A new mobile bitcoin payments app is seeking to present digital currency consumers with a convenient, all-purpose spending solution.
Fold, the latest effort from the makers of Coin For Coffee and Card for Coin, enables consumers to make bitcoin payments using a mobile app that can integrate with a variety of point-of-sale (POS) systems.
Like its creators' previous products, Fold allows consumers to spend bitcoin by producing scannable barcodes that resemble those on traditional gift cards. While Coin For Coffee focused exclusively on Starbucks locations, Fold will support purchases at US retail giant Target, as well as the popular coffee seller.
CoinDesk spoke with Card For Coin co-founder and CEO Matt Luongo, whose team is currently on focused on preparing Fold for beta. He said that the project builds on the experiences – both positive and negative – gleaned during Coin For Coffee's development and deployment:
"We learned with Coin For Coffee. We confirmed our hypothesis that people want to spend their bitcoin, which is fantastic, and so far, I think we've run through most of the strange situations you can get."
Luongo added that communication with the major brands involved, most notably Starbucks, has been open and helpful to the broader developmental process.
Pitch for merchant payments
Like Coin For Coffee, Fold will function as a bitcoin wallet, allowing users to load funds onto the card and use them for purchases. By using a mobile app, Luongo said that Fold can sidestep problems associated with products like Xapo's bitcoin debit card.
After the user selects how much bitcoin they want to spend, the app produces a barcode that is scanned at the register. Any leftover bitcoin is then sent back to the wallet for future use.
According to Luongo, conversations with Starbucks have advanced since the Coin For Coffee days. Notably, he claimed the popular coffee company reached out to Fold and demonstrated a desire to learn more about digital currency and Coin For Coffee's experience thus far.
After initial launch, Fold intends to reach out to additional merchants who may be interested in integration by way of commonly used gift card technology.
"There is a huge opportunity here to go after any merchant that uses similar gift card technology. Most of these merchants aren't ready to tackle [bitcoin] yet, but they're very interested to see what numbers we have and what issues we run into."
Development moves forward
Looking ahead, Luongo sees a public beta in the near future. Currently, prospective users are invited to sign up for updates, and in time, the Fold team will begin sending out invitations.
Luongo cited enthusiasm among the project's fan base, as well as carry-over users from the Coin For Coffee project, as key factors that could propel Fold forward on launch. He said that this support is key to the project's success, noting that several hundred individuals have already signed up to receive information.
Additionally, a recent resurgence of interest in Coin For Coffee has netted the project a new influx of supporters, individuals that Luongo expects will take part in any beta test.
When asked about the future of the bitcoin payments infrastructure and whether debit cards or mobile apps will be the top choice, Luongo said that the use cases are fundamentally different. However, he acknowledged the problems experienced by Xapo and said that mobile-oriented methods are, in his opinion, the stronger of the two:
"Ultimately, I think that gift cards and mobile are a lot more akin to cryptocurrency than these old card-based systems."
Image via Fold