A major problem with adapting Bitcoin as one’s main currency is the difficulty in making trust-less transactions. Don’t get me wrong; the technology and network behind Bitcoin aren’t the problem. It’s the disconnect between the network of people that two parties may share that can create concern.
There is still an issue with making a transaction with an individual especially if they are shipping you a physical device like an electronic device where there is no certainty they are trustworthy without using a commonly trusted user or 3rd party as an escrow.
There is a great solution to helping make trustworthy connections within the Bitcoin community and it’s called Bitcorati. This website aims to provide services similar to what Yelp and LinkedIn provide for its users. And from this, provide a single place to view trusted networks among individuals in the Bitcoin network.
As for Bitcoin businesses, there is a rating feature where Bitcoiners can post their praises or gripes about companies they’ve used in the Bitcoin space. For physical stores, users can add businesses to a map visible to all Bitcorati users.
This rating feature could help solve a long time problem where new companies sell products they don’t have or claim to have a physical address that is proven to be false. The bitcointalk forums contain information to help reduce the amount of scam companies, but Bitcorati streamlines the process of gathering trusted Bitcoin businesses which will be valuable as new Bitcoin users start spending their coins.
Back in the summer of 2013, I met Ryan Charleston, CEO and founder of Bitcorati, at the Inside Bitcoins conference in NYC. He talked to me about his plans to have a site where users could rate Bitcoin businesses and 6 months later I spoke to him again.
Ruben Alexander: What is your background before you became involved with Bitcorati?
Ryan Charleston: Before Bitcorati I was a marketing analyst at eBay. My focus was on marketing strategy, social media and lead generation. In 2012 I launched an advertising business (adpressive.com) which I just sold for bitcoins. Last September I left eBay so I could focus on Bitcorati full time. I’ve been all over in my career– starting out as a CAD engineer, then a commercial real estate analyst, and finally transitioned into marketing and sales roles at tech companies.
What is your goal with Bitcorati?
My goal with Bitcorati is to solve several key problems related to bitcoin adoption and legitimacy. Even before people have bitcoins they want to know who will accept them as payment, the solutions available to buy, store, and handle bitcoins, and who to trust. The Bitcorati bitcoin directory and professional community will help address these questions and have a huge impact on public perception about bitcoin and the media attention it attracts.
Are there any areas you plan on doing better than Yelp?
Yes, definitely, and not just better, but different and unique. I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs and his philosophy at Apple. Apple stands for quality and Jobs was always fascinated with the intersection between art and science– trying to make very complex things simple, beautiful and easy to use. Bitcorati will also be a bitcoin only company. That is we’ll only accept bitcoin for our products and services. Bitcorati will leverage bitcoin and the bitcoin protocol to reimagine and reinvent the web directory and the concept of reviews and ratings. By focusing on bitcoin we’re in a niche, but if bitcoin is as successful as I believe it will be, Bitcorati could scale to be much bigger than Yelp!
What has been the most difficult aspect to developing a Bitcoin Business review system?
It shouldn’t be that difficult. My friend is a math genius who previously worked on an algorithm modeled after Google’s PageRank, but it’s still in the works. For now, Bitcorati offers a basic ratings and review system that we can learn from, test, measure and use to get feedback from active visitors. We want our members to help determine the design of the ranking system and how each data point gets weighted.
Is there any recourse for a business to contest a bad review?
Businesses are encouraged to login and comment on bad reviews and explain their side of the story of any bad review. If we get multiple complaints from other members that a bad review is fake or misleading we will take it down. However, in most cases, as is with any reviews and ratings site, people will read both good and bad reviews and make their own decisions on who to trust.
Are there any rewards for users who actively use Bitcoin businesses?
No rewards yet, but that is something I’m considering. Right now it is free to join and free to list a business. When Bitcorati starts offering premium memberships and premium listings we’ll likely include rewards in those packages.
Will business reviews be focused on brick and mortar stores or will it include online Bitcoin retailers as well?
Reviews will be on businesses of all types, online and offline. We’ll only distinguish between “bitcoin businesses” and “bitcoin merchants”. Bitcoin businesses are the companies offering bitcoin-specific products and services and bitcoin merchants are any businesses that accept bitcoins as payment.
It is very easy for a business to scam someone (particularly Bitcoin miners) out of their money. What plans do you have to assist customers with businesses that request preorders?
I know this has been a huge problem and although I’ve never bought from a mining rig manufacturer I have had friends who did, and they didn’t have a great experience. Hopefully Bitcorati can be a place for people to review and rate these companies in a public spotlight. Bitcorati will also be hiring professional analysts to review and rate bitcoin companies.
What business section (i.e. entertainment, vacation, tech, dining, cruises) is lacking from your list of retailers?
It’s hard to tell where we’re lacking in terms of categories, but we have a backlog of hundreds of bitcoin businesses and thousands of merchants which will be added to the directory over the next few months. The beta website released this week is just a prototype of the directory with a sample of about 88 bitcoin businesses. However, anyone can join for free and list their business today.
What plans do you have for Bitcorati in 2014?
2014 is wide open and I’m really looking forward to what it will mean for bitcoin and for the Bitcorati! I’m looking forward to announcing a few partnerships,an investment round later this year, and hopefully doing more traveling to see how bitcoin is being adopted in other countries.
Bitcorati is broken up into a directory, a members list, an activity feed, and a blog.
The directory is very similar to coinmap.org, but allows users to write reviews for the businesses they use. These businesses can also be displayed as categories or by their reviews.
As of April 2014, there are 371 Bitcoin businesses listed on Bitcorati.
Ryan previously worked at eBay and shared that several of the coworkers in his immediate section knew that Bitcoin would be valuable in the future, but the higher ranking employees didn’t want to openly support the technology out of fear for how the eBay shareholders would react.
“Well within our division of eBay (here in Arizona) I turned on about half the office to bitcoins back in March and I know just from conversations with people inside the company that they believe it has potential. Both the CEO of eBAy and PayPal are interested in it and I know they have people within who have been researching bitcoins for quite some time now….
But I think because of their size and because they’re a publicly traded company they have to be super careful so as to not piss off shareholders by getting into something so new with so much perceived risk…”, said Ryan.
After Ryan completed his time at eBay he ran a startup named Adpressive, that focused on high quality advertising.
“The idea started out as almost a joke with a colleague at eBay (where I worked at the time), The thought was that nobody looks or clicks on online ads anymore.
And I said, ‘Sure they do, but only the best ones… I bet I could build a site will all the most impressive ads or forms of advertising and people would like it. And it worked.’”
Adpressive grew rapidly in its first few months, but Ryan was consumed by Bitcoin in March 2013 feeling compelled to shift focus and begin building Bitcorati.com (and idea he conceived of 6 months prior).
Ryan believed Adpressive still had great potential for growth, but had no time to allocate towards the business. In December he successfully sold Adpressive to a buyer in Australia who he convinced to pay him with Bitcoins. It turns out the buyer was a friend of a Bitcoin miner. The buyer used CoinJar to facilitate the international transaction using bitcoins which Ryan said went very smoothly.
Bitcorati still has to work on releasing the site in other languages. If any readers can assist with this effort, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.