This time, I interviewed the CEO of Wirex, Pavel Matveev. He started the Bitcoin debit card which has become one of the most popular Bitcoin debit cards in the world of cryptocurrency.
Wirex is a Bitcoin debit card which allows people to use Bitcoin to pay for things where Visa and MasterCard are accepted. It deals in USD, GBP and EUR. This allows Bitcoin to be indirectly accepted in more places than just limited to “Bitcoin-accepted” merchants.
How did you start in Bitcoin or cryptocurrency in general?
We started about 3 years ago, at the time there were 2 companies which were focusing on bitcoin debit cards (e-coin/wirex and xapo). Initially e-coin/wirex started from my pet project, I started it in my free time. Crypto currencies and bitcoin in particular have a lot of advantages. For instance, bitcoin is the most traceable currency in the world. People new to bitcoin might think it’s totally anonymous, but in fact all transaction are recorded on blockchain and publicly available to view online. Bitcoin is very good for micro transactions, which are very popular on the internet nowadays in the form of tips on social networks and forums like Reddit. Also bitcoin is very good for international payments, it’s almost instant and far cheaper, comparing to traditional methods. But crypto currencies have a big problem – it’s poor acceptance, you can’t got to your nearest coffee shop and buy a cup of coffee with bitcoin, so 3 years ago we came up with very elegant solution, it’s bitcon debit card, which allows you to spend bitcoin anywhere where visa/master card accepted. It’s how we started e-coin/wirex.
With blockchain technology becoming something banks must focus on, do you think you are helping them in a way with Wirex?
Wirex definitely helps bitcoin adoption, we integrate crypto currencies into traditional payment/card infrastructure. Having said that, I am not sure that we are helping banks, banks are more focused on internal blockchain project focusing on settlement and asset trading. Banks are against crypto currencies at the moment, because with crypto currencies in place they wont be able to make money from their current accounts, international payments and other fees (talking about retail banks here, not investment banks).
You have at least 4 competitor bitcoin debit cards, what makes Wirex unique?
Xapo, ANX and ShapeShift in US. Wirex is the company which started bitcoin debit card industry, so we have more clients/ more cards + built up more expertise in this field
Do you think Wirex has contributed to the growing price of Bitcoin through demand?
Wirex doesn’t effect price of bitcoin, however we improve bitcoin adoption and made bitcoin available for non-tech people, so it might increase demand.
Many of your competitors use Visa on their bitcoin debit cards, why Mastercard?
We support Visa for virtual and Mastercard for plastic, so we give our users a choice. It’s more historical reasons, there is not much difference, it’s like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Having said that, Visa has better attitude towards bitcoin.
If someone approached you and asked what Bitcoin was, what would you say to them?
it’s the most popular digital currency in the world and it will replace fiat at some point in the nearest future.
The Panama papers never mentioned cryptocurrency, do you think it is because of the public ledger system?
As I mentioned bitcoin is the most traceable currency in the world, all transactions are on blockchain, so you can easily track where funds are coming from, so with bitcoin it’s almost impossible to have such situation. The press loves to associate bitcoin with crime and drugs, that leads to bad reputation for bitcoin, but, as I said, it’s far more transparent than fiat.
With Bitcoin, transactions are verified for fraud and kept in a public ledger. With the right tools, do you think it can help stop money-laundering?
It will stop money laundering 100%, there are a few startups working in this direction, so it’s just a question of time when technology/regulations will be available.
JP Morgan Chase and some of the world’s largest banks are developing Bitcoin-like technology. How do you think this might influence the fate of banking?
As a former investment banker (worked in Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas, Societe Generale) I can tell that every bank is doing their own blockchain at the moment, and they don’t understand that without crowd effect blockchain is just a distributed database, so I believe it will never fly.