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Ben, a Bot for Virtual Currencies

Chatbots are increasingly being used in financial contexts and have been improved over the months to perform complex tasks, including even training their users to new technologies. A new bot called “Ben” is intended to help users better understand crypto-currencies, buy and sell assets. The idea is to make them familiar with a technology which really isn’t all so new.

This start-up is part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2018 batch, and has already raised 580,000 dollars. Their conversational interface proposes three basic features: take encryption lessons, read news on this topic, as well as buy and sell bitcoins.

Users must first comply with a KYC check prior to being able to buy bitcoins, ethers, or other virtual currencies (Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, etc.). Ben charges a 1% fee per transaction. The platform allows users to store crypto-assets in a decentralised cloud; private keys are generated and stored to the user’s phone.

Eventually, Ben proposes a social feature enabling its users to connect with their friends, share information and see their returns.

Comments – Making users familiar with crypto-assets to drive up transaction volumes

Chatbots have been adjusted to several sectors: from the retail industry, to credit and savings companies. By way of standing out, Ben focuses on a fast expanding, yet barely addressed market. Virtual currencies have been growing, but only few customers actually know what they are really for, or how they work. Ben’s idea is to help them go mainstream in a playful, accessible way. Their platform is not meant for experts, it has rather been designed for newcomers, curious to learn how crypto-currencies work, as well as the opportunities they entail. All this to help them make appropriate decisions when it comes to buying/selling. Ben relies on Machine Learning to keep improving its service: understanding the questions asked by its users –each with their own way of phrasing these– will contribute to enhancing its conversational skills over time. Ben is a pedagogical means to reach out for new investors and process their transactions.

This concept can be compared to the one selected by a French start-up, Daneel, which aims at assisting customers in becoming familiar with crypto-currencies. Yet, the American project particularly stands out since it provides the users with a possibility to apply newly acquired knowledge to choosing or not to buy or sell virtual currencies.