Review 34 – BTCPop

BTCPop

I found another investment opportunity along the same vein as BTCJam, Loanbase, and Bitbond. For those of you new to my posts, in investing Bitcoin I wanted to focus on decidedly Bitcoin things in which to invest. These things specifically needed to accept Bitcoin directly, have Bitcoin at the center of their product, or something of the sort. As I said in earlier reviews, I still haven’t set the parameters down in stone, I just started with those basic guidelines. This one is called BTCPop. I decided to give their offer a chance and see how they stacked up against the competition.

btcpop_1BTCPop opens up by telling you to be the bank. And, again, in their own words, “BTCPOP offers a unique P2P Banking experience with Instant Loans, Investment Pools, Collateral Tied Loans & More. Be sure to join us, we are constantly improving and developing our services.” Like I said in my Bitbond review, Imagine being able to get a loan from anywhere in the world funded by people who understand you instead of having to deal with some stodgy old bank. Imagine being that stodgy old bank and earning interest off capital you loan to businesses. That, to me, is exciting. It may not be decentralized, but it’s a step in the right direction.

btcpop_2Unlike Bitbond, I can’t really tell what the team at BTCPop is like. There are pictures with names and titles, but there’s nothing else really there. There are no links to profiles on social media, LinkedIn, GitHub, or anything of the sort. I did manage to find their company on LinkedIn and that showed me two of their employee profiles, only one of which I could view. This doesn’t inspire confidence.

btcpop_3BTCPop has funded over 11,000 loans for over 13,000 Bitcoin and they have over 16,000 users. I was looking for a statistics page like BTCJam or a place to download statistics data like Bitbond, but there wasn’t anything on the front page. There is a distinct lack of transparency here. This also does not inspire confidence.

btcpop_4I filled out my profile, including 2FA. I highly recommend you do the same. BTCPop uses another company called Ardeva for identity verification. I’ve never heard of this company. You don’t need to go through this process for lending if you don’t want to, but it’ll boost your reputation score on the site. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to take loans out.

btcpop_5Speaking of taking loans out, the process at BTCPop is a little more varied than the others. Here you select which type of loan you want first. There are Instant loans, Custom Personal loans, and Custom Business loans. It says that they are working on adding Instant Collateral loans and they are coming soon. In order to even start the loan process you have to go through verification. As this review is about investing I’m not going to go through that process. Just know that borrowers need to go through verification, which I’m sure will cut down on fraud. Or at the least it will allow the in-house collections agent track them down for payments.

btcpop_6One of the things I love about Loanbase and Bitbond is that they manage my portfolio for me. I just tell it to invest a certain amount, tell it what risk level I’m willing to accept, and turn it on. All I have to do is decide when to turn it on and off so that it stops reinvesting the money and collects it instead. There is no auto-loan system on BTCPop, exactly. You can create an investment account though, which sort of does the same thing. When people create instant loans, the funds to back them are taken out of investment accounts. When those loans are paid back, the payments are spread across the accounts of investors.

The interesting thing about BTCPop doing it this way is that your funds aren’t actually loaned out. They stay in your account and you can move or withdraw them at any time. It seems that they’re there for collateral reasons, not actual lending. Just know that if you don’t have funds in that account you don’t get any of the returns when it comes time to receive payouts. I actually like this better as there is less risk.

btcpop_7There are also savings accounts in this same area. They currently offer 5% APR interest rate on savings paid daily. This is a much higher return than Magnr and could be worth considering.

btcpop_8Or if you want to take manual control you can go into the loan listings and invest individually, just like the other sites I’ve reviewed. The loan listings are quite detailed with borrower, terms, amount, APR, status, and rating of borrower.

btcpop_9The loan pages themselves show a lot of detail as well. One thing I really like is the calculator at the bottom. You can punch in how much you’re considering loaning and it shows how much will be returned each payment, as well as the total returned. This puts the numbers into perspective. Is it worth handing out 0.5 BTC for a month to get 0.02 BTC extra back? A bitcoin, at the time of writing, is worth $422 Would you give someone $211 for a month if they promised to give back an extra $8.50?

btcpop_10And there is a lot of public information about the borrower as well. I’m not going to pick on anyone and show a screenshot of a particular borrower. But you can see information provided to lenders like links to social media, ratings, their Ardeva profile, verification that they log in from where they are registered, and reviews.

Of course, a lot of this could be faked. The social media profiles could be constructed. The registration location could be faked and corroborated by a VPN. The reviews could be fabricated. The Ardeva profile probably isn’t a whole lot more secure, to be honest. But putting it all together in your own investigation is a good start to verifying identity.

btcpop_11There is also a Notes marketplace where you can buy someone else’s share in a loan. I’m guessing this is mainly used when someone wants out, loses faith in a loan, wants to discount their share when someone defaults, or something of the like.

There are a couple things available on BTCPop that I did not get into.
btcpop_12BTCPop is beta testing a voucher system to buy and sell bitcoin. You could create a voucher for a certain amount of bitcoin which people could then buy with PayPal, Venmo, bank deposit, etc. As it’s in beta, I’m not sure how it works and I’m not sure many of the users do either. The screenshot I posted says this guy will sell me 10 USD for infinity bitcoin. What a deal.

btcpop_13BTCPop also has an exchange for altcoin trading. There are a select few coins available, though.

btcpop_14There are IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) issued on the BTCPop platform. You can even issue your own IPO. To do this, you’ll have to put together some work. Again, I’m not going to get into this for this review. Just know that it is there if you’re looking to start a business.

btcpop_15And the IPO shares (stocks) are then traded on the BTCPop platform. You can even invest in BTCPop itself here.

btcpop_16BTCPop offers shares in their mining operation as well, but I think we all know how I feel about the viability of small mining operations, cloud mining in particular. If someone like BTCC or KnC were to offer shares here, that may be more likely to draw my attention. Even then, I’m not likely to invest in mining anytime soon.

Unfortunately, while others appear to really like the service, I must have joined BTCPop at a time when they were having severe issues. Maybe they grew too much too fast. Maybe they tried expanding to offer more services before making sure the services they offered were rock solid. I’m not certain the cause, but I do know that my experiences were less than stellar.

I deposited 1 BTC into BTCPop using the wallet that was generated specifically for my Instants Account, the account used to fund loans automatically. It did not show up in my account, even after several confirmations on the blockchain. When I mentioned it in chat the people there told me not to do what I’d just done because they were having issue with that feature. To be clear, I do understand that the general chat says right on it not to use that area for support. I wasn’t looking for support. I was simply talking in chat and mentioned my issue. But it is disturbing that the feature wasn’t removed or at least a warning put up. Instead, I had to hear it from fellow users.

I contacted support, but it was late at night and I did not expect a reply right away. They returned my email the next day. They asked me for the TXID and the wallet address. I supplied it. Nearly a week later I had to ask for an update. They finally deposited a bitcoin. But instead of depositing it into where I said I attempted to deposit it they deposited it into my Savings Account. Not only did I have to do the following up, which says to me their support was overwhelmed at the time, but their resolution to my issue was incorrect.

Sometime during all this process I went to log in and there were errors. I worked with their support for several days on this secondary issue. They were very polite in their attempts to be helpful, but in the end they simply didn’t know what the problem was.

During the whole secondary issues with logging in there was some confusion as to whether my issues were resolved. I was even contacted by the CEO himself. When I replied that my issue, meaning the login issue, was ongoing, he personally fixed the first issue over again by depositing another bitcoin. This one did go into my Instants Account. I didn’t realize what he had done when he said he fixed it because I still couldn’t log in so I argued with him about it.

I ended up figuring it out myself but I’m still not certain why the login issue happens. First, I had to clear any and all cookies related to BTCPop from my browser. Second, I simply cannot log in from my Android phone. After a successful login from my PC, attempting to log in from my phone triggered the whole thing again. In the end, the resolution was that I could log in using a browser on my PC, but there could be no cookies from previous logins, so I always had to log in using incognito mode.

Update: The site appears to have updated since writing this and login issues appear to be resolved. Again, I’m not sure what it was.

When I finally figured out the cookie issue and all my issues were resolved I responded to them to let them know that I had received a second deposit and ask how they wanted to handle this situation. I never heard back from them. I checked my account some time later and that second bitcoin vanished from my account. There’s no transaction record for it, it simply disappeared. Granted, it was theirs. I was honest about it and willing to return it. But it was simply removed from my account. This was done without record or notification.

I then attempted to withdraw my funds. It took me several tries to even get this to work correctly. I put in my address. I put in the amount I wanted withdrawn. I then clicked withdraw. The screen refreshed and nothing happened. I clicked on “Pending Withdraws” and nothing was listed. I did it again and the same thing happened. It wasn’t until the fourth attempt that I noticed my phone telling me I had a new email. It turns out they email a confirmation email and there’s a link inside. I tried it and it failed, saying “invalid token”. No reason why, just that simple two word message.

So I tried it again, this time watching for the email. Again, I clicked the link. Again I received an invalid token message. By this point I was getting scared, so I moved my whole balance to my main account and decided to withdraw. I maxed the balance, put in an address and tried to pull it out. I received the same invalid token messages. Finally, I tried stepping down my withdraws. I withdrew my initial 1 BTC investment and that finally worked. So I tried taking out 0.01 BTC of profit and that worked. I then tried taking out another 0.0008 and that worked. I left behind about 8500 satoshi because the balance was too low to remove and I wasn’t going to risk putting some in to remove that little amount.

This is a shame. Overall, If they fix the issues, I like BTCPop’s operation. Their site is nice. Their offering is diverse and they had consistent and high payouts. I think it has a lot of potential here. It just needs a lot of work and I do wish it was more transparent, however. I want to make it clear that I don’t think there is anything nefarious going on here. BTCPop is shooting for awards and I believe they could win them. But the number of failures I had doing simple things, the number of errors I received with no reasons, and the delay between support emails was just unacceptable. I can’t tell you how sad this makes me because I really wanted to like this one.

Posted in Exchange, Investing, Loans, Mining, Reviews, Saving, Services

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