AirBitz: The Bitcoin Business Directory and Wallet

AirBitz is a unique Bitcoin wallet service with a catch. It offers high quality security and a business directory for those looking to spend their digital money. The San Diego startup launched in 2014 with over 3,200 listings when it started its database. That list is growing and so is the popularity of this wallet providing great service and top notch security, a service they believe people should consider while choosing a wallet.

Also Read: Digital Wallets and Bitcoin Wallets Face Lack of Trust and Security Concerns From Consumers

“Showing them that a restaurant down the road takes this magical internet money gives people a sense of valuation for a cryptocurrency because at the end of the day they probably won’t care about the more technical aspects of bitcoin. While there are ideological reasons for using bitcoin, most people care about practicality over ideology.”–  Mk Lords

airbitz-steel-300wAirBitz CEO Paul Puey and team created an application with an amazingly simple interface. The wallet requires no more than a username, password and PIN number to register. With its directory plus location services the app can easily find accessible businesses offering services for Bitcoin. The app offers the mystique of a craigslist-type merchant search engine with the appeal of Bitcoin’s slick interface.

With software comes people who develop these quality services on all fronts of business. AirBitz has recently hired two of the Bitcoin communities finest. Will Pangman who was formerly COO of the crypto finance app Tapeke joined the team as Marketing Manager on August 6th. Pangman has been a bitcoin activist for some time speaking Bitcoin talk on the World Crypto Network, Porcfest and other venues. A few days later Puey and the team brought on board another well known crypto leader MK Lords. Lords hired as a community manager has been known for her work with many outlets in the digital industry. As a key player for Bitcoin Not Bombs, the Freedom Feens and more she stands out with her voice in libertarian circles and Bitcoin alike. She can also be seen hosting her own Crypto Convos or organizing conferences like the  Bitcoin in the Beltway. With the hiring of these new creative employees and its foundations in the Bitcoin space AirBitz is revving up its engines for more innovation.

Bitcoin.com chatted with Will Pangman and MK Lords about this new career choice. We also talked about the Bitcoin atmosphere and the AirBitz goal to provide a secure wallet with a business directory. Paul Puey also joined the discussion as we graze the block size debate in conversation.

Bitcoin.com You both have recently been hired to work for AirBitz. Can you both tell me how this came about and why you chose this particular service?

Will Pangman:  When I found Bitcoin in the fall of 2012, I was searching for a way to recreate myself personally and professionally. Many who have been bitten by the Bitcoin bug have experienced this, but Bitcoin provided a torrent of motivation to waste no time learning all I possibly could about it. I dove in and quickly found myself encountering dozens of exciting opportunities to share this amazing tool and help make it more and more accessible to others. At the time, I tackled the calling by distributing educational resources and events to engage interest observers and cut through the unfortunately misinformative media narratives. Another huge key to putting this powerful tech in the hands of the masses is to unify ease-of-use with the preservation of privacy/security/autonomy that’s inherent in Bitcoin. In all my travels and acquaintances over the past two years there was one entrepreneur and one product that I observed actively addressing these issues in the present. Paul Puey and Airbitz. When the opportunity arose to join the team I didn’t hesitate.  

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MK Lords: I met Paul Puey back in November at Libertopia and was really impressed by what Airbitz was doing. They were combining ease of use in a wallet without compromising privacy and security and this was something desperately needed. I had intended to interview Paul on my show Crypto Convos but for personal reasons had to end the show. He got in touch with me around Porcfest asking if I could help him find good fits for some positions that had become available and Will Pangman followed up telling me I should consider applying. I valued Will’s commitment to privacy and high standards for Bitcoin companies so I knew if he trusted the Airbitz team then they were likely solid people. So I went for it and have been very happy with what I’ve seen so far.

BC: Can you describe what you like about your wallet service?

MK: It’s the “just button” for bitcoin! Security and ease of use has always been a debate and challenge within the space and I think Airbitz nailed it with their platform. I really like the extensive directory because the first question people ask is often, “How can I spend these things?” Also, the way the app resembles mobile banking adds a degree of familiarity for people used to that service and I like how it is easy to stay organized through categorization of transactions. It’s also just so darn sexy and slick–it really is the best looking wallet in my opinion.

WP: As MK said, it’s a friendly interface that’s fun to use while still giving users that visceral sensation of empowerment that naturally emerges from realizing the profundity of Bitcoin as an human invention. Airbitz can do so much more for the information technology world than zero-knowledge storage of one’s Bitcoin keys. This will become more apparent in the months to come, but I’m excited for the Airbitz platform to change the way people think about securing secrets privately and autonomously, whether they are Bitcoin-related secrets or something else.

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BC: Why do you think a merchant directory helps AirBitz as a wallet?

MK: Unless you can answer the question of where to spend bitcoin it doesn’t have much value for consumers. Showing them that a restaurant down the road takes this magical internet money gives people a sense of valuation for a cryptocurrency because at the end of the day they probably won’t care about the more technical aspects of bitcoin. While there are ideological reasons for using bitcoin, most people care about practicality over ideology.

WP: Along with MK’s points, it engenders community. When you see people and businesses in your local area starting to catch on to this amazing new thing, you’ve just started to try out for yourself, it’s validating and instills confidence. Small businesses and local merchants rely heavily on customer loyalty, and accepting Bitcoin is attracting customer loyalty to these businesses.  

“It’s the “just button” for bitcoin! Security and ease of use has always been a debate and challenge within the space and I think Airbitz nailed it with their platform.”

– Mk Lords

BC: What do you guys think about Bitcoin businesses leaving the state of New York?

WP: Most people, no matter their party affiliation, are beginning to realize how little of an affect their vote has on socio-political outcomes. Many are realizing that the only votes that really count are proverbial votes with your feet and your wallet. The businesses leaving New York State are using both voice and exit to express that their desire to conduct business runs in diametric opposition to the new, arbitrary rules put forth in the Bitlicense. That said, in my opinion, a properly designed cryptocurrency service or product should be practically immune to geopolitical machinations. Information always wants to be free, and now that money can be utilized like a content type new incentives are arising to increase and proliferate the free exchange of valuable information. Exciting times indeed!

MK: We haven’t stopped services in New York because we don’t fall under the BitLicense regulations. Anyone in New York can still use our app because we’re not an exchange or money transmitter. We do feel very sorry for people in the state who are affected and ultimately New York will suffer from stifling start ups through regulation. Of course I agree with businesses leaving; New York has made every effort to stop innovation and it’s a natural consequence that movers and shakers will leave along with their inventions. It didn’t have to be that way, but hopefully they learn from their heavy handedness.

2c96c1dBC: AirBitz is #6 on the Open Bitcoin Privacy Project report. Can you tell readers why AirBitz wallet differs from the rest with its security?

WP: I think the Airbitz wallet is largely misunderstood by Bitcoin power users. Airbitz is doing more than just securing your Bitcoin keys, which is one reason why it doesn’t ask users to copy down on paper their 12 word private seed. Your Airbitz wallet is accessible and usable even if somehow Airbitz were to completely disappear. Even if you forget your password, as long as you log in to your device at least once before, you can use your pin to login and move funds to a new wallet whose password/backup you remember. Paul and the engineers have also devised a new way for enabling two-factor authentication with a single touch or tap. One-time 2FA is super cool. Once activated, it happens in the background and the user is never troubled with switching apps, copying and pasting an OTP, etc. It’s even possible to authenticate multiple devices with the same account – 2FA on both – and have encrypted secrets stored securely and synchronized across devices. Airbitz is striving to make cryptographic security usable by anyone with a smart phone, and soon we’ll deploy a new, far simpler and more secure password recovery process for users who forget their passwords. Nothing in technology is totally fool-proof, but we’re dedicated to paving over the cracks where user errors are most common, especially in Bitcoin.

“That said, in my opinion, a properly designed cryptocurrency service or product should be practically immune to geopolitical machinations. Information always wants to be free, and now that money can be utilized like a content type new incentives are arising to increase and proliferate the free exchange of valuable information. Exciting times indeed!”

– WILL PANGMAN

BC: How do you feel the overall state of Bitcoin adoption is going?

MK: It’s growing slowly but surely and I think that’s for the best as we power through this hard fork issue. I’m a little impatient because I live in the future world of possibilities so I want to end dependence on the legacy banking system now but obviously we’re not there yet. It’s very natural for adoption to grow at a steady pace.

WP: The next wave of adoption will bring millions of new users to Bitcoin. Many of these new users will be compelled to use Bitcoin because of some crisis affecting them, unfortunately. Many others will come to try Bitcoin because it’s cool, new tech. The ability to hail a nice ride with new car smell and free water bottles compelled millions of people to chose Uber and Lyft over dirty, stinky, uncomfortable, erratically driven taxis. The same will hold true for Bitcoin. When people get fed up with their money being rendered unusable for 3-5 business days or longer, or a litany of other completely unnecessary inconveniences, they will find Bitcoin.   

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BC: Can one of you explain how the company feels about XT and the block size increase?

Paul Puey: The existence of an alternate fork or implementation of bitcoin is a MUST for this ecosystem. You absolutely HAVE to allow people to throw things out there and see if they stick. Miner consensus is how we SHOULD be deciding our protocol. Not political discussions between a small group of core devs who bicker for months. The way we’ve been doing it has been broken. Before XT, miners only had one choice. It’s like only having one candidate to choose for president. And they left it to the one political party (the core devs) to decide who is running. You either voted for the incumbent or the candidate. Now we actually have a choice. And it was implemented in a way that their changes only kick it once the miners achieve a super majority.

I don’t even agree with XT myself. My vote is no block size limit at all but to allow each miner to decide what size block to mine. But I agree with the process by which XT came about. I think we need more implementations of bitcoin. I’ve been preaching this for months. They can be forks like XT or re implementations like Libbitcoin (which Airbitz uses). But thinking that consensus is achieved by several people talking about it on forums until a group of devs decides on Bitcoin Core v 11.x.x… that’s a mistake. Satoshi designed bitcoin so that miners and nodes contribute to consensus, not a single group of devs. So let’s give these miners and nodes some options to vote for.

MK: I can speak for myself as I’m sure there’s some differing opinions on XT within the company. I’m for developers providing alternatives and competition but to me it seems rather hasty to push out at this time. I could be totally wrong and it’s out now so ultimately people have the freedom to decide if they want to use it. It’s a shame there’s not more consensus. Increasing the block size is something that must be done with great care and I hope people can set aside their egos and look at the big picture.

BC: What can we expect in the future from AirBitz?

MK: We’re looking forward to rolling out buy/sell functionality in the next few months. By partnering with secure third parties we’ll be giving people an alternative to centralized exchanges and the empowerment of owning their finances because they hold the private keys.

WP: Yeah, as MK says, I think our non-custodial buy/sell feature will be a hit across the cryptocurrency landscape, but the Airbitz data and security model is what I am looking forward to seeing extended to serve functions other than cryptocurrency key management. The Airbitz platform’s use cases abound in the post-Snowden world.

The San Diego service AirBitz is showing the crypto community its colors as a wallet providing solid security, simple interface, and a business directory. The wallet is set apart from the rest with its unique features and added trust in privacy. AirBitz seems to have the whole package and says there are more advancements to come in the future.

Do you think a wallet paired with a Bitcoin merchant directory will help spread adoption? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Redmemes