Lockdown diary: Artur Schaback, Paxful

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 28 Apr 2020
Artur Schaback, COO and co-founder of Paxful.
Artur Schaback, COO and co-founder of Paxful.

With the COVID-19 lockdown in full swing, ITWeb spoke to Artur Schaback, COO and co-founder of global peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplace Paxful, to delve into the company’s business continuity plans.

Paxful was founded in 2015 and has its headquarters in New York, with offices in Estonia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Johannesburg.

A native of Estonia, the land of Skype, Schaback earned his stripes building out the tech around financial infrastructure. As one of the company’s co-founders, before taking on the COO role at Paxful, he was the company’s CTO.

Schaback previously worked as a software developer and founded the Bitcoin development company Kaizern Systems. He has a Master’s degree in Computer Science from TalTech, Talinn’s University of Technology.

ITWeb: How have you organised operations during the national lockdown?

Schaback: Despite the headwinds caused by COVID-19, Paxful remains fully operational and we are not slowing down. The health, wellness and safety of our employees, users, suppliers, business partners and the overall public is of prime importance to us. Therefore, our employees are working from home across all our offices, which include South Africa, New York City, Hong Kong, Estonia and the Philippines.

To ensure continuity for our users, all our employees are equipped to work remotely, while we are constantly working to improve our platform and introduce new features to enhance our users’ overall experience.

ITWeb: What technical considerations did you have to get right? Laptops and connectivity for staff, improving your VPN, beefing up security?

Schaback: All our employees were allowed to take their equipment home and have been given the necessary resources to fulfil their functions and adapt to remote working with ease. As such, we are working 24/7 across three different time zones to serve our customers.

Our operations are supported by strong compliance and security teams, who are always available to assist and are constantly monitoring all measures in place. Our employees are also reminded on a regular basis to implement the necessary security precautions that come with working remotely.

ITWeb: What HR issues did you have to consider? How many of your staff are now working from home? Have any staff been put on leave?

Schaback: In addition to educating our employees about COVID-19, we are also allowing all our teams to work from home. We are continuously reviewing all risks in each of our offices/regions and taking the necessary actions and precautions to ensure the safety and wellness of our employees.

ITWeb: Which platform are you using for virtual meetings?

Schaback: We are currently making use of platforms such as Slack, Zoom and Google Hangouts.

ITWeb: What other tools are you using to keep track of projects/teams/monitor employees’ work?

Schaback: We have been using tools like Confluence and Jira for project management and tracking. Our employees are staying productive and connected with daily video check-in meetings, and regular team meetings are held to ensure everyone is up to speed.

For fun, we also have virtual lunches and happy-hour sessions. Our managers are checking-in with their team members frequently, and some teams have even bonded over online gaming sessions.

ITWeb: How have your clients adapted to the new normal?

Schaback: We have noticed that more people are interested in Bitcoin and crypto since COVID-19 started, and we have actually seen an increase in new user registrations globally in March, which is really exciting for us.

During these times of economic uncertainty, many people are looking at Bitcoin over their local currencies, especially in emerging markets. Also, with social distancing and contactless payment methods being encouraged due to COVID-19, more customers prefer non-in-person trades and are selling more Bitcoin to have immediate assets in hand.

Our peers, ambassadors and the Paxful online community are ready to guide new traders. We are also partnering with different groups and organisations to host some exciting webinars in order to help people learn more about our platform and peer-to-peer trading.

ITWeb: What have you learned since the lockdown began? What has been a pleasant surprise, and what has been the biggest challenge to overcome?

Schaback: Despite this extremely challenging period for businesses around the world, we are fortunate to be in a position where we are continuing to move forward and hiring new employees, given our growth. We have started to onboard newcomers remotely by delivering laptops to their homes and providing them with a comprehensive remote program which includes group activities and self-led onboarding training.

Hard times take one to new places, and as a business, we are embracing this period to learn, adapt and improve so that we can come out stronger in our journey to provide financial freedom to our users.