To learn all about Plutus – a mobile application for making contactless Bitcoin payments, this month Finance Monthly reached out to the company’s CEO – Danial Daychopan.
What is Plutus?
Plutus consists of two interconnected applications:
Plutus Tap & Pay is an Android and iOS app for paying with Bitcoin & Ethereum at any contactless-enabled debit card terminal already in use today. Additionally, every deposit you make rewards you in Pluton, a loyalty rebate token which can then be used to make further purchases without fees.
The PlutusDEX is a one-way peer-to-peer exchange (smart contract) that provides liquidity for the Tap & Pay app. The way this works is that PlutusDEX traders can escrow fiat currency such as GBP or EUR to purchase Bitcoin and Ethereum from the users of Tap & Pay mentioned above.
Our favorite aspect, however, is that the Bitcoin and Ethereum can be bought by other users with zero fees through the PlutusDEX. Our person-to-person system it much easier to add new currencies (both fiat and digital) depending on demand, and a 0% fee trading experience encourages exchanges and blockchain enterprises to use our API as well.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did the idea about Plutus come about? What were some of the challenges that you faced when setting up the company?
My journey in FinTech began in 2013 when I first started one of the first licensed Bitcoin exchanges, followed by a cryptocurrency merchant payments platform called LazyPay.
Earlier that year, I had seen an invoice get filled within seconds across different timezones, all without the need for a centralised party. After this, I was immediately attracted to Bitcoin and fascinated by the features it had to offer.
At the time, there was already a growing niche of Bitcoin supporters and early adopters who wanted to spend the coins they had earned. However, merchant adoption proved far more challenging than anticipated, stalling due to the logistical and volatility issues. Even the largest Bitcoin companies couldn’t move it forward. Unswayed by rising hype, merchants decided that cash and debit cards worked just fine for them. It was and still is an uphill battle.
We were undeterred and still wanted to be able to spend our digital currencies wherever we wanted. And if possible, without having to get merchants involved altogether. After much deliberation, we finally found a way to do it.
In 2015, Plutus first set out to circumvent the issue of merchant adoption by connecting the blockchain to the Visa and MasterCard networks. This gateway makes digital currencies valid for payment at over 40 million debit-enabled points-of-sale worldwide.
This means that even though you are using digital currencies, the store owner or merchant will receive a bank transfer as usual and will not see any difference when compared to a regular debit card transaction.
What have been the company’s major achievements thus far?
Plutus has come a long way since our inception. When we began, we first wanted to gauge community demand. We knew that we needed the app we were making, but we didn’t know whether other people knew it too. From this idea forth, we decided to crowdfund the project. In a surprising result, we raised over 1 million USD from over 1000 users, and have grown to thousands of subscribers since.
We’ve also built an incredible team of tremendous people, from management to development, and entered into partnerships with leading service providers. Now we are right in the middle of the BETA programme, testing and tweaking our platform with the help of our community, drawing ever nearer to the first production-ready release of Plutus.
What kind of device is required to use Plutus? Do merchants need anything to accept Plutus payments or Plutons?
Pretty much all (relatively) new smartphone have built-in NFC. In fact, finding a smartphone without it
Is actually quite difficult nowadays.
To support Plutus, all merchants need is the regular contactless payment terminal that they most likely already have. This makes Plutus payments valid at over 40 million compatible points of sale in the world by default.
What can you tell us about your in-app cryptocurrency called Pluton?
Our platform Plutus Tap & Pay has an in app token called “Pluton”, which act as loyalty reward points on the platform. However, it is important to note that this is not intended to be a competitor of Bitcoin or Ether.
Rather, Plutons (or PLU for short) are actually a cashback program similar to frequent flier miles. This means that they can be used to make purchases on our platform just like BTC and ETH, with the added advantage of faster deposits and absolutely zero fees. Every time you make a purchase with BTC or ETH, you get 1-3% of your purchase back in Plutons.
Could you tell us more about where you see blockchain technology in the future?
We believe there is huge potential in blockchain technology to positively disrupt our standard methods of payments, trading, and other aspects of our lives. The industry is rapidly growing with a never-ending drive towards more automation, more decentralisation, and less friction. Over the coming years, we believe the use case will reach mainstream products where consumers could have a better user experience without the need to understand or be aware that the blockchain was utilised.
However, that said, private blockchains do not rely on a peer-to-peer network but if an organisation intends to utilise the technology for improved governance, automation and transparency internally then it can work if done right – for now, we remain skeptical.
Do you look at others in the FinTech industry as competitors or do you take a different view?
I have a different view – they help push the industry forward and help us to learn from their mistakes. In many ways, we are doing something completely different.
When you charge your Plutus account with digital currencies, you are actually transferring them directly to a trader on the DEX who has created an order to purchase them in return. This means that our customers can sell and buy digital currencies directly to and from other customers. As a result, Plutus never stores any digital currencies on the platform.
And with recent security concerns on the rise, the benefits of not holding funds are becoming increasingly clear as the blockchain space develops.
What have been the biggest hurdles faced by the company?
Red tape and creating a winning team – both in development and in management. In the blockchain space everyone is competing for talent, while regulators are still very skeptical. This creates a challenging environment.
What is your vision for the future of Plutus? Where do you see the company in 2-3 years?
The aim is to enable users to pay using crypto currency directly with smartphones at any merchants of their choice. And lower the barrier of entry for anyone wanting to buy Pluton, Bitcoin and Ether. This is why we created Plutus Tap and Pay and the PlutusDEX. We also wanted to create decentralise loyalty reward system called Pluton that awards customers for every deposit, which they can then spend anywhere. In the future, we believe the platform will be one of the largest platforms that enables payments via the debit card network in the peer-to-peer market.
We also aim to enable users to make a direct deposit in their Plutus account, using direct bank transfer instead of crypto, who will also receive a reward in Pluton, introducing new users to the blockchain ecosystem.
Initially, we will be releasing physical debit cards, NFC stickers. Our main product will be an iOS and Android app for making contactless purchases, trading and managing your wallets. We plan to add online payments and other nifty features as well.
What are you currently working on?
We are currently working on Plutus Tap & Pay, and the PlutusDEX. Both parts are interconnected and fulfill important roles in our ecosystem. Currently, our live payment systems are already undergoing internal testing. Once the stress-tests have been completed, the PlutusDEX will be released, followed by shipment of the official Plutus Debit Cards.
We are also looking to grow Plutus with new members in key roles – we are currently hiring.
If you could share one piece of advice with young FinTech entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Don’t be scared to fail and be prepared to live “the ramen life”.
If helping test the platform and coordinating how the future of Plutus Tap & Pay and PlutusDEX will look, why not join the BETA waiting list? http://beta.plutus.it
For more information about Plutus’ long-term ideas, please take a look at “Slingshot from Orbit: The Future Vision of Plutus.it”: https://medium.com/@PlutusIT/slingshot-from-orbit-the-future-vision-of-plutus-it-cf7b69f827ef#.wajh88j3e
Case Study: An Interview with Plutus.it’s CCO – Filip Martinka
Recently, Plutus has been making rounds in London and Berlin, presenting their technology for instant, peer-to-peer, decentralized payment platform. The company’s CCO – Filip Martinka tells us about how the project is coming along.
Why use Bitcoin over Ethereum?
We believe that there are useful aspects to both. The main reason we are using Bitcoin is for its already widespread usage, and Ethereum – for its ability to automate business logic. We want be able to adapt based on demand. Fortunately there are many other projects on the horizon that aim to be natively compatible with the Ethereum virtual machine, so porting the platform may be possible as well.
Why should more merchants accept Bitcoin as payment? What about Ethereum?
We believe that at such an early stage of Bitcoin’s development, convincing merchants is quite challenging. This is why our app is mainly intended for Bitcoin and Ethereum users who are tired of waiting for merchants to accept digital currencies and want to wield the ability to pay regardless of whether the merchant is involved.
Are you planning to integrate with other Decentralized Exchanges?
Initially, our platform will launch with an open API, meaning that 3rd party applications can interface with some features of our system. At the present moment, our development team is focused on finalizing our product. However, once we have a production-ready release, we will look into available options to expand our cooperation with other exchanges, developers and SaaS providers.
What is the reason, in your opinion, that merchant adoption of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies has been so slow?
It appears that mass adoption is a slow process, and not necessarily a straight line.
Accepting digital currencies still takes a lot of effort, involves friction and regulation, and is often cost intensive. The main problem is that it is not possible for merchants to accurately predict how many Bitcoin purchases they will get in the early stages of adoption. Many get discouraged when they get none, or remove Bitcoin as a payment option for a combination of reasons including training expenses, fees, or technical difficulties.
What can Status do for Plutus?
We appreciate integration into any 3rd party apps, exchanges, or services. All we want is for our users to have optimum interoperability with platforms, and liquidity for our traders. If you have other suggestions please let us know.
How does Plutus benefit from the use of Ethereum?
Our one-way trading gateway integrates an Ethereum smart contract, which makes our platform more transparent and decentralized. Over time, we want to optimize costs, reduce friction, and make the platform more autonomous.
What is the goal you’re hoping to achieve with Plutus?
We want Ethereum, Bitcoin, and other digital currencies to become regular payment options in daily life.
Which other DApps do you think Plutus can benefit the most from?
Exchanges can plug into our platform as well. It will be interesting to see the result.
What do you see as the biggest hurdle(s) in gaining a critical mass for Plutus?
We have to wait for society to get more familiar with digital currencies – until it becomes a topic one can talk about without getting weird looks from strangers. In the beginning, people who earn their income online will be the first to fully adapt to digital currencies. But we believe that this will take less time than most people think.
How do you see Plutus helping people’s lives?
Our main goal has always been to provide a convenient payment method, and an easy and affordable way to buy digital currencies.
Is there a level of technical knowledge required by the end-user in order to use Plutus?
Ideally, there will not be more than few clicks required to use any feature. Our team is always thinking of new ways to make Plutus easier to use and navigate.
What is the most exciting feature of Plutus in your opinion?
How it all comes together. The Tap & Pay users deposit Bitcoin and Ethereum, while traders purchase them on the PlutusDEX, and the merchants receive their usual payment from the traders. This makes it possible to add currencies based on demand, and connect other platforms.
What do you think is the most important factor that differentiates Plutus from the non-blockchain(/Ethereum) applications in your field?
The fact that Plutus does not hold any digital currencies, and simply acts as a gateway to connect users with each other and match their trades. This makes the platform more secure and adaptable. And in some ways, the peer-to-peer nature of our exchange makes it more like “localbitcoins” for example, rather than a regular centralized exchange.
What can people in the Ethereum community do to help Plutus?
The main thing would obviously be to use our app, or to purchase digital currencies through our gateway. If you are a developer or entrepreneur, note that our decentralized exchange will have an open API and 0% trading fees for buying any digital currencies, making it ideal for integration in 3rd party software.