iPayYou CEO and founder Gene Kavner
Bitcoin has plenty of barriers to entry. Even if you understand that it’s a secure cryptocurrency, the steps needed to acquire and keep track of Bitcoin can be daunting. Then finding people who you can use the digital currency with is another hurdle.
iPayYou aims to solve both of those problems. The new Bitcoin wallet service, launched this week, makes it easy to store Bitcoin and send it to friends, even if they don’t have a wallet set up yet.
The Seattle-based startup was founded in 2015 by Gene Kavner, who was previously the worldwide director of the Amazon Associates program and principal architect for display advertising at Microsoft.
“When the internet was just starting up, it was extremely complex,” Kavner said. “You’d go to a website and you’d say ‘Now what? What do I do next?’ There were very few things you could do. We’re in a very similar stage with Bitcoin and the blockchain.”
Kavner’s solution makes Bitcoin more transparent. Users see how much Bitcoin they have in dollars, so they can tell if it’s enough to buy a loaf of bread or a boat. They also get a clear list of transactions and can even recall transactions if they’ve been sent in error.
iPayYou also provides a more accessible face to Bitcoin. When sending those simple dollar amounts, you don’t need to know a complex address, which is up to 35 characters long and a mix of numbers and letters. Instead, iPayYou takes care of remembering all that and you just select the friend you want to send money to.
But the real power behind iPayYou is the ability to send Bitcoin to people who haven’t yet gotten into the cryptocurrency. Previously, the recipient had to already have a system in place for accepting Bitcoin before you paid in Bitcoin.
“People are sending Bitcoin to each other in these very cryptic addresses,” Kavner said. “We want one person to be able to send Bitcoin to another person without forcing that recipient to pre-create an address for themselves.”
iPayYou’s launch comes at a time of significant interest in the cryptocurrency. This week, the purported creator of the system has claimed responsibility, only to withhold evidence backing up his claim. But Bitcoin has stabilized substantially since its 2013 peak, when valuations neared $1,000 per Bitcoin.
Kavner said that the currency has ditched its day-trader image and is now much more reliable. One Bitcoin is around $460 today and has grown beyond a buy-low-sell-high strategy. Users can checkout with Bitcoin on Overstock.com or even pay a bar tab with it thanks to Seattle startup HotSpot.
With iPayYou, the currency can now be used to pay your friends. The company is also looking to add a gift card option, so you can effectively use Bitcoin at stores that don’t actually accept the currency.
Right now, iPayYou exists as a web app, but Kavner’s team is working on an iOS and Android app as well. The Seattle-based company currently has five employees and is self funded, but Kavner said he plans to start raising funds now that the product is on the market.