In a recent interview with LearnBonds.com, Sebastian Sonntag, the CEO of LocalBitcoins, talked about how the company is expanding, the regulatory landscape in the crypto industry, and the main challenges faced by the cryptocurrency market.
At the same time, he mentioned they are working to improve their services with new functionalities and services. The latest features added by LocalBitcoins have been received positively, and they continue to evaluate users’ feedback to introduce more customer-facing improvements.
1. LocalBitcoins has grown as a recognized site to buy and sell Bitcoin. What are the current issues and challenges that the platform is facing, and how are you dealing with them?
“We are currently going through a transitional period, following the deadline for moving to a new tier verification structure. During this month (November 2019), we are working to catch up with a sharp increase in support queries, by hiring more staff and investing in training. Support is the largest and most international team in LocalBitcoins, and we already stand out among Finnish companies for our multicultural and dynamic work environment.
The verification system itself is still undergoing some finetuning, and we are very thankful for having an active user base since their feedback has been essential in providing insight to make the process as agile and efficient as possible.”
2. During the last few years, specifically in 2017 and 2018, Altcoins gained a more significant market presence. Are you planning to offer similar services to the top 10 cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, XRP, or Litecoin?
“LocalBitcoins has focused on supporting Bitcoin since the company’s inception, and there are no plans to provide wallets for other cryptocurrencies in the near future. Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin can be used as payment methods for buying and selling Bitcoin, but all Altcoin transactions are processed by external services.”
3. LocalBitcoins has been adopted in different regions due to the introduction of country-specific payment systems. Are you planning to introduce disruptive features in the future to attract a more significant number of traders?
“We have recently enabled multiple simultaneous open trades to make trading faster and more convenient, and this change was received very positively. LocalBitcoins is restructuring internally, and one of the priorities in the near feature will be to collect and review the users’ concerns and requests, so we can evaluate what are the most needed features and progressively introduce more customer-facing improvements during 2020. We are always open to receive user feedback, and feature requests are already being processed through support tickets.”
4. Regulations around the world are becoming an essential topic for cryptocurrency-related companies and exchanges. How is LocalBitcoins dealing with it, and what do you consider regulators should focus on?
“LocalBitcoins has always believed in promoting Bitcoin as a viable and legitimate financial system. An important part of that is having a firm stance against the criminal usages of cryptocurrency, which we understand is the primary concern of the regulators. Our company has put the necessary effort into responding to the legal requirements in our own jurisdiction, and we have recently been officially registered as a Virtual Currency Provider by the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority.”
5. LocalBitcoins is not offering services to U.S. clients. Different spot exchanges are entering the U.S. market through subsidiaries. Are you planning or discussing the possibility of providing services to U.S. citizens?
“LocalBitcoins’ mission is to bring Bitcoin everywhere, and we want to make our service available to as many people as possible around the globe. Having a U.S. subsidiary is an interesting option for some bitcoin exchanges. LocalBitcoins is currently seeking legal advice on what is the best alternative for our platform and how should it be executed.”
6. You are operating in Finland, and you have over 20 professionals working on the platform. Are you planning to expand to other countries or open new offices in other jurisdictions?
“LocalBitcoins already has more than 40 employees at the moment. We operate in Finland, with our headquarters in Helsinki. LocalBitcoins is an online service, so users and customers from different parts of the world have found the platform and started using it, but our services are not targeted to any specific market.”
7. What do you consider are the main challenges related to the cryptocurrency market, excluding regulatory issues?
“We have the privilege of being one of the companies with the widest reach in the industry, and we understand that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, in general, are becoming important to more and more diverse segments. One fundamental concern for us as a trading platform is related to user education, not only on cryptocurrency usage but also on basic cybersecurity matters.”
8. Regarding Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and private stablecoins such as Facebook’s recently announced Libra, do you believe these crypto-assets could have an impact on your business model?
“At the moment, it is difficult to predict if the expansion and diversification of the crypto industry offering will have any impact on the usage and reach of Bitcoin and how it will affect our platform.”
9. You have recently added KYC procedures on your platform. How did this affect the new number of users being registered on LocalBitcoins?
“The number of registrations has remained stable. We have been counting with 4000 to 5000 new users signing up to LocalBitcoins daily for a while, and that has not changed during November. Even though, the several changes that our platform has undergone recently had an impact on the overall trade volume, we expect the situation to become more stable in the following weeks and improvements in the verification flow should also influence positively.”
Thank you, Sebastian, for the conversation!