But Centbee’s clever approach is multi-faceted, as Brown explains: “Next we want to allow people to buy Bitcoin from merchants. And we can do this using Gift cards that you see in malls, so we can have Centbee cards that can be purchased with cash.”
“Merchants are actually the key to this… When we were talking to the guys at nChain, we said that you have to have consumers, and we have got some great ideas.”
At this point I ventured into confidential territory and I wasn’t preview to too much further than this. But Brown did highlight an interesting strategy their business is taking to embark on this mission. “rather than approaching every merchant one by one, we are doing it by going straight to the ‘integrators’” – that is to get them to onboard BCH integration at the top level and have it filter down. “I can’t disclose too much, its strategic” said Brown.
There was a lot to this conversation, but I’ve touched on many points that I think are pivotal. This is one giant project that addresses a plethora of weaknesses within the current framework for working with Bitcoin (BCH). If they can pull this off – and I totally believe they are going to, then this will be a catalyst in the mission to revolutionise Bitcoin Cash and really thrust it into the mainstream.
Interestingly, this is the first time I have come across a major Bitcoin related project that is spearheaded by tremendous institutional knowledge and prowess. The team at Centbee understand the entire business model from customer to merchant and to bank. Most crypto related projects are generally controlled by developers who have very little to no understanding and exposure to the established institutions. If you want Bitcoin in the mainstream, you need two thing… first its ease of use, and second it is integration into existing systems and processes in the most efficient way possible. Centbee are doing just that. And for once, it’s not the tail wagging the dog. When you let developers dictate the functions of a system, then you end up the way ‘Bitcoin Core’ did in 2017, where Bitcoin actually lost merchant count for the first time in its history.