S14 E20: Lea Petrasova on Vexl & Why P2P Bitcoin Exchanges Matter

Vexl is the new kid on the SatoshiLabs block – and Lea Petrasova is the proud CEO and main advocate of this application which marries Bisq, Local Bitcoins, and Tinder. Essentially, Vexl connects you to bitcoin buyers and sellers in your area, based on mutual phonebook contacts. The goal is to meet the people in person and make the transaction without the need for institutions and trusted third parties. There are no intermediation fees, no escrows, and no spread. It’s all about voluntary interactions between people.

Instead of making use of a reputation system, Vexl takes a bolder approach which might be inspired by Facebook Marketplace: you are able to see the mutual friends who know the seller (or, to the very least, have his/her number in their phonebook), so that you can do a little bit of background check before agreeing to meet.

Interestingly, Vexl has no monetization model and doesn’t plan to collect any type of fees from users. The project as a whole is a gift from SatoshiLabs to the Bitcoin community – for profits, they already have Trezor, Invity, and Tropic Square.

Nonetheless, there are still some privacy concerns to express in regards to sharing your phone number. Thankfully, the number and identity are both encrypted by the Vexl app to prevent the developers from storing any information about the users. Interactions between them are completely voluntary and based on their willingness to reveal their phonebook. In some countries, disposable SIM cards are easy to acquire – thus making it even easier to get a new identity only for buying bitcoin.

Introducing Vexl: The “Tinder for Bitcoiners”

Lea, the loudest member of the SatoshiLabs family, introduced Vexl as a “Tinder for Bitcoiners.” This innovative app allows users to connect with people within their social circle or their contacts’ contacts, making Bitcoin trading easier and safer than ever before. Unlike Tinder, however, Vexl does not collect or store user data, ensuring privacy and security for its users.

What Makes Vexl Stand Out?

There are other peer-to-peer exchanges in the market, but what makes Vexl special? According to Lea, Vexl addresses three major drawbacks of other platforms: the global order book, reputation model, and usability.

Other platforms connect users globally, making it difficult to verify the counterparty of a trade. Their reputation models are synthetic and easily manipulated, and usability is often a concern, with some platforms requiring lengthy tutorials. Vexl, on the other hand, brings users’ real-world reputation into the digital platform, making it easier and safer to trade Bitcoin.

How Does Vexl Work?

Vexl works as a marketplace for Bitcoin trades. Users can post or find offers on the marketplace, and while the offers are anonymized, users can see how many common contacts they have with the other party. This gives them an idea of their social circle, similar to how Facebook or Instagram connections can provide insights into someone’s background.

Once a user requests an offer and the other party accepts, they are taken to an end-to-end encrypted chat where they can reveal their identities. This mimics real-world interactions, where users can verify the credibility of the counterparty through common friends.

Vexl: More Than Just an Exchange

Vexl is not just an exchange, but also a social network. Using phone numbers as identifiers, Vexl can match users with contacts and contacts of contacts, even if they are not on the app. This approach is similar to Facebook Marketplace, where users can see how many friends they have in common with a seller and refer to them for credibility.

Vexl’s Open-Source Code and Future Plans

Lea explained that Vexl is an open-source app that is available on GitHub. It is truly open source, with no fees or data collection, and there are no plans to monetize it. Initially launched in the Czech and Slovak markets, Vexl is now available globally, with the exception of the USA. The app has gained traction in markets such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK, and Italy.

The team is constantly working on improving usability and adding new features, such as a trade calculator and a map feature for finding offers nearby. They also plan to rewrite the backend to make it more performant. Lea clarified that Vexl only supports buying and selling Bitcoin and has no control over what is being sold or bought on the platform. However, they are considering adding categories for goods and services in the future.

The Importance of Peer-to-Peer Transactions

Lea emphasized the importance of peer-to-peer transactions and the freedom it brings without worrying about personal data being stored or linked to your identity. She expressed her sadness at the normalization of giving personal data to third-party institutions and the lack of control individuals have over their own information. She believes that Bitcoin was intended to be a peer-to-peer currency, and Vexl is helping to realize that vision.

In conclusion, my conversation with Lea Petrasova was enlightening and inspiring. Vexl is not just a Bitcoin trading app, but a tool for financial sovereignty. It’s a reminder of the power of peer-to-peer transactions and the importance of maintaining control over our personal data. As Lea said, when you buy Bitcoin without KYC (Know Your Customer), you avoid the complexities and risks associated with centralized exchanges. So, why not give Vexl a try and experience the freedom of buying bitcoin peer-to-peer… as Satoshi intended?

Listen to Lea Petrasova talk about Vexl on Spotify, Apple Podcasts & YouTube!

Ideally, you should avoid registering to any of these big tech platforms and use a more privacy-friendly alternative such as this player. You get to experience the same content and also benefit from one extra feature which allows you to download the episodes for offline enjoyment! So you can dust off your iPod Nano and go jogging or else watch the sunset during an off-the-grid drive!

On the other hand, if you do use big tech platforms such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts & YouTube, then please leave feedback. It may seem insignificant, but it really makes a difference in terms of discoverability – others who will be searching for Vexl or Lea Petrasova will have an easier time finding this exact interview, therefore optimizing their learning experience.

Vexl: Introduction and Purpose (00:01:51) Lea Petrasova introduces Vexl as a mobile app that allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin peer-to-peer without going through a centralized exchange or even benevolent third party.

Vexl: Comparison to Tinder (00:02:48) Lea explains that Vexl can be compared to Tinder, but users can only connect with people within their social circle, making it safer than meeting someone randomly.

Vexl: Drawbacks of Other Peer-to-Peer Exchanges (00:04:04) Lea discusses the three major drawbacks of other peer-to-peer exchanges: global order book, reputation model, and usability.

Real-world reputation in the app (00:12:17) Lea explains how Vexl brings users’ real-world reputation into the app, allowing them to see common contacts and social circles when buying or selling Bitcoin.

Using phone numbers as identifiers (00:15:27) Lea discusses why Vexl uses phone numbers as identifiers, highlighting their widespread usage and the ability to match users with contacts and contacts of contacts.

Vexl’s monetization model (00:16:54) Lea Petrasova explains that Vexl is a free, open-source project and a gift from Satoshi Labs to the community, with no plans for monetization or collecting fees from Bitcoin peer-to-peer trades.

No fees, no data collection, and open-source(00:24:15)

Lea Petrasova explains the absence of fees and data collection in Vexl, as well as its open-source nature.

Expansion of Vexl to other markets and the gradual scaling process (00:25:45) Lea discusses the expansion of Vexl to other markets, such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK, and Italy, and the gradual scaling process observed in these territories.

Usability improvements and new features planned for Vexl (00:26:59) Lea Petrasova highlights the focus on improving usability and adding new features to Vexl, such as a trade calculator and better map functionality.

Vexl and Chill (00:36:47) Lea discusses how buying bitcoin through Vexl eliminates the complexities and concerns associated with centralized exchanges.

The Origin of Vexl (00:38:15) Lea explains that the term “vexl” dates back to communist Europe and refers to proxy merchants who exchanged foreign currencies.

The Importance of Peer-to-Peer and No KYC (00:43:40) Lea emphasizes the need for peer-to-peer transactions without KYC requirements to maintain the financial sovereignty and intended purpose of Bitcoin.

Vlad Costea

I'm here for the freedom, censorship-resistance, and unconfiscatability. What about you?

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