Feature Interview: Paul Puey Puts “Buzz” into Bitcoin with Airbitz “2.0” and Fold
Like a caffeine-infused jolt, Airbitz’s announcement late last year that it will be promoting bitcoin by offering discounts at Starbucks (20%) and Target (10%) has energized cryptocurrency enthusiasts worldwide. This initiative is part of a collaborative partnership with Fold, a digital card app that was seamlessly integrated onto the Airbitz bitcoin wallet. The hope is that incentivizing consumers to save money will encourage both current bitcoin users as well as those new to the digital currency to engage in its use for everyday purchases.
This much-ballyhooed development by Airbitz, which officially launched its bitcoin wallet in October 2014, comes on the heels of $450,000 in seed funding that the company received from the blockchain venture capital firm Block26. BTCMANAGER had the opportunity to talk with Airbitz CEO Paul Puey about this partnership with Starbucks and Target and what it portends for the future of bitcoin consumer commerce.
Puey first learned about Fold App in 2014 and determined it to be a powerful driver of engagement for those unfamiliar with bitcoin. But he felt that there were some challenges in terms of its fluidity and seamlessness for the user. So an initial meeting occurred with Fold in 2014. Later, the discovery that they were participants at the same Bay Area startup accelerator Plug and Play sparked further talks regarding potential linkages between the two apps.
“We had been in deep conversations about this for quite some time so it was almost a year in the making. I think what we have put together is a complete turnkey solution that gives consumers a significant reason to buy, hold and use bitcoin. We are really excited that we’ve been able to package all of this into one app that is concise and concrete for the for the consumer and are excited to push it forward.”
Puey said this collaborative effort was the perfect opportunity to tap into the billion dollar gift card market that Starbucks and Target participate in. It’s a market, says Puey, that possesses a tremendous amount of liquidity and is a major driver of foot traffic into their stores. He himself admits to rarely using Starbucks until Fold came along.
“These days I find myself leaning towards going to Starbucks because of the 20% discount. This shows that incentives drive full-priced traffic into stores even though gift cards allow consumers to tap into these deep discounts.”
Currently this mashup between the Airbitz and Fold apps are in what Puey refers to as a “quiet beta.”
“We are still ironing out some of the kinks in the system to ensure that the user experience is very smooth. Our goal is to make ongoing improvements to ensure a really solid experience for the consumer and we are looking at adding more gift card functionality and more locations where people can buy using bitcoin.”
On Community Engagement
Building awareness of the Airbitz app with consumers and business is a key push for 2016. Here they plan to tap into various meetups and conferences that are taking place across the world. They will also take advantage of guest-speaking opportunities in order to touch base with consumers to ascertain how they feel about the app — what they love, hate, and/or would like to see improved.
Says Puey: “In our infancy, Airbitz was simply viewed as a bitcoin wallet. Now that we’re kinda in the 2.0 phase of our product, we offer a complete solution for buying, selling, holding and securing bitcoin. We are getting the word out on how the company has evolved and have some not yet announced marketing plans that we’re hoping will drive a significant hockey stick of growth and adoption. And we’re not just talking Airbitz but bitcoin itself. All of this is still in the works. I think we have some pretty exciting opportunities lined up.”
If social media is any indication, just the initial buzz from this unique partnership with Starbucks and Target, two retailers with massive name recognition, has been akin to a shot of espresso in terms of giving consumers a bitcoin wake-up call.
“It has definitely turned the heads of some people that didn’t care much at all about bitcoin. I’ve said on a number of occasions that we need to build bitcoin products that appeal to people who don’t care about its ideology. And while the Airbitz team and I believe strongly in our ideology — that’s what keeps us passionate and driven — we recognize the importance of focusing on how bitcoin works for everyone else. That’s why people say that Airbitz is so simple and easy to use.”