OKCoin's new superwallet allows bitcoin as a background method of money transfers not only across borders, but across currencies as well.
Jack Liu, head of international at OKCoin, recently discussed bitcoin in China and as an alternative payment system in an interview with Bloomberg Business.
Liu referred to the dramatic price crash of bitcoin in 2013 as a good thing, because it forced developers and entrepreneurs to think of creative applications of bitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology instead of focusing uniquely on the price of bitcoin. As a result, there are now large venture capital investments and lots of startups building infrastructure.
“The people behind the industry used to be very libertarian, very political in nature, and wanted to push an alternative currency and an alternative lifestyle,” said Liu. “You are now seeing the bitcoin players receive venture capital and work with banks closely, trying to create a more harmonious financial system integrating the traditional financial system with the Bitcoin network, and that’s going to be much more powerful.”
OKCoin.cn and OKCoin.com, two separate companies owned by the same investors and focused respectively on Chinese and worldwide digital currency trading, were founded in 2013 with a $1 million angel investment from Ventures Lab and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, and received a $10 million series A funding round in March 2014. OKCoin is perhaps the largest exchange in the world with 20 percent of daily trading volume, said Liu.
“As a native speaker of both English and Chinese, and as someone who has worked in traditional finance and at a U.S.-based bitcoin exchange, I hope to bring both international and institutional perspective to OKCoin and to shed more light on the Chinese market with the global Bitcoin community,” said Liu when he joined OKCoin as Director of institutional strategy and sales
in November 2014. “I view OKCoin now as an international company, not as a Chinese one.”
According to Liu, the most interesting applications use bitcoin and the blockchain as a transparent intermediate step for fund transfers in fiat currencies, making sending and receiving money as easy as sending and receiving email.
“We can hide bitcoin technology in the background, and that’s what we have launched with a product called OKLink, in the spring, that was the first ‘superwallet’ in the world,” said Liu. “A superwallet is really a mobile wallet that allows you to hold a more comfortable type of value, like the USD or the CNY, but transact over the Bitcoin network.” Liu added that OKLink transactions aren’t affected by the volatility of bitcoin. “Because you are doing instant buy of bitcoin and sell of bitcoin, you are not affected by the bitcoin price,” he said.
OKCoin launched the OKLink “superwallet” in April. OKLink is an open digital wallet, which allows national and digital currencies to transact cross company, cross border, and cross currency in an instantaneous and free manner. OKCoin gives an example of consumer-to-consumer transaction in fiat currencies channeled transparently through the blockchain:
“Paul, an American, and Tom, a Canadian, are good friends. Paul is a Circle user while Tom uses OKLink. Tom would like to borrow from Paul $100 USD worth of Canadian dollars (CAD). Tom opens his OKLink Superwallet and shows his QR Code to Paul. Paul through scanning the QR code with his Circle Superwallet, sends Tom $100 USD. The Circle Superwallet buys exactly $100 USD worth of bitcoins from a U.S. dollar Bitcoin exchange and then via the Bitcoin network sends the bitcoins to Tom’s OKLink account. Tom has instructed as default that incoming funds should be received as CAD. OKLink Superwallet takes the received bitcoins and sells it on a CAD Bitcoin exchange for CAD. In the end, Paul sent $100 USD to Tom, and Tom received it as CAD to use.”
Besides consumer-to-consumer transactions, OKLink can be used for business-to-business, consumer-to-business, and business-to consumer transactions.
“This is a huge market, especially in China,” continued Liu. China already owns around 50 percent of bitcoin mining hashpower and 60 percent of exchange volume, and Chinese people – especially students – are frequently abroad and need efficient cross-border payments. Chinese consumers are already used to “a beautiful payment experience” with WeChat and Alipay for domestic payments, and they expect the same for cross border payments.
Interestingly, the Bank of America (BoA) recently filed a patent application titled “System and Method for Wire Transfers Using Cryptocurrency” for an alternative to traditional wire transfers, where the funds are first transferred to a cryptocurrency exchange, then converted to a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, then sent to another exchange, and finally converted into another currency for the recipient.
In other words, BoA wants to patent the concept of using a cryptocurrency as a transparent intermediate step for fiat currency transfers, but it seems that OKCoin got there first.