A few days ago I blogged about a little bot that I have been working on. The demo shows how m-pesa works in Kenya and how to request Bitcoin through a messenger application like whatsapp or telegram. Surprisingly it got way more attention than I expected and some for wrong reasons.
In my post I emphasised that this is a technical demonstration on how something like this could work. It is not a product and not something that anyone can use.
It shows what is technically possible by combining some existent tools and how the user experience could look like. Which is pretty amazing in my point of view and probably also the reason for the attention the blog post got. Providing technical ideas is often easy but making a real world product is complicated on so many levels.
Sadly it seems many people either did not read the article or interpreted things that are simply not true without validating or asking. - even people from the same industry who I expected to have more background knowledge.
And because I am dealing with money I should have been a bit more careful.
Here are a few things I would like to clarify again:
This app is not a product or service! It is not something you can use.
It was simply an experiment that I did myself and wrote a blog post with a video about it. It is a simple blog post by a random dude on the internet. Please do not treat it as a product or a service that launched or is about to launch.
There is NO actual Bitcoin to Shilling / m-pesa conversion taking place. Actually I thought this would be obvious enough but I should have emphasised it better in the video. It seems people got a wrong idea that someone got paid through an exchange. I am sorry for this confusion.
If I have apples I can not simply give you bananas. If I have Bitcoin I can not magically convert them to Kenyan Shilling on an m-pesa account. This is a complicated forex task and it is also regulated and I have way to little knowledge about that. As mentioned in the post I would not be allowed to do that.
In my example I had Bitcoin AND some money on my own m-pesa account. No third party or forex was involved. No conversion took place.
It is simply using existing tools out there. There is actually nothing that I have invented whatsoever. It is simply using existing tools that are either publicly available, Open Source or services operating for years. And imho no special knowledge is required to do something like this. I am simply standing on the shoulders of giants.
It is not showing how it can be done. The post only shows how something like this could look like. Even though I wish I could show more code.
There are a lot of companies that actually allow sending money to m-pesa. Maybe they do not have a bot running in telegram or other messenger services, but it is nothing special. I could have probably also integrated with any of these companies. Give me a few hours and I’ll do that.
The same goes for airtime. To send airtime to a phone you simply integrate a reseller of airtime and that’s it.
Also to send automated m-pesa payments you can easily use a normal Android phone. For example I’ve simply automated what you would do manually to send a P2P payment. A script navigates through the menu, enters the recipient and amount, and confirms the transaction.
This might not scale that well, but is perfectly fine for such an app and a demo.
I could have done the same with Paypal or credit cards. You can also request credit card or paypal payments through a messenger and do the exact same thing. With using the Stripe API maybe this would have been even easier.
Bitcoin here is used as an online payment method. It might work a bit faster and better and most importantly Bitcoin is where my interest lies.
Btw. Worldremit has similar ideas, and probably not only them.
Maybe I should have known better and emphasised the points more clearly, but I simply did not expect that many people do not read and think about what they see. (and actually also not that it is very interesting in the first place.)
Please note that all this has been the work of a single person in about 2-3 days.
If you have questions or if something is unclear, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org