Our start-up of the week is Bitcart, creators of Festy, a wearable that uses blockchain technology to make payments without a wallet.
“Festy is the first crypto wearable product on the market anywhere in the world,” said Bitcart co-founder Graham de Barra.
“The aim is to bring crypto payments to everyday people using wearables such as jewellery, clothes, wristbands, etc. Our first product is a Festy wristband and tag that is aimed at festivals and retail.
‘The utility of technology is to make life easier for people, to promote equality and transparency’
– GRAHAM DE BARRA
“People can load their Festy wristband with cryptocurrencies and spend it at any participating merchant, and, in the future, anywhere NFC is accepted. Payments happen without any bank involved. Festy is decentralised and therefore, your data is not shared with any third parties. With Festy, you own your own data and you can distribute it as you see fit.”
De Barra said that the existing fees incurred by merchants for accepting credit and visa cards can be up to 4pc, and Festy aims to cut this in half.
“Unlike a bank, Festy does not require a credit rating, there is no possibility of chargebacks and fees are really low. Our aim is to save businesses money and empower consumers rather than capitalising from them.
“We’ve already been approached by bars and festivals to integrate this, so people will be able to go out without their credit card or cash and not worry about theft or losing their wallet.”
Bitcart’s market for Festy ranges from bars and restaurants, to festivals and metros, to name a few.
“The opportunity this presents is huge. Once it will be possible for people to easily make payments with cryptocurrencies, then I think real adoption will happen.
“The market cap for cryptocurrencies, despite the recent hype, is only $100bn. The market cap for US dollars is $64trn because it’s used in everyday life. Where will the market cap go when crypto payments become everyday? This sums up the opportunity for us.”
De Barra describes Bitcart’s team as a diverse group of individuals with a common passion for bringing about more human-centric technologies.
“The utility of technology is to make life easier for people, to promote equality and transparency. Right now, I see the top five technology companies capitalising from governments and people all over the world, which is greedy, non-transparent and not equal. Because people don’t have a choice, they are constrained to this one-dimensional world, and cryptocurrency provides a genuine alternative, which puts people first.
“So, as you can probably tell, my background is philosophy as is one of my partners, Darren Dineen, who I’ve known since college. Darren runs a decentralised record label and is bringing our product to festivals and bands all over the world.
“Our lead architect, Florin, leads our development lab in Switzerland and he is a final year PhD specialising in exoskeletons and artificial intelligence. He is the most talented blockchain developer in Switzerland. We have more wonderful people in our team, which is expanding everyday.”
De Barra explains that NFC is a small chip that is in most devices now, such as your phone and Visa card, which allows data to be transferred without making contact.
“When payments are written into this technology, it allows for transactions that are seamless. Cryptocurrency has never been written into NFC thus far, although there is an obsession within the community about debit cards – we take this much further.
“People are already adopting things like Apple Pay for the efficiency of contactless and so we are competing with this.”
De Barra said that the ultimate goal is to live in a society where people don’t have to rely on centralised systems and having full autonomy over their day-to-day life.
“Our first client is the Rising Sons Brewery, which owns 13 pubs in Cork city. Our first festival that signed up is Atlantic Songbook, which happens to be the longest festival in the world. We are in talks with our first US festival and merchant.
“Next month, we travel to Asia so when we go to market, we will start with three continents and grow from there.”
Transactions are tough
De Barra said the biggest hurdle for the nascent payments platform is transaction fees.
“I wouldn’t fabricate the truth – there are many challenges. One is the fee for transactions, which have risen with the likes of bitcoin with recent popularity.
“The second challenge is data and privacy of the transactions.
“The third challenge is the fluctuation of the price of cryptocurrencies for them to be used in everyday life. Another obvious one is security. With each of these challenges, we have a strategy in place to adequately address them.”
When it comes to non-blockchain start-ups, De Barra believes that finance is also a barrier to overcome.
“Even if you are an excellent start-up, it can take months for grants to come through from centralised systems. The other access to finance is in a decentralised system, such as crowdfunding.
“With the invention of open source and consensus algorithms, it is proven that decentralised funding works in a fair and equal way. Cryptocurrencies take this to the next level with initial coin offerings.
“Many of the challenges faced by start-ups are fixed with this system and I would advise anyone with an idea to get into this space to excel.”
The promise of an innovative fintech scene
De Barra describes the start-up scene in Ireland as fertile.
“The innovation that exists in this scene is so inspiring. This world moves so fast. When someone has an idea, we try it out and see if it sticks by doing.
“The world of big corporations is the opposite to innovation and it’s not somewhere I could ever work. I feel like I could forever work in start-ups in some way.”
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