Bitcoin Association speaks to Alex Agut, CEO of Bitcoin SV wallet HandCash and the Bitcoin Association Ambassador for Spain, about AI, developing for BSV and the future of blockchain technology in Spain.
A serial entrepreneur with a background in technology and a flair for design, it seems inevitable that Alex Agut would eventually cross paths with Bitcoin. After a first foray back in 2015, Agut went all in two years later with HandCash, a Bitcoin SV wallet that continues to push the bounds of innovation – proving just what is possible on the BSV blockchain.
Prior to starting HandCash, Agut and co-founder Rafa Jimenez were working together at Accenture on quantitative AI solutions that would find their way into Tesla cars, before the familiar entrepreneurial itch would rear its head.
‘We were leading the AI division for Accenture for a couple of years, so we were very excited about new technology and how to make it more accessible to regular people,’ says Agut.
‘It was a very good job, we were working on a project for BMW on autonomous driving, which is something that I absolutely love. But we missed the frenzy of working at a start-up 24/7 – the risk taking and doing something great for yourself.’
Having previously looked at Bitcoin for use in a prior project, Agut had found the resources and interfacing a challenge to effectively implement – an issue he would later address and rectify through HandCash.
‘In 2015 I was working on a start-up – Jobbie – with Rafa and we wanted to integrate Bitcoin into the app because we thought that for small payments that would be a very cool feature. It would be something new and we could be pioneers in Bitcoin for doing this,’ explains Agut.
‘But we started looking at the resources, the code, how it all worked, and we found it impossible to work with. That is when we thought, “well, what if we were the ones that built these types of toolsets that we thought Bitcoin needs?”’
That line of thinking wouldn’t change the dynamic of their project at the time, but would sow the seeds for what would eventually become HandCash and the slew of related products developed for Bitcoin SV.
‘Jobbie was a sharing economy app for services between users and we had more than 15,000 organic users in Spain across two cities. The investment environment in Spain became very worried about sharing economy apps and what coming regulations would mean for businesses in this space, so we couldn’t get funded at the time even with a strong user base and organic growth,’ says Agut.
‘Ultimately though, we learned a lot of things from Jobbie – particularly around UI, how to improve retention rates and make people continue to use the app – all things we would apply to our next project.’
While Agut says he took a number of lessons from Jobbie, perhaps the lasting one would be the perspective he developed on the potential of Bitcoin within the quickly-growing app economy – a perspective that has directly shaped the aims and ethos of HandCash.
‘Working with Bitcoin, it was obvious to us that you didn’t want to try to out-Visa Visa – it’s not going to happen because they have a huge infrastructure, strong margins and a great business,’ says Agut.
‘Where Bitcoin can outcompete Visa is in micropayments. Visa are not able to offer cost-effective cross border micropayments and that is something that we can offer. That’s what we saw as our niche – micropayments for apps.’
The Bitcoin Wallet You Can Recommend
HandCash is one of the most popular wallets available for use with Bitcoin SV, attracting a sizeable userbase in its first two years of operations, in addition to enticing the eye of investors – HandCash having closed its second funding round in early 2020.
‘HandCash is the Bitcoin wallet you can recommend – this is our motto. We’ve been trying since day one to make Bitcoin more appealing to everyday people. The HandCash wallet is the consumer-friendly side of Bitcoin,’ says Agut
‘One of the factors that I think makes HandCash unique is our userbase. They are extremely passionate, loyal and enthusiastic about HandCash, as it’s the kind of tool they have always wanted to have to be able to use to introduce their friends and family to Bitcoin. We never expected to have this response – people really love HandCash – and it was the first time we built something with Bitcoin, so we wanted to start by building something easy. But since day one, people have been really enthusiastic about the product.’
Predicated on principles of elegant design and engaging user experiences, HandCash has been built from the ground up to make Bitcoin accessible – doing away with the technical jargon and complexities that can make the learning curve too steep for too many.
‘Later in 2020 we are going to go absolutely keyless, so you won’t have to worry about remembering the 12 words anymore – that’s going to come before the summer,’ explains Agut.
‘We are also launching HandCash Connect, which is an SDK [software development kit] that will release publicly in the spring. We are now working with almost 30 teams on early integrations using the SDK for their own products, which is very, very cool. This will help developers solve the problems we ran into with Jobbie, where we wanted to integrate Bitcoin into our app, but didn’t necessarily have enough time to learn everything about Bitcoin or the want to retrain my programmers.’
The release of the HandCash Connect SDK will mark yet another milestone for Agut and his team, less than three years into their journey – something which is all the more remarkable considering HandCash has in that time already pivoted to Bitcoin SV after trialling development on competing blockchains.
‘We built the HandCash prototype using BTC back in 2017, but we ran into a number of issues: the fees started skyrocketing, the payments weren’t reliable and we didn’t want users having to wait for transaction confirmations,’ explains Agut.
‘We were looking for alternatives and we finally decided on Bitcoin Cash because of its properties at the time. But we became worried very early on about Bitcoin Cash, because you could see that some developers wanted to modify it to fit their own vision and bring in a lot of changes. For an app like HandCash, which is built around micropayments and cross-border transactions, you have to go with BSV.’
Bitcoin Association Ambassador: Spain
With HandCash, Agut and his team have developed a platform for the easy onboarding and integrating of users and business alike into the Bitcoin SV ecosystem – but he has bolder plans for a brighter future with Bitcoin.
‘We need to make Bitcoin accessible for both developers and users,’ says Agut.
‘There is so much potential for Bitcoin. I think it can lead to a much more connected world than we have today. Right now, we are always connected with our phones, but it is what I would say is mechanical – you have to actually trigger things. But in a world with Bitcoin, you can imagine having rewards and everything that you do having value – you’re being paid and paying for things simultaneously.’
In an effort to realize his vision for a world intertwined with Bitcoin, Agut accepted an invitation in late 2019 to become a Bitcoin Association Ambassador, working to educate businesses and end-users about the power of Bitcoin SV in his native Spain, a country he says is already showing a healthy appetite for blockchain technology.
‘There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes in Spain with Bitcoin – there are many big companies interested in the blockchain and Bitcoin SV in particular. We are working to push the Bitcoin SV message – people here are interested in Bitcoin SV, they’re hearing and they’re listening,’ says Agut.
‘This is why I think it’s very good to have Bitcoin Association Ambassadors, because we are able to act as a filter for some of this information. As an Ambassador, I’m able to go to Jimmy [Nguyen] or nChain and can communicate what I’m seeing in my market – what it is we need to make Bitcoin SV successful here in Spain.’
‘We have a pretty big meet up currently in Valencia, which is on the east coast of Spain and Bitcoin SV is pretty big there. With the infrastructure that the Bitcoin Association is helping to establish here, I think that there are going to be some pretty big movements in this space on the horizon!’