Transparent Bitcoin Applications like OKLink Are a Huge Market in China, Says OKCoin’s Jack Liu

Bitcoin Magazine
Transparent Bitcoin Applications like OKLink Are a Huge Market in China, Says OKCoin’s Jack Liu

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.

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Winklevoss Twins Announce the Launch of Gemini Bitcoin Exchange

Investors have been watching and waiting for the launch of Gemini, the bitcoin exchange launched by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, since it was first announced on January 23. The wait is over.

Customers have been begun receiving instructions for onboarding and will be able to officially begin trading on the Gemini exchange starting Thursday, October 8 at 9:30 a.m. EST.

The nine months it took for Gemini to go from announcement to launch is due to a belief in the need to “ask for permission, not forgiveness.” However, on September 23, Gemini Trust Company received approval for its Articles of Organization and was further granted an exemption from the deposit insurance requirements of Section 32 of the Banking Law.

Due to its corporate structure as a limited liability trustcompany (LLTC), it is able to service both individual and institutional customers, which is important because many believe that banks are curious about trading bitcoin.

“The reality is that institutions will bring the most amount of capital to the exchange,” Cameron Winklevoss, president of Gemini Trust Company, told Bitcoin Magazine in an interview and demo. “Every major bank in the world has people looking at bitcoin.”

The downside of being an LLTC is that the company itself cannot provide FDIC insurance for its accounts. That being said, Gemini revealed at launch that Signature Bank, based in New York, was one of its primary partner banks that would hold all fiat currency transferred to Gemini. Through Signature, the fiat currency is eligible for FDIC insurance.

Four Silos of Success

In an interview with Cameron Winklevoss, he revealed that the company operates on four silos that they drive toward for success.

The fastest way for a user to lose trust in a company is for security to be insufficient. Because of that, security is the company’s primary objective. They hired Cem Paya, the former security lead at AirBnB, to be the chief security officer at Gemini. Further, all bitcoin is held by Gemini in a cold, geographically dispersed network of servers. When the Winklevoss Bitcoin ETF, COIN, launches, all of its bitcoin will be held by Gemini.

Taking it a step further, though, the company has put in place a rule that prohibits any links in emails. For example, in its “Gemini is open for business!” launch email, there is no link to Gemini. To prevent phishing attempts whereby a hacker gains access to a user’s account, the individual has to manually type in Gemini.com to register.

Following security came compliance. Since the company is based in New York, that meant working with the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYFDS). According to Winklevoss, NYSDFS seemed open to working with Gemini. Compliance was also required for the remainder of the country.

At launch, users in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont,Washington, D.C., and Wyoming can use Gemini starting on Thursday.

The third component of the Winklevoss’ four silos is banking. There have been too many instances where a bank won’t cover a bitcoin company because of the concern about auditing. “It didn’t take a lot of selling to convince the bank to work with us,” Winklevoss said. “They liked the team and the product.”

Only after security, compliance and banking were handled did the product become a priority. And if any of the four silos had to suffer, it would be product.

“You have to have all four right to succeed, but if you’re missing a little bit on product, it’s not going to be catastrophic,” he explained. “Rather than building a rocket shop in the air, we built it in the hanger, tested it, and tested it again, and then we have liftoff.”

In his interview with Bitcoin Magazine, Winklevoss talked at length about the risk tolerance of banks and the simple fact that they hate risk.

“It’s better to have the regulatory framework figured out because the risk appetite of banks is conservative. People don’t recognize how important regulation is these institutions. Banks care,” he explained.

And because it is the big institutions that are bringing the majority of the capital, it was important to the team to have that regulatory framework squared away. “There is a lot of dark pool trading, because it is easier, that will go on exchange when they are regulated.”

Gemini wasn’t the first to market, but Winklevoss said that wasn’t important to him.

“Market centers [like Gemini] will build up reputation and credibility with participants over time. A month does not make or break your business,” he explained, referring to other exchanges that had already launched in New York City.

Trading on the Exchange

The exchange opens for trading on Thursday 9:30 a.m. EST, but users can begin the process of signing up today.

Part of the registration process is a knowledge-based authorization. The system will attempt to verify a user’s identity through a Social Security number and then questions about that user’s credit. For example, it will ask if they have ever owned a house on a particular street if that appears on the credit report. This is meant to speed up the authorization process for that user.

In our demo, Winklevoss stressed the importance that he wanted Gemini to become the favorite of both institutions and individuals.

“Early community is certainly very important because they are the most vocal and they are the ones who will touch the product more,” he explained.

The team went with a very clean look, using as much white space as possible. Further, the system was built with visualization engines that enable the user to identify what impact their particular trade will have on the order book.

For example, in the image above, if a user decided topurchase 0.631 BTC at a limit of $237.71, the blue portion of the order book would fill in darker where that purchase takes place. This is meant to show what the average price would be for the user.

At launch, it will be free to deposit and withdraw fundsfrom Gemini. However, the company will charge a 25 basis points fee for both buyers and sellers who trade on the exchange. There will also be APIs for individuals who are more interested in programmatically trading to participate.

Photo TechCrunch / Flickr

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