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Op-Ed: What Bitcoin Startups Have To Gain By Listening To Their Users

Vision is the ultimate gift when you are building things to define the future. Vision never comes easily. Sometimes you need to listen to see.

Vision is the ultimate gift when you are building things to define the future. Vision never comes easily. The Nordic God Odin gladly traded his right eye for the gift of wisdom and all that it showed him. For us bit coiner’s the price we pay will be many times greater.

Imagine your average crypto geek sitting at his desk, happily coding away in sublime some snippet of web code to interface with a bitcoin core full node api server or a script to monitor the mem pool. All of a sudden his cell phone begins ringing. On the other end is a single mother frantic and in panic, she needs bitcoin to post up her ad.

Humans on the Line

It is the end of the month and the rent is due, the baby needs diapers and formula. She doesn’t have a nine to five job, neither does the crypto geek for that matter, and she needs bitcoins desperately right now else she may have to do something that will endanger her life and thus the welfare of her children. A lifetime of pain, angst and frustration pour from her lips to your ears and you are paralyzed. Your first instinct is to put the phone down and pretend that it is not happening, then you think let me reason with them I can just tell her to check out youtube for a tutorial video or something.

She won’t let you go and when you ignore the words and listen to what she is really trying to say, the raw plea for help and compassion is all you can hear. She has been to eight different bitcoin websites in a single day trying to get this “funny Chucky Cheese money called BITCON” It has been days and she is on the verge of a breakdown. What do you do?

Shut your mouth and listen

Cool. Connecting with a human being is a pretty magical thing. What was one a wall that could not be penetrated or an ocean that could not be crossed becomes an open garden. Now you can help this person because… you already helped them in the most powerful way possible, you gave a damn. Humans are just funny like that.

We think Bitcoin is awesome because it is trustless and anonymous. Those are the values that define it as a technology but to the humans that must give up something they know and trust like typing in credit card numbers for something new and foreign like public keys and weird decimals values an emotional connection is a must, especially if they are under the additional stress of time constraints.

The Easy Part

Getting them some bitcoin is a breeze.

  1. Just build a peer to peer money marketplace. DONE
  2. Fill it with vendors who will sell bitcoin instantly. DONE
  3. Make it easy enough for people with nearly no computer skills at all. IN PROGRESS

Number 3 is the killer because it takes you right back to the hard part. You’ve got to talk to your customers. If being on the phone for a half hour teaching someone how to copy and paste on a cellphone is to much for you then you can forget about getting it right.

"Know your product through your customers eyes’s. Get on the phone and listen" – Bob Schwartz

A mentor of mine always said that a good CEO would know their customer but that a great CEO would actually do customer support once a week. Every questions they asked went into redesigning our product. Every mistake they made was not their mistake it was our own and a chance to improve our product.

Here are some things we learned

  1. Sending and Using Bitcoin is harder than buying it. As tough as buying bitcoin in a peer to peer transaction can be, the BackPager’s managed to get by that pretty easily. The naturally understand peer to peer trades as Craigslist and BackPage are both listing services very similar to Paxful. The hard part for them was sending the Bitcoin. In our How To Video for BackPage we included precise instructions on how to copy and paste on windows, max, iPhone and android. Some reddditors asked if this was necessary. We responded with an emphatic HELL YES. Pick up the phone and see. Trying to teach people about the blockchain is not a battle we must fight now, as the act of sending must be simplified. The web does not run on ip addresses and PayPal does not use six digits after the decimal point to denote value. We have a ways to go here.
  2. Americans don’t see dealing with another human as “direct” they see it as a burden, they see tying feeding digits into a machine as direct.
  3. Over 60% of lower income Americans do not have a computer and use their smart phones for everything.
  4. About 5% of the people we spoke to did not have any internet access at all, many would call from public libraries for internet access.
  5. Well over 70% of our BackPage buyers did not have bank accounts. 89% of them were from the USA.
  6. Irreversible money is a a scary thing to normal people who dread making a mistake sending bitcoins and thus throwing their money into oblivion.
  7. People are willing to pay a premium for speed. People want their bitcoins fast as in within 1-3 hours. a six day wait is a deal breaker for 95% of them. Many were fine with the 40% premiums some vendors would charge for instant no hassle release.
  8. 85% of buyers did not have a problem uploading ID.


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